Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chapter 5

Finally, here's the end of my story (and this time it's a happy ending!)  It's pretty long, so brace yourself.

Of course, this story would not be written if it were not for my Mother.  Again, she tirelessly searched the internet and informed herself about all aspects of IVF.  Those of you that know my mom, know she's brilliant.  She can do anything and in this regard, she became as knowledgeable as any RE out there.  She would tell me things she learned here and there, but I was so hard to talk to at the time.  I was fragile and didn't want to listen, but at the same time, I was yearning for my next step.  What in the world was I going to do? Billy and I would try to talk about our future without kids or about adoption.  We never did get far with either conversation because neither of us ever imagined life without kids or going through the brutal adoption process.  I knew I needed a plan, but what was it?  I needed guidance.
Of course, the Lord works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes it is so hard to see His hand in life, but in the next part of our journey it was SO clear.  I needed Him to reveal Himself to me at this point.  I was angry and confused and He did reveal Himself in such an obvious way.
One night, Mom was on the internet (as she was every night) and in an IVF chat room.  She asked a question about IVF and a woman answered her.  Her answer was something like -- "I don't know why I'm even lurking on this IVF site, I've had my children years ago from IVF, I guess I still want to see who else may be going through it."  She continued to answer -- "I live in Birmingham, AL and work at a place called UAB.  I researched RE's and Labs before I ever started the process and I chose a place called Shady Grove in Rockville, MD.  Dr. Michael Levy was my doctor and he's wonderful."
How amazing!  Of all the people on the internet around the world, my Mom found a woman from Birmingham.  If that's not the hand of God reaching out, I don't know what is.  And as if God was saying "Oh, is that not enough you guys?" another woman, completely separate from the first also wrote an answer to Mom's question in the chat room.  She too, was from Birmingham and also a physician at UAB.  The two women are friends but did NOT know each other was on the web, writing in chat rooms for IVF.  The 2nd woman had also gotten pregnant and had children as a result of IVF with Dr. Levy.
Mom ended up getting both of their email addresses and asking them tons of questions about Shady Grove in Maryland.  Both of them were hard cases, only producing one or two eggs.  They needed a GREAT lab and, in their eyes, Maryland had the best.  I was desperate at this point and the tales of these women were intriguing.  It was so bizarre that Mom had found them on the internet, with them living right in our backyard!  But being as angry and broken as I was, it was still hard for me to listen about or to plan the future.
As mom talked to me more about the possibility of going to Maryland, I freaked out,  as I did at every other step of this process.  That is one thing I've learned about myself (more on that later).  How in the world could I do this, how do we pay for it, how do you even attempt to go through an IVF process in another state??  I thought, there is absolutely NO way, it's impossible.  Every time I would say this, Mom would email one of the women from UAB.  These women walked us through every detail of what they did and how they did it.  I still thought, there is just NO WAY, but my Mother, the cheerleader, said differently.
In the meantime, I knew I had one more frozen embryo in Birmingham.  We went through a frozen cycle, which is much less invasive that IVF.  I had just gotten out of school for the summer and I was at the beach.  I didn't hold much hope for one embryo, but the fact that it had made it through both the freezing and unfreezing process and been transferred was pretty amazing.  In the back of my mind, I thought -- this is it!  I won't have to go to Maryland.  Well, it too came back as a 12.  Neither negative, nor positive.  The numbers dropped a couple of days later -- another chemical pregnancy.  This time, I was OK though.  By now, I had learned how to take the negative news pretty well. It was just another part of my life, one Billy and I had learned to just live with.  I was also OK because Mom had booked us a flight to Maryland to visit Dr. Levy and just talk to him.  There was hope on the horizon it seemed.  At least this would be a change of scenery and the women from the internet swore it was a VERY do-able process.  One of them even went back a second time with her toddler in tow.  It could be done. So, with their advice and a little pushing from Mom, I was going to Maryland.
Before we went to Maryland, I had gotten word from my one infertility friend I had made in a support group.  We bonded immediately because she had been with my same Dr.s in Birmingham and she too, had 2 failed IVFs.  Since then though, she had moved on with a Dr. in Nashville and she called me to tell me the news - she was pregnant!  I was thrilled for her, but at the same time felt so alone now.  She was the only person I had known to be going through the very same thing as I was.  With her exciting news though, I too wanted to meet with the Dr. in Nashville.  My mom and I drove up there on a rainy day and met with him.  I just had a bad feeling when I left the office.  I didn't like him, he had given me NO direction really.  Basically he had said, we would just try another IVF and see what happened.  No thanks, I wanted answers, not just another chance.  I was a little down at this point.  Maryland seemed like a wash.  It would probably be the same outcome, just some Dr. wanting to take my money and hope for the best.
Mom and I went anyway because she just "knew."  Don't forget, along with being brilliant, she may be a little psychic and definitely connected to God someway.  We flew in and stayed at the same hotel as the women from the chatroom.  It was not anything extravagant, it was an extended stay place where I could stay if I did come back for an IVF.  The next morning we went to see Dr. Levy.  The nurse came to get us and Mom and I walked into his office, sat at his table and handed him my records.  I needed my mom in this meeting.  She was SO much more knowledgeable than me and frankly, at this point, I needed someone to do it for me.
