The alternate title of this post should be: Grow Embies Grow!

After my somewhat traumatic trigger, I had exactly 48 hrs to embrace the positives of this new plan:

  1. Extra recovery time: I was feeling pretty awful even though I was taking cabergoline to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. I was so bloated that I looked at least five months pregnant (the irony!), and there was not a single pair of pants I could zip (seriously thought about digging out my Bellaband). I also developed constipation despite chugging Milk of Magnesia and staying hydrated as instructed by my nurse.  Having a month to detox before embryo transfer was starting to sound appealing.
  2. Acupuncture: I cannot say enough good things about acupuncture.  The best I had felt during this whole journey was those few months when I was receiving acupuncture alone or in conjunction with my fertility treatments.  Because I was enrolled in an IVF study, I was not permitted to do acupuncture simultaneously.  In fact, if you get pregnant through the study, they follow you all the way up to the birth of your child, and that means no acupuncture at any time.  As someone with two previous miscarriages, I had always envisioned doing acupuncture for miscarriage prevention. Perhaps being kicked out was the best thing that could have happened to me.
  3. FET success rates: At my fertility clinic, they prefer freeze-all cycles. In my age group, approximately 34% of fresh transfers with non-donor eggs result in a live birth. For frozen cycles, 40% of transfers result in a live birth, and the actual pregnancy rate is quite high (>50%).
  4. Consideration of single embryo transfer: The study required that two embryos be transferred on either day 3 or day 5 (depending on individual embryo growth). This made me a little nervous as I am not exactly confident in my abilities to take care of two or more newborns along with a pre-schooler. I told my RE that I would likely cry just a little bit if he told me I was having twins. I would, of course, come around eventually.  Two baby heads to sniff is quite a gift. But I would be terrified.  Ask my husband, and he will tell you differently.  Then again, I can probably count the number of poopy diapers he’s changed on my two hands. Hmmm.


I had my retrieval done at St. David’s Fertility Surgery Center, which is two buildings down from my fertility clinic.  We had to arrive very early, so J had a sleepover with her cousins.  I later found out that she had told her teachers that Aunt Liz had to bring her to school so Mommy could get her eggs taken out. Oh my! Will have to be careful what I say around that child.  The procedure itself was fairly easy.  My nurses were fantastic, and my anesthesiologist was the kindest man ever.  I was knocked out while my eggs were retrieved, and before I knew it, I was back in my room.  Any type of sedation knocks me for a looper, so I do not remember even talking to Dr. S after he performed the retrieval.  My first memory is of the embryologist coming in and telling us that we retrieved 17 eggs. Wow! I felt like a rock star.  High fives all around.

DH and I went home to rest before we had to pick J up from school.  I use the term “rest” rather loosely since we were in the middle of a whole home renovation, and those do not tend to be very quiet.  Fortunately, they were working on the other side of the house, but we were without a bedroom for the time being and sleeping on a mattress in the middle of my daughter’s play room.  Try as they may to let me sleep, the crew had to interrupt me several times to ask my opinion on one thing or the other (insert sigh).

We received our first FERT report the next day. Of the 17 eggs retrieved, 16 were mature, 13 fertilized normally and there was 1 more in culture that they were unsure about. On day 3, we still had 14 eggs in culture: 10 of acceptable quality and 4 that were fragmented or falling behind.  On day 5, two blastocysts of grade BC quality were frozen and they were continuing to watch 8 additional blasts. They embryologist felt that things were looking good for getting a few more frosties.  Then, on day 7, we received the DEVASTATING news that none of those 8 made it to freeze quality.  So of my 17 eggs, only 2 were normal enough to freeze.  I was disappointed to say the least.  IVF is a lot of work, and to have gone through this entire cycle only to get 2 embryos was a bit of a bummer.  But at this point, I was simply too tired to spend too much time lamenting.  I was just looking forward to being drug free for at least two weeks before I started my frozen cycle.

I.V. {Freakin’} F.


In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  In 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution making October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  Through my infertility journey, I have encountered many strong women who have dealt with some form of miscarriage or pregnancy loss.  These women (and their supportive partners) are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers. Chances are, you have no idea they are even suffering because they are doing so in silence. Hard to believe when life is a blur of Facebook and Twitter, and everything seems so very Pinterest-ing. How is it that pregnancy loss is still so taboo? I don’t have the answer to that, but this month is for you, and I’ll be praying for your hearts to be healed. You see, I am one of you- having suffered four pregnancy losses of my own. During the month of October, I will be chronicling my IVF story in the hopes that it will be therapeutic for me and for others who have yet to share their stories.


Weighing The Options

When I finished my infertility series, I had experienced an ectopic pregnancy after conceiving with the help of Clomid.  After that encouraging pregnancy and with the clock ticking down my 36th year, we hit the ground running with two more rounds of Clomid alone followed by Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI). My husband, especially, was bummed by our failed IUI so we turned to alternative medicine for help.  We did two months of fertility acupuncture (herbs and needles) followed by one month of acupuncture, Clomid and IUI.  My charts were encouraging. My acupuncturist felt all the signs were leading in the right direction. My reproductive endocrinologist said I was stimming beautifully! But still no pregnancy.

With my lining thinned from repeated cycles of Clomid and me about to turn 37, the next step in the treatment cycle was IUI with injectables. This involves injecting oneself with a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) such as Gonal F starting on cycle day 2 or 3. As the FSH stimulates the ovaries more aggressively, more follicles are developed and there is the potential to ovulate more than one egg.  This increases the risk of multiples including triplets. Yikes! Suddenly, I had a flashback to Octomom, and I definitely did not want to be her. In my age group, the relative success rate for IUI with injectables is 15-20% per cycle, and the projected cost is $2500-$3500 including drugs, monitoring and the procedure itself. That’s quite a hefty price tag for one shot at a pregnancy.

Fortunately, the informative lady in the billing department of my RE’s office was kind enough to remind me of an IVF study for which I qualified. Dr. S had mentioned it to me eons ago when I was not at all ready to think about IVF. The typical cost of IVF including doctor fees, hospital costs and medications is $12,000-$17,000. This study cut the cost in half with a 30-35% chance of success for a fresh cycle and the chance to freeze any remaining eggs for future frozen cycles. The study’s goal was to prove that Afolia (a drug already being used for IVF in Europe) was just as safe and effective as Gonal F, the gold standard in the U.S.  The study was in its third and final phase before being FDA approved, so I felt it posed little risk to my personal health. Besides, everyone knows I love a bargain. Perhaps I would also be playing a small part in introducing competition to the marketplace, thereby decreasing the future cost of IVF??? One can only hope.

The Waiting Game

For the next few days, I ran around like a banshee getting multiple vials of blood drawn, yet another HSG, a pap smear and attending couples IVF orientation all in the hopes of qualifying for this study.  I passed with flying colors! Now the only thing standing in the way of me and my study money was an antral follicle count i.e. the number of follicles measured by a baseline day 2-5 ultrasound.  The study said I had to have at least 10 but no more than 20, and I had no idea what my number would be. To make things worse, the study coordinator could be reached only via email.  I would email her cycle day 1 and check my email obsessively for her response.  The first month, my cycle occurred too close to Thanksgiving, so I was only able to do more blood work, which also turned out great. The second month, my cycle occurred one week before Christmas, and the study coordinators had closed to study to further participants until after the holidays. Come on! I was getting antsy. The third month, I finally had a win. In January, I had my first study visit and my antral follicle count was perfect! I was promptly started on birth control pills to suppress my ovaries and allow the follicles to get in sync. Being in a study requires a lot of baselines so I had what seemed like a million tubes of blood drawn, but aside from that, the first month was easy peasy.

And So It Begins

Approximately three weeks after starting on birth control, I had my study 2 visit. There was another ultrasound to make sure I had no cysts and was ready to begin Lupron for down regulation. Lupron is a drug often prescribed to men with prostate cancer or women with endometriosis or fibroid tumors. It’s off label use in IVF is to shut things down, so to speak. You start Lupron injections approximately 7 days before your period is due and continue it throughout follicle stimulation to prevent ovulation. This would involve injecting myself in the belly every morning, and was rather intimidating. DH (dear husband) came with me to learn how to give the injections just in case I wimped out.  I did the opposite. I essentially stabbed myself thinking the needle had to go all the way in when, in fact, I only had to inject it far enough to release the drug.  Practice makes perfect.