Dr. Levy is a small man from South Africa.  He has this sweet, caring demeanor about him and I just instantly felt some connection with him.  He made us feel so comfortable.  In addition to his demeanor, his brilliance quickly revealed itself.  We sat there silently while he quickly scanned my files.  As he was reading, he picked up on every little detail of my issues and started to made his own notes.  I answered lots of questions and he continued to make notes.  We continued to be quiet, observing him.  It was like watching a mad scientist.  After he was finished making his own notes, it was as if he was working some algebraic equation on his paper.  He would cross through words, write new procedures beside them, all the while explaining to us what he was doing, what he was thinking.  It was amazing.  Every single question my mother had been begging the Bham Dr.s to answer was answered or at least he was willing to do the test or procedure to get an answer.  In a nutshell, both Mom and I fell in love with Dr. Levy.
In my diagnosis, he revealed I had great response to meds and often was pregnant, but only slightly resulting in a chemical pregnancy.  In lieu of more testing and waiting on results, his plan was to treat me as if I had a clotting or immune issue, putting me on Lovenox.  This is a blood thinner some recurrent miscarriage patients use to help thin the blood so a pregnancy can successfully implant.  In addition, the Lab (one of the best in their field) would perform PGD, a controversial procedure where one cell is taken out of each embryo while they are growing in the dish.  They are tested for 11 or the 21 chromosomal abnormalities.  This would reveal if we in fact had some sort of genetic issue that was preventing a viable pregnancy.  The lab would also perform something called "assisted hatching," where a hole is drilled into the shell of the embryo on the day of transfer so it is more likely to implant successfully.  I would also be monitored daily and different meds used.  He believed I had not been too suppressed, but rather maybe just had not had the right medicine for my body.  In addition, Dr. Levy accepted us into their shared risk program, where you pay a flat fee, but there would be a 100% money back guarantee after 6 IVF tries.  I would be free and so would the money to pursue adoption or any other IVF protocol somewhere else if he was not successful.  And as if he had not done enough already he looked at me at the end of our meeting and said -- "I know you don't think this will ever work, but I really do think it will."  He continued to say "it may take a couple of tries, but it WILL work."  Precious.  He is just a precious man.
We left there almost in tears, not because we were disappointed, but because we were elated.  Mom and I both felt as though a ton of bricks had been lifted from our shoulders.  Every question Mom had was answered.  Every procedure Birmingham had refused to do was standard protocol in Maryland.  THIS was our answer, these were the answers we had been screaming for.  Mom said she felt as though she could let go now....all her trust was in Dr. Levy.
We continued our quick tour to D.C., hitting a couple of museums.  Mom and I were so relaxed, as if all our cares had flown out the window of Dr. Levy's office. We had such a nice time.  
The plans were set in motion.  Along with the prophetic answers by Dr. Levy, he had also concluded I did NOT need to go through another cycle before starting my IVF with him.  This was music to my ears because it meant I would be able to almost complete my 2 week stay in Maryland without missing much school.  I ended up going the last 2 weeks of my summer break -- perfect timing!  I would end up missing the first couple of days, but that was it.  No need to take off 2 weeks from work.
I worked out all the details with my nurse in Maryland.  The appts., my medicine, prescriptions to take meds on the planes, etc.  So many details!  I was a little nervous about being by myself for 5 days until Billy got there.  He had to work and there was no reason for him to be there for the first portion of ultrasounds, etc.  Up until this point, Billy had given me all my shots (for those of you that know him, this is a miracle in it's own right!)  Since I would be alone I had to learn to give myself the shots -- 3 shots a night (and for anyone that knew my fear of needles, this too is it's own miracle!)  My sweet friends packed me a care package full of DVDs, lotions, face masks -- anything to keep me occupied for the 5 days alone.  I packed everything in two suitcases and left on Aug 5th.  Everything went as planned, the trip was easy, I flew into Reagan, rented a car and drove the 45 minutes to Rockville (with help from the GPS!)  I settled in and the next day I had my first appt with Dr. Levy.
I know he does this for a living and sees this everyday, but when I saw him that first day, I felt as though he was just as excited as I was.  Maybe it's just his precious demeanor, but I really think he cares that deeply for his patients.  I spent the next few days going to appts in the morning and getting calls that afternoon to change some dosage of my medicine.  I just can't express to you how detailed they were about every little lab number.  I had been through a lot at this point (as you have seen) and I had never experienced this level of detail or expertise.  With all this attention, you would think it was a small practice, but in actuality it's enormous.  Dr. Levy just makes you feel like you are his sole purpose.
I also visited D.C. and scouted out the tour that I would take Billy on when he arrived.  He had never been to D.C. and we were trying to treat it as a vacation.  Lord knows, we needed one! Billy got there on Aug 10th.  I've never been so happy to see his face than when he walked in that hotel room.  I have a picture to document the moment!  We spent the next few days touring museums and eating out in D.C.  We were also doing all the IVF stuff, but at this point we were old pros at that, so it was just no big deal.
Everything went well.  Retrieval day finally came and Dr. Levy retrieved 27 eggs!!!!  It was an incredible response.  The next day Billy was supposed to leave and I was to stay until transfer (6 or 7 more days).  I just couldn't bear the thought of being in that hotel room alone again, so Dr. Levy said it was fine for me to fly home with Billy and fly back for the transfer.  So that is what I did.  I came home and got to see my new class on the 3rd day of school.  In the meantime, we had 20 eggs to fertilize normally and all 20 were continuing to grow and split.  This was great news and made my plans to return to Maryland that weekend for the transfer.  I flew back up and my transfer was on a Sunday.  Dr. Levy was not on call that day so Dr. Brown did the transfer.  The first thing she did was show me the results from the PGD.  Remember this was the genetics testing.  I was halfway expecting them to be all bad eggs (so was my luck it seemed), but to my surprise, I was very normal.  About 45% of my eggs had some sort of genetic abnormality.  It sounds like a lot, but in reality that is avg to above avg for normality.  It's a little known fact that we all produce genetically abnormal embryos.  That is the reason for so many miscarriages.  Also, many genetically abnormal embryos are miscarried before women even know they are pregnant.  Anyway, I was fascinated to see the abnormal results for the embryos.  Some of them had extra trisomy 14, some had extra trisomy 15, others had extra sex chromosomes.  It was just amazing to look at that and just simply amazing the technology we have that allows us the opportunity to know these embryos would never be viable.  After we went over the abnormal embryos, she showed me my two strongest embryos.  Number 10 and number 18 to be exact!  She transferred both and I was on bedrest in the hotel until the next day.  I flew home and the 2ww began. 