DH and I also signed our lives away at study visit 2. Since IVF produces embryos- each a potential life- there are a lot of ethical considerations. You must decide whether you will send your embryos to long-term storage if not used within six months. You must also decide what to do in the event of leftover embryos that you do not intend to use- will you discard them or donate them to science or another couple for potential implantation? What happens in the event of death of one or both spouses? What do you do with the embryos if you, as a couple, decide to divorce? These are some heavy questions folks!

For the next 11 days, I gave myself a Lupron injection at precisely 6:50 AM every morning. Then, I had another ultrasound and more bloodwork to ensure my hormone levels were appropriate to begin FSH. On day 12, I was cleared to begin stimulation and was randomized to the control group. This would mean I would be getting injections of Gonal F- the tried and true FSH drug. While I did feel a little less important than had I been randomized to the experimental group, it was somewhat of a relief to be doing things the “proven” way. The big difference with the study protocol is that they require you to use a low dose of FSH for five very long days before the dose can be increased to the usual 450 units. This is to avoid study drop-out due to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a potentially dangerous condition I also wished to avoid. I continued to inject myself with Lupron in the morning and the Gonal F pen in the evenings. I was not a big fan of the pen method of drug delivery. You must dial the dose and then press the button pretty hard to release the medicine into your belly.  Once the dose is dialed, there is no going back.  I was so fearful of messing up that I pretty much watched the instructional video every time I did my injection. You can watch it here.

Though I alternated my Lupron and Gonal F injections from side to side of my abdomen, I was one big bruise by the time they upped my dose. I stimmed for a total of 12 days, and by the end, I actually had a small hematoma on one side of my belly- probably from pushing the pen down too hard. Injections suck. May I never get insulin-dependent diabetes! As I stimmed, I had several ultrasound visits to keep track of my developing follicles.  I was doing awesome.  My estrogen level was great. My lining was super thick. We were keeping our eye on 21 follicles by the last visit. Some would inevitably be too mature or too small by retrieval, but I was psyched. The study required that I implant two day 3 or day 5 embryos, and I was hoping to have leftovers to freeze. Come on frosties!


When enough eggs are deemed ripe, you have more blood work to check estrogen and progesterone levels. The nurse then calls you with the results and the timing of your trigger shot. The trigger shot, called Ovidrel, is essentially a dose of the pregnancy hormone HCG. It tells your body it is go time. Egg retrieval is scheduled for exactly 48 hours after the Ovidrel injection so they can retrieve your eggs before you have the chance to ovulate.

When my nurse called me to give me the time of my trigger shot, she also had bad news. My progesterone level had prematurely risen to 1.8. It needs to be <1.5, or it is thought that the endometrial lining has gotten out of sync with the follicles and the chances of implantation are poor.  My fresh transfer would have to be cancelled, and this meant I would also be dropped from the study. A million thoughts were swirling around my head as my nurse attempted to give me my final instructions. My egg retrieval was still scheduled for that Wednesday, and I would convert to a frozen cycle after my next menstrual period. Were they going to take back my study money? No, she assured me. None of this was my fault, and all my information would still be included in the study.  We prefer frozen cycles, she said encouragingly.  Still, I cried so hard in telling my husband over the phone that he left work early lest I fall to pieces. To make matters worse, at this point, my belly was very swollen from all the developing follicles, and I was feeling pretty awful. They were fearful that I may develop OHSS, so they prescribed a medication to lessen the side effects, which would surely worsen after trigger. Did I mention that we were also in the middle of a whole house renovation, and I was presently sleeping on a mattress on the floor of my daughter’s play room and living out of her closet? I nearly wished for the earth to swallow me up whole and relieve me of this misery, but I could not. I had 48 hrs to pull myself out of this hormone-induced darkness and wrap my head around the change in plans. I promptly stabbed myself with Ovidrel and encouraged my follicles to grow, baby, grow.

I’ll tell you all about my retrieval next time around. For now, everyone else is sleeping, and so should I. . .


J’s Tangled Birthday Party Part II: Party Time

TangledCollageAnother Throwback Thursday classic that I neglected to post in all my home renovation frenzy.  In my last post, I detailed all the behind the scenes work- invitations, decorations and activity prep.  Now, I’ll tell you how the day actually went.  I couldn’t have been more pleased!  I scaled down on the guest list a little after last year’s rare freezing temps forced our party inside, and I discovered just how chaotic a kid’s bday party can be.  Fortunately, we were blessed with beautiful weather and the perfect amount of guests.

As guests trickled in, I sat them in the dining room and allowed the kids to work on beautifying their Rapunzel hair or viking hats.  This activity was a hit with both the kids and parents. In fact, I had a hard time getting them to stop and actually eat lunch!

Speaking of eating. Party food is very important, and I wish I had better documented this part. If memory serves me correctly, on the Snuggling Duckly menu that day was:

  • Snuggly Duckling Snacks (fruit, cheese and crackers served in a frying pan, of course)
  • Spinach dip and pita crackers
  • Pascal’s pizza
  • Baked Ziti
  • Rapunzel’s Baked Braids
  • Magic Flower Punch (Lemonade)

For dessert, we had:

  • Rapunzel’s Licorice Braids
  • Mother Gothel’s Macarons
  • Rapunzel’s Favorite Hazlenut Pie
  • Cupcakes
  • Princess fruit snacks

But first, I allowed the kids to run off some steam.  This is essential to avoiding party meltdowns.  We started off inside by pinning the nose on Flynn Rider.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie, before Flynn meets Rapunzel, he is a petty thief and complains they never get his nose right in wanted posters.  I was able to snag this Flynn Rider Wanted poster from Amaye Clyne on Deviant Art. I then took it to Office Depot to have it made into an engineering print. (FYI- I took it to Fedex Kinkos first and they absolutely refused to print it for me because it is a Disney character. It’s a birthday party people!) I then printed a set of noses from Would you believe that one of the boys pinned the nose right in the center on the first try!

Next, we went outside and played “Catch the Chameleon.” I found multi-colored glow in the dark lizards at the dollar store and bought several packages. I scattered these all over the backyard and the kids had to collect as many lizards as they could. This was in reference to start of the Tangled movie where Rapunzel and Pascal play hide and seek together.

Our last activity was to get “Tangled Up” in Rapunzel’s hair.  I gave the kids several rolls of yellow streamer and watched in amusement as they wrapped each other up in it. Leave it to the boys to add a slight safety risk to this game.  I caught one of them wrapping it around a friend’s neck.  Thankfully, streamers are easy to rip off!

Finally, it was time for cake and the end of a long and exciting afternoon.


On the way out, we took pictures of all the kids in a cardboard cut-out Flynn Rider poster that my husband made using a second copy of the same engineering print.  I thought the pics would be great to print out with Thank You cards. Unfortunately, I never got around to printing them, but they were kinda silly. For favors, we sent  all our budding new artists home with watercolors. All in all, it was a great day!


Until the next party- Juliette’s Frozen 5th!

J’s Tangled Birthday Party Part I: Party Prep


After a six month absence, I make my return to blogging with this oldie but goodie just in time for Throwback Thursday. Like most four year old girls, my J is princess-obsessed.  For her 4th birthday, she requested a Rapunzel theme, and we had a lot of fun with it. If you have not seen the movie Tangled, you will now be enlightened…

First up was the invitations. As always, I found a lot of inspiration via the lovely ladies of Pinterest. Please check out my inspiration board here. I knew I wanted to make a Rapunzel tower invite with hair hanging down from the tower.  I searched for a template to make my job easier, but could not find one to suite my needs.  So I drew one and scanned it to my mobile phone with CamScanner. I uploaded it to Scribd so you can feel free to borrow it.

Next, I created my invitation text in Google Docs, cut and pasted it onto the template and scanned it again with CamScanner. I would have just photocopied it, but I was printing on heavy card stock, and it kept jamming the printer 🙂 I used yellow embroidery floss to make Rapunzel’s hair and cut out glittery purple triangles for the tower roof. Here is my final product.  This went A LOT quicker than last year’s Dora Backpacks.


Next, I moved onto party favors.  There would be a mix of boys and girls in attendance: Princesses vs. Ruffians if you will. For the princesses, I made Rapunzel hair by braiding yellow yarn, attaching it to elastic headbands and adorning the headbands with flowers. The idea was to create an activity to allow the girls to decorate the hair with flowers like Rapunzel wears in the movie. The best tutorial I found for making the hair is found here, and this is the method I used. I placed the chairs at least 5 ft apart for a long braid to go on my front door, and moved them closer in to make hair for the girls (they are little after all). I had a bunch of braids to make, so it was quite a bit more time consuming than I had originally anticipated.