During the 2ww, you go through a range of emotions, trying to be positive, but also trying to not let yourself get too positive, keeping a realistic attitude about the possibility of a negative outcome.  I kept really busy and it helped that school had just started.  That'll keep anyone busy!
As the test day approached, I became more anxious and though I sore off the internet, I started to search a little and I found so many women that did home pregnancy tests before the blood test, although every Dr. will advise against this.  I had done this before during my IUI days and they were always negative, so I had not tested in a long time.  The next day was my beta and I woke up early.  Before I got in the shower it dawned on me I had an old home pregnancy test left under the sink that I had used to track on of those chemical pregnancies I had.  I thought, well, I would rather be prepared for the negative today, so I went ahead and did the test.  I really forgot about it for a minute, turning the shower on, standing there in my robe waiting for the water to get hot.  Never thinking about the HPT or the fact that it would ever show anything (after all, it was old and they never had before), I turned and looked at it one last time before I jumped in the shower.  There were two pink lines!!!!!  I thought I was seeing something and I rubbed my eyes and looked again.  Again, there they were.  I stood there in utter disbelief and just started to cry and smile at the same time.  Could it be?  Really?  I was pregnant?  with the pregnancy test in one hand, I opened the door and went to wake up Billy.  "Honey, honey, wake up" I said, shaking him.  He immediately jumped up and said "What's wrong?!"  I continued to show him and we both just hugged each other and stood there staring at the test.  I also took a picture message of it and sent it to my Mother.  I called her a few minutes later and with it being 6 am, she was so worried.  She thought I had surely started my period and the impending negative result from the IVF was coming.  Needless to say, she was stunned when I told her, she was not expecting good news!
I went to my old Dr's office in Birmingham to have my blood drawn.  I found myself again, in school, waiting on that phone call.  I was so nervous really not knowing which way  to lean -- do I believe the HPT or was it old and a false positive?  Even though Maryland had been a great experience, I knew there was a great possibility the IVF had not worked again.  But I did have the reassurance of 5 more tries with Dr. Levy and I loved him so much, I didn't mind having to go back up there for another round.  I walked into lunch with my class, cell phone in hand.  Of course, my 2 precious teacher friends knew what today was and when my phone started to vibrate, I looked down and it was Maryland calling.  I yelled to Kelli --"Can you watch my kids? of course, knowing the importance, she jumped up to help.  I ran outside and answered.
My nurse on the other end continued like so many times before, "Well, we received your bloodwork results from Birmingham."  There was a pause and I thought my chest was going to explode.  She said "you're pregnant!  and not only are you pregnant, you beta number is 940."  I just can't really describe that moment standing there outside our school lunchroom.  I felt like I was flying.  Not only was I pregnant -- I was REALLY pregnant!  My number was so high and especially for me, it was, by far the highest number I had ever gotten on my initial beta test.
The next few days were filled with anxiety as we waited to see my numbers double and triple.  They did exactly what they needed to do and 2 weeks later we went in for my ultrasound.  There were two sacs, 2 embryos and 2 strong heartbeats!!!  We were having twins.  Wow.  Not only did the Lord bless us, he blessed us with two babies.
The past few months have been filled with and continue to be filled with more anxiety as we wait on the milestones of pregnancy.  So far everything is going great, but I know it can all be taken away in a heartbeat.  Although the journey was the most difficult time of my life thus far, God has blessed us exponentially.
I can't end this post without recognizing the 2nd most important player in this whole equation.  My mother is the unsung hero of it all.  I can't thank her enough for her patience, love and understanding through everything.  She was my cheerleader, my support group, my pseudo RE, and research guru.  I couldn't have done any of this without her.  I could write for days and never thank her enough.  Thank you Mom!  I also can't thank my Mom without recognizing my husband in all this as well.  Billy dealt with the craziness that comes from IVF drugs, my fits, my depression.  He was always there to listen or to plan with me.  He too was my cheerleader. He knew I could do this and as hard as it was on him, he said the hardest part was watching me endure it all.  He hated giving me shots, he hated watching me cry when the negative results came.  They say infertility either drives you apart or pulls you together and I'm happy to say we are stronger because of our journey.  Thank you Billy for being you.
Looking back, I see God's hand through it all and I continue to see His plan for me.  I needed to grow in Him, I needed to see pain from the other side so that I might be more sympathetic to people and the problems we all face as human beings.  I learned I need more patience.  I learned to accept the forks in the road.  I know I'll face so many more challenges in my life and I feel like I'm more equipped to handle those challenges.  I feel closer to our God.  Even though at times I was SO mad at Him I couldn't talk to Him.  I went for months not talking to Him.  I know now, even though we're mad and don't understand, He is there.
I never understood the "peace that passes all understanding" until now.  He provided that peace for me so many times throughout this process, especially after the 1st IVF.  I needed Him and He was there.  Above all, I feel connected to a God that loves me despite all my flaws and has plans for me, so that I may have a fulfulling life in Him.  Thanks be to God for all our blessings.
I'm sorry this got to be so winded, but I'm glad I remembered so many details.  It will be a great story to show the twins some day.  They have already changed our lives!  I'm sure there are many more chapters to come.