Once, I had all my braids completed, each had an end with a loop and a cut end representing the tail of the braid. I bought colorful elastic headbands at the dollar store and simply centered the headband below the loop, threaded the tail through the loop and this secured the braid to the headband. I then glued on felt flowers to the part of the headband that would be visible at the crown of each girl’s head. Here is my daughter showing off hers.


For my Ruffians, I made Viking hats. In Tangled, Flynn takes Rapunzel to a bar called The Ugly Duckling. Its occupants most closely resemble vikings.  I made my Viking hats out of cereal boxes and card stock using the tutorial here. I wish I had saved my template for you as it took a few tries to get it right.  The most time consuming part was wrapping the cardboard with duck tape. If I had silver spray paint on hand, I might have gone that route instead. Hind sight is always 20/20.


I was pretty exhausted after all this crafting, but had a few party decorations to get to. For table dressings, I used dollar store plastic table cloths in purple and yellow.  J’s party falls after her birthday, and her Grammy gave her a birthday card with a very large Rapunzel poster that we hung up.


I snagged this awesome free printable Tangled pendant at Paging SuperMom, but my laser printer was running low on ink, so I hit a roadblock. Not to be totally derailed, I cut my pendants out of purple card stock and printed a sheet of tangled suns on yellow card stock (sadly the link was taken down so I cannot share this free printable with you). After a little cutting and pasting, I was back in business. I had dollar store paper lanterns left over from J’s Ariel Pool Party (where they served as jellyfish), so I repurposed them as they were originally intended. Go figure.


Lanterns are a big part of the movie Tangled. Rapunzel’s entire journey from Mother Gothel’s tower is incited by her refusal to let Rapunzel go see the lights that twinkle in the sky each year on her birthday. I came across a lot of tutorials on DIY lanterns. In the end, I went the easy route. I purchased color changing LED lights from the dollar store and pasted Tangled Suns on them. I also have this cool candle light fixture above my dining room table.  It got some Tangled suns also.

Finally, we have a transom above our front door, and I wanted to make it appear that Rapuzel was throwing her hair down from that window. I made an extra long and thick braid to hang above the door and also created a royal purple pendant with the number 4 on it celebrating J’s 4th birthday.


I was prepped and ready for this party nearly a week ahead of time, and I owe that all to the fact that J is older now and very helpful when it comes to decorating and crafting.  I am sad to see her grow up so quickly but also so proud at how far she’s come in this world.  Until next time- J’s Tangled Birthday Party Part II: Party Time- where I’ll share all the details of her very special day.

J’s Ariel Pool Party Part II: An Ocean Themed Menu

As I just threw J a Tangled themed birthday party, I thought it was high time that I publish the second half of her Ariel pool party post. I wrote it ages ago, but had not inserted all the pics. My bad. Here it is…

An Ariel pool party would not be complete without an ocean-themed menu. This party was actually a pot luck, but I have great friends who are completely on board with my crazy ideas. I came up with the following:


  • Seaweed Dip (aka Spinach Dip)
  • Goldfish, Cheese Whales and Oyster Crackers

The spinach dip, brought by my friend Julia, was a huge hit. She had a lot of requests for her recipe, which involved walking into HEB and finding the spinach dip in the refrigerated section 🙂 And all kids love fishes, especially when there are cheese, chocolate and pretzel flavored varieties.

Main Course:

  • “Sand”-wiches including “peanut butter and jellyfish”, “hummus and sea cucumber “and “submarine” sand-wiches
  • Shell Pasta Salad (made with shell pasta, of course)
  • Seaweed Salad  (aka Mixed Greens)
  • Whale Chicken Nuggets

The pasta salad was displayed in a sand bucket, as I had seen many Pinterest ladies do. I opted not to make my guests use a shovel to scoop out the pasta. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Making the sandwiches fish-shaped was harder than it looked. I had a total Pinterest fail. The boys (hubby and cousin) bailed me out, toasting the bread and using a cookie cutter to carefully make each fish shape before filling with PB or hummus. The cookie cutter I used can be found here.


  • The Deep Blue Sea
  • The Red Sea

We had both adult-friendly and kid-friendly beverages. The Deep Blue Sea was actually Simply Lemonade with a few drops of blue food coloring. Thanks to my HS friend Kristi M&M for throwing a baby shower and posting to Facebook her blue punch as an inspiration. The Red Sea was sangria. I firmly believe you cannot throw a summer party without serving sangria.


  • Blue and purple cupcakes adorned with candy seashells and Ariel’s friends
  • Oyster and Pearl Macarons
  • Gummy Penguins, Shark Gummy Fruit and Swedish Fish
  • Swiss Roll Sushi

Ariel and her friends adorned the cupcakes as well as seashell candies I made with a Wilton candy mold. The Ariel figurines were purchased from Amazon and were found at a great bargain price. The candy molds were also a Pinterest fail initially, but I eventually got the hang of it. The macarons are found in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s. I carefully inserted a small pearl candy in each. Cute and yummy! I originally had plans to make rice crispy sushi, but I ran out of time. The swiss roll sushi was a quick and easy substitute.

The buffet cards were a free printable courtesy of The Suburban Mom and can be edited in Pic Monkey to reflect your personal menu. Get the free download here.

All the kids had a great time splashing around the pool and blowing bubbles on the patio after dessert. My favorite little hostess had an especially good time and informed me that next she is having a Rapunzel birthday party. Better gear up for that one! She sure is bossy 🙂


J’s Ariel Pool Party Part I: Invitation and Party Prep

Just as it got down to crunch time for J’s Big Birthday Adventure, she became obsessed with Disney princesses.  Suddenly, she wanted to change her theme from Dora to Ariel of the Little Mermaid.  As I had painstakingly hand-painted twenty Dora Backpacks and Diego Rescue Packs, I was not about to abandon the theme.  No way kiddo! I appeased J by promising her she could have an Ariel pool party.  At the time, I had no intention of doing anything more than inviting her cousins over and calling it a pool party.  After all, what three year old throws a pool party? #3goingon13

Then, I made the mistake of creating a Pinterest page for an Ariel-themed party, and I was hooked!  Check it out here. I saw several good ideas for a seashell invitation. Mind you, I had no need for a printed invitation. The guest list was limited to a handful of friends and classmates. An Evite  or email would surely suffice.  But the idea was too cute to pass up, so before I knew it, I was drawing a seashell template, which I photographed with my iPhone and downloaded to my laptop using an app called CamScanner.  I then added my own text and an Ariel image.  Please see my blank template below and feel free to use it for your own party:


I printed the template on lilac and light blue card stock and embellished the front of the invite with puffy paint and ribbon.

DSC_0572 DSC_0570

Yup, I was pretty proud of the way it turned out. I was on a roll and could not be stopped, so I nearly swooned when I saw this idea for paper lantern jellyfish on See instructions here.


Off to the Dollar Store I went.  I came home with all kinds of goodies including lanterns, streamers, curling ribbon and plastic tablecloths. I could not bear to cut the lantern as suggested in the instructions as  I would surely find a use for it after the party had ended.  This meant my jellyfish did not quite have the right shape, but I think they are still distinguishable as jellyfish.

J and I worked hard on a dessert table display using a blue plastic tablecloth for the ocean, a fish net and green hula skirts for seaweed. We then decorated the seaweed with fish stickers and white barnacles (mini cupcake liners). J was such a tremendous help with this art project.  She may turn out to be crafty just like her Mom and Dad.


Also pictured is a fun Sebastian felt craft found on the Disney Family website.


Finally, I wanted to make a quick and easy wreath for the front door.  I found aqua burlap at WalMart and used it to wrap a green foam wreath form to which I glued seashells, starfish and an Ariel ribbon.


Now we just had  to prepare an ocean themed menu, and we were ready for the guests to arrive.  See Part II here.


This is the final installment (for now) in my infertility series.  I have delayed in posting it because the emotion is  still raw.  I do want to pause to give thanks for the number of personal notes I have received in response to my writings.  There have been words of encouragement, stories of hope and similar struggles and gratitude for having the courage to speak out.  Writing has always been an outlet for me, and I am glad to have a made a small impact on others, if only for a moment.