Much love to all and Merry Christmas --
I'll keep you posted on our progress.  Please keep up in your prayers for happy, healthy babies in the spring.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chapter 4

Ok I promise this story is nearing the end!  

Since we had invested in the 2-round IVF package at ART in Birmingham, we still had another IVF to go.  After a couple of months of recovery, we geared up for another IVF.  I went through all the shots and ultrasounds.  This time they retrieved 18 eggs!  A much better response than the first round.  I ended up having 12 embryos make it to the transfer day.  We felt like we were rich with embryos!  They transferred the best 2 and we left, this time refusing the complimentary bear.  After the transfer, we learned none of our "left over" embryos made it to freeze.  This left just the one frozen embryo from the first round of IVF.  During the 2WW, I let myself believe it just may have worked this time.  I also kept my wits about me and I knew it could go either way, a negative was a probable outcome as well.  The beta test day came and I got a call in the afternoon.  It was negative.   I was much better equipped to deal with the news this time.  Of course, I was so upset, mostly because, I thought, wow, I really may never be a mother.  I had been through 2 failed IVFs.  Does that ever happen?  I had to start rethinking my life.  What next?  Adoption?  I was pretty lost.
After our 2st IVF, I needed our Lord, I reached out to Him, I held Him close.  It was so comforting to know He was there and I drew peace from it.  For the 2nd IVF, I started to make Him promises, I thought I knew what He was trying to show me.  I had a clear view of the life I was meant to lead and the family I was meant to raise in Him.  I got it!  I was prepared.  I prayed regularly and told Him about my vision for my future and that I was prepared now for this child, finally for my family.  So after the 2nd IVF came back negative, I was SO confused.  Why had He let me down again? I know what I am supposed to do , who I'm supposed to be.  Why would He do this?  I struggled with these questions over the days that followed our 2nd negative result.  At this point, I was worn out.  I had been poked and prodded and I felt like a pin cushion, not to mention my spirit was crushed.
Of course, we did still have 1 frozen embryo from our 1st IVF.  Could this really be our miracle? We had one last chance and holding on to hope, I started to believe, that embryo was going to be our child.
Every time you do an IUI or IVF, you have to wait a month in between starting any new protocol.  So, since our last negative, I had been relaxing, meeting my friends for dinner and wine and enjoying not being pregnant the best I could.  About 2 weeks later, I got up on a Friday morning and got ready for school.  It was SAT week and this was the last day!  We work all year to get these 3rd graders ready for their 1st SAT experience.  It's a big milestone and basically signals the end is near!  After I was ready, I sat down to eat a bowl of cereal and I felt a sharp pain in my side.  At the time, it was nearly 2 weeks after my negative IVF result and I thought, well, this must be normal ovulation pains.  I felt the sharp pain again and all the sudden I couldn't finish my cereal.  I was nauseous and ran to the bathroom.  In the bathroom I doubled over in pain.  I could barely walk, but I got to Billy and woke him up.  For the next few minutes, Billy was on the phone with my mother and I was trying to figure out a way to get to school.  I HAD to be there.  There are state laws that require the teacher to be present during SATs, etc  (I found out later it just has to be a certified teacher).  When the pain would pass, I could stand up finally and I thought --ok, I'm better.  I called school and told them what was going on.  Of course, they told me NOT to come in, but I was trying anyway.  When I hung up the phone, the pain got so much worse.  I told Billy something was wrong and we got in the car and headed to my fertility Dr's office at the hospital.  I called on the way and told the nurse I thought I was having some sort of post reaction to the IVF drugs, maybe a hyper stimulation in my ovaries.  My right side was KILLING me and making me so nauseous.
When we arrived, they took me immediately to a room.  The nurse did an ultrasound and my ovaries looked normal.  No hyper stimulation, as I had thought.  There was, however, some fluid behind my right ovary.  The nurse said it looked like an appendicitis.  Well, that's just great.  On top of everything else I've had to go through, I would have to have surgery!  I couldn't believe it, but I was relieved to know that's all it was.  The lab tech came in to take my temperature and confirm a fever (a classic sign of appendicitis).  I had no fever.  This was very confusing to everyone.  So, the nurse came in and said they would have to take blood to know for sure what was happening.  It sill never dawned on me, what they were actually doing.  I had the blood work done and they moved us to another room to wait.  We waited and waited.  I was in terrible pain, but Friday is surgery day for the Dr.s and they were all tied up.  The nurse would not give me any information and they said a Dr. would have to see me.  After a couple of hours, Dr. Houserman came in the room.  She said, in a very soothing voice, "the blood work came back and the beta is 416."  What!!!!????  Beta?  Who ever tested my beta numbers and why?  I'm not pregnant, we proved that 2 weeks ago with a negative beta test after my IVF.  So now all the sudden my heart almost came out of my chest as I thought -- I'm pregnant!!!  Dr. Houserman continued to explain it was an ectopic pregnancy.  With the beta numbers that low, 4 weeks after the IVF transfer, there's no way it's a viable pregnancy.
I turned my face from her as she explained and I started to cry.  I never do this in public and never in front of the doctor, but I was in shock and devastated.  Billy came over to the bed immediately when he saw me crying.  He was so confused, he didn't know what she was telling us, but I did.  She informed me I would need emergency surgery that day and the nurse would be in to take me to the OR soon.  She quickly left and Billy held me while I fell apart.  All I was thinking is -- I'm pregnant right now, this is the most I've ever been pregnant.  Not since the failure of the 1st IVF had I been so inconsolable.  I tried, through my broken breaths to explain to Billy what was happening.  He got so angry (at the situation, not me!).  He was so worried all day.  
The nurse came and put me in a wheelchair and we went down to be prepped for surgery.  By this point, my mother was on her way. I waited an eternity, which my sister let everyone know was very dangerous in my situation.  Apparently an ectopic can rupture and people have died from complications before.  Of course, they weren't telling me this, but in hindsight, I could see the fear on my mom, sister and Billy's faces while we waited.  Finally they took me back.  The surgery went well and Dr. Houserman did not have to remove my fallopian tube.  The ectopic was sitting on the outside of the ovary and tube and was able to easily be removed.
I was home by 6pm, stunned by what had taken place that day.  I sent my mother home (after much convincing).  After all, I had been through this surgery (laproscapy) with my endometriosis surgery and I knew what to expect.  Marty came and spent the night and tried to keep my mind off the day's events.  The pain pills helped too I guess.
Needless to say, in the weeks that followed, I felt completely lost.  An ectopic pregnancy resulting from an IVF has a less than 1% chance of happening.  Why would God allow this to happen to me?  I already had my negative result and it was almost like He was throwing salt on the wound.  I started to get angry.  Angry at the situation and angry at Him for allowing it to happen.  I didn't care anymore.  I wanted nothing to do with talking about infertility or what I was going to do next. I was DONE.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Pics