For DH and me, our miscarriage experience brought to light the fact that we were “trying.” They say ignorance is bliss, and we certainly found this to be true.  We were well aware that we were taking no precautions to prevent pregnancy, and at least 15 months had passed in this manner. We probably should have been concerned, but I think it helped that we were terrified by the notion of a second child for at least half that time period.  The fact that pregnancy #2 occurred without overthinking it was, well,  lovely.

Now we were determined more than ever to give J a baby brother or sister.  I, for one, was not looking forward to “trying,” but it ended up being less stressful than I anticipated.  DH was 100% on board, and it was like an unspoken agreement between us. I charted only once to make sure my cycle had not changed.  My periods were still like clockwork every 28 days with ovulation occurring around day 15. Seemingly perfect. Twelve months went by without success, and my OB-GYN urged me to go back to the reproductive endocrinologist. I was, after all, 35 and the clock was ticking.  Fifteen months went by, and this time it was DH who was dragging me to the RE’s office. What pushed me over the edge were the results of a blood test my OB-GYN ran. Anti-muellerian hormone, or AMH, is a substance produced by early ovarian follicles. It is thought to be an indicator of a woman’s remaining egg supply, her ovarian reserve. The normal range is 1.5-4. My result came back at 0.6. Time to see Dr. Magic.

The RE was not concerned with my AMH value quite yet. He said, it being a new test, there was a lot of potential for error if not performed by a reliable lab.  He sent me for a very thorough panel of bloodwork via ReproSource in Boston. All my values, including AMH, fell within the acceptable range, and my egg retrieval score was good, meaning average for my age. On my 36th birthday, I had a repeat HSG, and this was also normal. DH’s swimmers were deemed plentiful as well. We were so normal that we were given a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” Our recommended treatment plan was either continue on our own or try fertility drugs in an effort to speed up the clock.

We chose Clomid, which I took one time while trying to conceive J. As you may recall, I hated it.  I experienced all the listed side effects- hot flashes, night sweats, bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, extreme irritability. It was an evil little pill, and I was not excited to give it a second try.  I started my 5 days of pills and waited for the ugliness to begin. I waited. And waited. And waited. Still, I felt nothing. I told the doc as much when I saw him for my follow-up ultrasound.  My ovaries told a different story.  I had several mature follicles in each ovary. Sneaky Clomid!

The protocol is to have extra friendlies every other day while tracking luteinizing hormone with an ovulation predictor kit. Once the luteal surge is detected, ovulation is anticipated to occur the next day.  They gave me a lab slip to go for a pregnancy test 2 weeks after my surge. Not one for unnecessary bloodwork, I called the office the day the lab was due and told them I was going to skip it as I had taken several home pregnancy tests in anticipation and had yet to get a BFP. The secretary agreed but urged me to go if AF did not arrive within two days.  I decided to take one more HPT, and this time there was the faintest positive. When I looked back at the previous day’s test, there was also a very faint positive I had missed. Oh glorious Clomid!

I quickly snapped a pic of my test and made J pose for this adorable picture with her Cabbage Patch Doll (mine from my childhood). The shirt was handed down to us by her cousin, and I was saving it for a time when it rang true. I sent the pics off to DH and hopped in the car to get my bloodwork done.  DH was ecstatic. I was cautiously optimistic.  The projected due date was Oct 9, the day before DH’s bday and a week before our anniversary and my birthday. How could this fail?

A slight miscommunication between the hospital and lab resulted in a delay in receiving the results.  The blood test came back positive, although the HCG level was low. My progesterone, on the other hand, was through the roof, indicating that I had ovulated more than one egg.  My second blood test two days later revealed that the HCG had more than doubled so I was cleared to go one week before my next blood draw. I was feeling pretty confident at this point. My breasts were sore and enlarged. I was having minor cramping in my expanding uterus as I had with J. My belly was hard and swollen likely due to all the progesterone on board, but I preferred to think of it as a little baby belly.

And then it all fell apart.  I received a phone call after my third blood draw informing me that my HCG levels had remained low and had not come close to doubling as expected. The doctor was concerned I may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy and wanted me to come in for an ultrasound the next day. DH was out of town on business, and I had to break the news to him on the phone. I also had to arrange for childcare for J so I could go to the ultrasound by myself. DH and I stayed up late talking on the phone and googling “HCG not doubling” and “ectopic.” We clung to hope from stories of other women with low HCG or suspected ectopic pregnancies who had gone on to birth healthy babies.