Against my better judgement, I'm going to post a couple of pics b/c so many people have asked to see the "bump."  Well, as you can tell, it's definitely a BUMP...safe to say I'll be HUGE by the end of this thing.  Oh well, small price to pay - huh?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chapter 3

Before I start this chapter, I have an update on the twins.  We had our targeted ultrasound today and everything looked great.  The Dr. said "I just can't find anything wrong with these kids!"  Billy and I are, of course, so thankful.  We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams so far....and we continue to pray for these twins to be healthy and happy. 
 Hopefully the fertility story only has 3 more chapters..here's Chapter 3!

Chapter 3

My initial IVF meeting with the nurse took 3 hours.  It took so long b/c IVF is such an involved process, it's overwhelming to say the least.  I left the office in tears.  There was no way I was going to be abe to do this.  It required visits to the office every two days, if not daily, for two weeks.  How in the world was I supposed to be a new teacher in a new school and pull this off?  There's no way!  Again, my cheerleaders, my mother and Billy, said, "we can do it, someway, somehow, we can do it."  I ended up telling my principal about my plans and she was fine with my absence.  Again, God's bigger plan was always working.  When I got the job the summer before, I actually wanted another job that called 5 minutes after my principal now.  I went with Irondale because they called first and they have been such a blessing through the hardest time of my life.  Thank you Lord for your hand in all things!  The secretary at our school took my children and kept them for anywhere from 15-45 minutes, until I could make it to school after my 7:00am appts.  Everyday!  Again, WHAT A BLESSING!  No one ever questioned me and it made things SO much easier.  
Ok, so I had started the IVF process and I could do it after all.  I don't know why I didn't learn by now,  but again, I thought, THIS will work.  I mean, they are taking my eggs out, fertilizing them, and then putting them back in.  There is NO way this won't work.  I went through all the shots, and all the ultrasounds.  Everything was going beautifully.  Retrieval day was finally upon us!  Very exciting!  Billy and I went in, I was taken to surgery and they ended up retrieving 7 eggs.  At the time we thought this was pretty good, but in actuality it was a low response.  Probably due to too much suppression (Lupron).  I forgot to mention, before the IVF process even begins, you are thrown into a drug enduced menopause.  Scary!  That's the "suppression" part of the process.  The next part of the IVF process is grueling.  It's the waiting game.  You wait on a phone call everyday, initially to tell you if the eggs ever fertilized normally.  In the 4 days after that, you wait to hear if they are still growing or if they in fact died overnight.  Talk about stress when the phone rings!  We were very blessed, 100% fertilized normally and ALL 7 embryos made it to day 5!  It was really unheard of...a wonderful response as far as the embryos were concerned.  We were on cloud 9.  Transfer day came and oh the excitement!  Dr. Houserman (my Dr.) did my transfer, and in her words, "it went beautifully."  Billy, of course, was by my side and Dr. Houserman grabbed our hands after it was over and said, "Well, I think you just got pregnant!"  Of course, we did too!  Everything had gone perfectly.  On our way out, the nurse gave us a picture of our transferred embryos and a stuffed bear with an ART (Alabama Reproductive Technology) t-shirt on.  "It's the baby's first gift, from us, of course," she said.  I thought it was a little hokey, but at the same time thought, wow, it IS the baby's first gift, I'll treasure it ALWAYS.  It will be such a great story for our child.
So the dreaded 2WW (2 week wait) began.  I began to analyze every twinge, every feeling.  In the wait, we also learned they were able to freeze one of my embryos.  Wonderful!  Future baby, I thought.  We finally made it to the beta test day.  I was so nervous, exited, but nervous. Again, I was at school and kept coming back to my cell phone to check if the nurse had called. No call.  I waited, no call.  3 o'clock came, no call.  Finally, about 3:30, the nurse called and informed me the number again was a 9.  Neither negative, nor positive.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!  This time my mother, becoming rather callosed to the situation as well, was not as positive about the outcome.  It would most likely be another miscarriage.  I went in a couple of days later to re-test and the number had actually fallen to 6.  It ended up being a chemical pregnancy.  A negative.
I was crushed.  It's hard to even think back to the days that followed.  I was inconsolable, I felt crazy.  It didn't help that in what would be the baby's room, sat the STUPID stuffed bear from the Dr.  I immediately got it and stuffed it in the trash, along with all my used needles, and unused medicine.  I know I shouldn't have disposed of the needles that way, but I had to get rid of the reminders.  The next morning was a Tuesday, trash day.  Billy had taken the trash to the street like he always does.  It was raining when I left for school and as I pulled out of the driveway that STUPID bear was wet and lying in the street.  I know this is crazy, but I started laughing, I was so glad it was cold and wet....so I continued to run over it with my car.  Needless to say, the drugs from IVF make you a little crazy.
I couldn't talk to anyone but my mother and Billy.  I was inconsolable.  My best friends were worried, but I just couldn't face anyone.  My mother took me to our cabin in Mentone that weekend.  I think that is all I could have done.  We cried A LOT.  I'm crying now just thinking about it.  But, Mentone is such a healing place.  I know God is in that place, there's something Holy about it.  I was comforted that weekend by the peace of God and of Mentone.  Mom, of course, bought me anything I looked at.  She was crushed as well and we held on the each other.
Looking back on it now, the reason I was so incredibly crushed was the hope that had been building ever since I decided to jump in and do Invitro.  I know I knew IVF could in fact fail, but I guess I never accepted that fate for myself.
Until now, I had been somwhat ambivilant about my relationship with God through this struggle.  As with any extreme adversity, I finally turned to Him for help.  I hate it took this long for me to realize or that I had to hit rock bottom before I finally realized I needed our Lord, but it did and now I was in desperate need of His peace.  I prayed and prayed and prayed. Mostly I prayed for Him to just be with me, heal me, make me whole again.  Of course, I questioned Him as well, but the whole time, I trusted He had a bigger plan for me.  I prayed for the strength to endure it.  My favorite verse became Isiah 41:10 -- "Fear not, for I am with you...."  I would repeat it to myself over and over again during the day and night.
After my 1st IVF, I met and started an email friendship with Danielle.  She had recently lost her first baby at 20 weeks due to pre-term labor and other complications.  Although our stories were so different, our pain was so deep and we connected over it.  She made such a difference in my life at that point.  We often spoke about our relationship with God and where it was going or what we should be feeling, etc.  Talking and emailing out those feelings was very cathartic and inspirational for both of us.  I think we drew strength from God and each other during that time.  My friends were such a God-send as well.  They worked to keep me busy and my mind occupied.  I thank God for my sweet friends.  I dare say some of those "pity" parites and trips were some of the most fun we've ever had (and that's hard to do with our group!)  Love you girls!
At the time, I started to believe I was doing something (or had done something) to deserve this pain.  Why me?  Was I not deserving?  I came to realize, or rather believe, that God allows things to happen to us in order to mold or shape the person we are supposed to be.  This struggle changed me.  It molded me and Billy into the parents we are supposed to be.  It must be so hard for God to allow us to endure such pain, all the time, knowing He has great things in store.  I guess that's the biggest lesson from it all -- there is a plan, as cliche as it may be, it's true.
We rested and tried to prepare ourselves for yet another round of IVF.....chapter 4 next.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter 2

Sorry for the delay....we had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I've been out-of-pocket for the past week.  I did however finish our "story."  Here's Chapter 2....