When I finally went for my ultrasound, all hopes were dashed. Although my HCG was rising just a tiny bit with each new set of bloodwork, the number was less than 500, grossly below what one would expect at nearly 6 wks pregnant. The words “not a viable pregnancy” passed from someone’s lips and attention turned to determining whether the pregnancy was in-utero or ectopic. They were unable to make that determination.  Two doctors and an assistant probed me. They debated it while I held my breath and pressed my lips together hoping to hold back the tears for a few minutes longer.  I was sent home with firm instructions to call the doc on his cell phone and report to the ER if I experienced any severe right sided cramping. I was to come back in two days.  The worry was that if the pregnancy was in the tube and continued to grow, it may rupture my fallopian tube and cause me to bleed internally. This is one of the leading causes of maternal death and not something I wanted to experience.  Also, as someone who has a hard time getting pregnant, I could not afford to lose my right tube. I did not go home with a picture of my suspected ectopic, but it looked similar to this.

Because my HCG number was still rising, I  felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe this baby was in my uterus and was a late bloomer? I didn’t want to feel pressured to terminate a pregnancy if there was still hope, so I turned to my OB-GYN for further guidance.  I found her to be more personal and sympathetic than the RE. She took the time to explain what the HCG numbers meant, why mine indicated a failing pregnancy and my options should it turn out to be ectopic. Talking to her was like a breath of fresh air.  I may have mentioned earlier that my RE is slightly cocky, and he has every right to be. He is very talented at what he does. However, as appreciative as I was for the close monitoring, I was not ready to herald him champion for saving my tubes just yet.  I simply wanted him to pause for a moment and acknowledge my loss. Was this too much to ask?

DH accompanied me to our next visit which fell on Valentine’s Day. Seriously! DH has long been boycotting VDay as a commercial holiday, so I was not expecting candy and flowers, but this was ridiculous! They were still unable to make the call,  and the HCG number continued to creep up, so it was getting urgent. The recommended protocol was a shot of methotrexate. This is a chemotherapy drug that would effectively terminate the pregnancy to stop it from growing. If it became too large, I would require surgery and risk losing a tube. Still, no one wanted to inject me with a chemo drug if this was a natural miscarriage waiting to happen. So I was send away again.  I was told not to panic over bleeding as this was sure to occur, but to call with significant right sided pain. I experienced both and ended up having to call my doctor at home on a Sunday evening. Fortunately, the pain was not severe enough to be emergency-worthy, but my next appointment was moved up to 7:45 am on Monday.

We had arranged for childcare for J, but she woke up with a fever. So the three of us piled into the car- my pursed loaded with children’s ibuprofen and tylenol- and drove in silence to the office.  My HCG numbers had fallen significantly over the weekend. What was troubling was the spot that was still clearly on my right fallopian tube as well as the right sided pain I was having. I opted for the methotrexate shot and spent much of the morning waiting around to see if my liver was healthy enough to allow this option. Finally, I received not one but two injections and was sent home to rest. Except that I had a sick child, so rest was not possible.  In fact, all three of us ended up getting sick, which was a welcome distraction from the nightmare of the previous week.

As before, time was relentless in its insistence to march on and on and on. I may or may not have thrown a tantrum over planting some peach trees, which I refer to as my miscarriage trees. I remember reading somewhere that it was therapeutic, and I was planning on planting some fruit trees anyway. J named them Ariel and Belle. Please remind me never to ask her opinion on baby names or, surely, she will end up with brother Kristoff or sister Rapunzel.


We are still trying, and I am not going to lie to you, it is the pits. Most days, I am ready to move on from this chapter in my life. Should God entrust us with another precious life, I will hold him or her to my bosom, breath in the heavenly scent of baby and cry tears of joy. And should we remain parents of one, I will look at my little J with pride and adoration, as I have for the last three and a half years, and know her love is big enough to sustain me.

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Good news, my next post will be significantly more uplifting as I am going to write about J’s Ariel Pool Party (because every three year old needs a pool party).