The next year and a half of infertility is a little of a blur and definitely the most difficult part of our journey.  It consisted of countless doctors visits, blood tests, IUIs, IVFs, etc....  I would usually try and make an early morning appt., before school.  This makes for a very long day and I grew to loathe the office here in Birmingham, even though I know they tried.  The repeated negative results and feelings that ensued formed my opinion quickly.
I'll stop jumping ahead of myself.  After my initial endometriosis surgery, we were filed with hope for a quick pregnancy.  After all, those are all the stories you hear.  You know -- how you are most fertile after a surgery, etc.  We decided to try a clomid driven IUI.  The clomid would help me produce eggs, the IUI would be a better shot at a pregnancy.  Again, I thought, this will work.  Needless to say -- negative.
The RE suggested we move on to injectables.  Whoa! This was the big guns.  Shots?  I've never been able to take shots, much less in my stomach.  I thought, well, time to buck up, I can do this.  So I started Follistim, which are small, insulin size shots in the fat part of your stomach.  Not bad at all!  I was surprised.  Everything went as expected.  Two eggs grew and we did an IUI.  I never expected it to work because I had never had one work before.  I booked a trip to New Yourk with some girls for a birthday.  It was a great distraction and when I returned I went to my scheduled appt for blood work. This was 2 weeks later and they tested my Beta hCG number for pregnancy.  I was in my classroom and the phone rang....the Dr.s office.  My heart started pounding, do I answer during class?  Can I stand not to answer?  I quickly gave my students a project and went into the hallway.  I answered.  The nurse on the other end sounded grim.  "Well," she explained, "the number is 11."  What does that mean?  Am I pregnant?   She continued to explain how a egative was anything below 5, while a positive was anything above 20.  You have to be kidding, I thought, neither negative, not positive.  Of couse, this was the most I had ever been pregnant, so I was very positive about the future.  They asked me to come back in 3 days and re-test.  Of course, I did.  Billy and I left for the beach that day after the test, and to my surprise, the nurse called while we were in the car.  This time, it was my favorite nurse.  The number had jumped to 135!!!!  Remember 20 was positive.  Of course, I had to ask, "does this mean I'm pregnant?"  and she said "most definitely!"  We met one of our best couple friends at the beach that weekend.  They just happened to be pregnant.  Dawn and I were thrilled to be pregnant together.  She gave me all kinds of advice and it was so fun to just do nothing and embrace finally being pregnant.  When we returned, I went in on Tuesday for another beta test.
That day my number came back at 235.  It had not doubled at all for the amount of time since the last beta test.  Not a good sign.  My Mom and I fretted over this result.  She kept her positivity, telling me this CAN happen.  Her research showed it was not a likely viable pregnancy, but there were definitely women who had these numbers and had gone on to deliever healthy babies.  We hoped and prayed, but when I went in for another beta test, the number had gone down.  It was a miscarriage.  My first....it was very difficult to go back now.   Now I was back to not being pregnant again.
We went on to try 3 more follistim/IUI rounds with no results.  During the last IUI, Dr. Honea suggested we consider moving on to IVF.  What a blow.  The injectables, the "Big Guns,"as I thought didn't work.  It finally stared to sink in , I AM an infertility patient.  Wow.  It was very hard to finally admit it to myself, but there I was facing Invitro Fertilization.  
Having children is one of those milestones of life.  Along with dreaming of my wedding dress, I had always loved to name my children.  I've always thought of myself with children.  I never once dreamt I would be the one to have to do IVF.  That's the stuff you hear about on television or from a friend of a friend.  It's not something that happens to me or any of my friends.  Maybe if we were 40, but we're not, we're 29.  Why is this happening?
After I accepted my fate and my mother had talked me off the ceiling about the price of the 2 round IVF package in Birmingham, Billy and I decided to move on.  Of course, at this point, I knew I had been through my struggle with infertility, I had felt the pain of a miscarriage, the pain of repeated negative results and I began to talk to the Lord about my concerns and longings for children.  I felt like I deserved this.  Why?  I don't know why I ever felt so entitled. Maybe because, throughout my life, I've not had much struggle, everything has been quite easy.  I started to pray, but I was praying with a sense of entitlement at the time.  Looking back I know He wasn't done with my "lesson" just yet.  We spent the next couple of months recovering from the IUIs and gearing up for our 1st IVF.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chapter 1

This is the day that the Lord hath made.....
I love that song/verse.  My Dad used to sing it every Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church.  Usually I'm singing it in my head on Sunday mornings now too.  
I feel rather happy today and thankful today.  What's there not to be happy about?  The Crimson Tide is undefeated, the weather is beautiful, the list goes on.... So, as promised, I'm going to try and retace my steps through infertility as well as the spiritual journey I unknowingly took at the same time.  I really wish I had kept a journal of feelings through it all b/c I tend to forget pain easily.  Since SO much happened over such a long time, I'll have to do chapters -- here's Chapter 1.

In 2004, my sister had a baby.  Oh that baby boy!  I had no idea how much he would change my life.  I guess he started immediately b/c before he was even born, Billy and I decided it was time for us to start a family as well.  As Jay's birth came and went, I began to think somthing might be wrong.  I spoke with my OBGYN about the issue and I was blindly put on clomid.  I was thrilled and excited that this would finally be the answer.  A couple of months came and went...nothing.  With each passing month, my anxiety grew.
At this point, my Mother became increasingly concerned.  Actually, she "knew" before I even asked for Clomid, urging me to see the RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist).  I truly believe in a Mother's intuition now.  Shomehow she "knew" something was drastically wrong.  Mom would tirelessly search the internet on what she thought I might have....Endometriosis.  Is she crazy?  I thought.  No one in my family has endometriosis.  She's nuts.
Mom has a not so subtle way of pushing you to do things you might not want to do, but maybe something you need to do.  In this case, she pushed me (kicking and screaming) into seeing the RE.  I thought it was insane, but to please her, I went.  I remember sitting in the waiting room, slightly embarrassed thinking, "This is ridiculous, I'm not like these people, I don't need this."  Billy was sitting beside me, always calming me down, telling me there was absolutely NO reason to be embarrased.  After all, this was the doctor's office.  I can't begin to describe how wonderful he's been through this process...but more on that later, I'm sure!
They finally called my name and Billy and I went to talk to Dr. Houserman. She explained the in's and out's of infertility.  What might be wrong, etc.  I sat there, still thinking -- "This is insane, why am I here?"  At the very end of our conversation, I mentioned a very small symptom of endometriosis I dealt with occasionally (I had NO other symptom at all), but I made sure to say -- "I really don't think it's anything to worry about."  She immediately put me in a room and did an ultrasound.  I can remember the ultrasound tech being VERY confused by my ultrasound.  After it was over, the nurse said, "wait here, I'll be back."  I sat at the cracked door and listened to her conversation -- "I've never seen anyting like this," she continued.
At this point, panic set in.  Dr. Houserman called us back in her office and told us there was some sort of cyst or tumor in my uterus. Her guess was that it was an endometrioma, resulting from endometriosis, but she couldn't be sure until I went into surgery.
So, surgery it was.  I was nervous, but a little excited, again thinking "this will be it, this will be my cure."  Of couse, now I started to think my Mom really might be "psychic."  She knew I had endometriosis.
In December '06, I had sugery and Dr Houserman removed an endometrioma the size of a baseball, plus stage 3 and 4 endometriosis (there are 4 stages of endometriosis, with stage 4 being the most severe).  Mom was right!  and I was relieved.  It was over and now it would be our time to have a family.
If I only could have known -- it was just the beginning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sweet Feet!

If you ever need to get the word out, tell Carlie!  hahaha.  I know you love news, Carls, and thanks for sharing it with everyone for me.  It's so good to hear from y'all Betsy, Katie and Kathleen!!  How fun.  Hope you all are doing well.  If I ever figure this thing out, I guess y'all have blogs too?  I would love to see them.  If you can't tell, I'm a little computer illiterate, but I'm trying.  
I wanted to share the sweetest pic in the whole world above.  It's the sweet little feet of "twin A," otherwise known as -- the girl.  I thought it was the most perfect pic.  

Other than the usual around here, I'm so very excited for my friend Danielle.  She's reached 29 weeks!!!  Most of you know and are praying for Blake and Danielle everyday.  It's nothing short of amazing that she is 29 weeks and counting.  Please continue to pray for peace and continued days with no (official) labor.  
Happy weekend to all.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best of both worlds

What a great day.  Any day off from work is always a good day.  Today, of course, was Veteran's day and school was out.  Very random to just be off on a Tuesday, but maybe it will break up the week nicely.
My big news today was my Dr. appt.  I was thrilled when Dr. Kimberlin decided to do an ultrasound today.  I was not supposed to have one until 20 weeks, so it was a great surprise.  I can officially announce, we will be having a Boy and a Girl!!!!!!!  Of course, we had an idea, but it was great to get confirmation.  Everything seems to real now and I feel SO incredibly blessed.  It still seems so unreal that this is actually happening to me.  I almost feel guilty.  My mind wanders to all those women going through infertility and dealing with the negatives.  I don't think I'll ever shake the pit in my heart for couples like us.  Miracles do happen though!!!  and they can happen to you too!!!  I never thought I would be the one to get to say it, but it's true.
Much love to everyone....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Say Hello

to the twins that is!  These are the last pictures we have.  This is from 12 weeks.  I would love to see some now, but I guess we have to wait a few more weeks for any new ones.  
I think they are really cute though!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm a lucky devil!

As you might imagine, my Halloween was rather uneventful, but I like to live vicariously through Billy Gant at times like these.  He, of course, had big plans.  The Innisfree crew got together and decided to be wrestlers from the 80's.  Think Rowdy Roddy Piper, Rick Flair (Billy), Junkyard Dog, Coco Beware (Ken), and Macho Man Randy Savage (Billy D).  Even though I did used to watch the soapopera that was WWF in the 80's, I still thought this was a rather strange idea.  But it was the brainchild of Billy G and Billy D, and if you've ever been witness to one of the "scenarios," it makes perfect sense.  Well, I was wrong and the whole night turned out to be hilarious.  Everyone went all out with their costumes, they built a wrestling ring and were interviewed as their "character."  Billy said it was a fun night and the pics are so funny.  
Ally took part as a "lucky devil."  She likes Halloween about as much as I do, so needless to say, she was not thrilled about her costume and the pics show it.  
The rest of the weekend was great.  I'm enjoying the weather.  My sister says she loves fall b/c it always "feels like settling in."  That's what this weekend felt like I guess -- it was so nice.  
Some people have asked me to write our infertility story and I'm working on it.  When I started writing, I realized how much it included, so it's going to have to be in "chapters."  Chapter 1.....coming soon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I'm checking to see if I can add photos.  Here are a few of our pics from the Washington D.C. trip.  We had a great time despite being there for medical reasons.  Since it was only the two of us, there are only "one at a time" shots.  We went to the Museum of Natural History and the National Archives this day.  I loved going back and also getting to show Billy.  It was his first time to D.C.  Needless to say, it is a special place in both our hearts now!  We love D.C. (specifically Rockville, Maryland).


Hi Everyone!  I've branched into blogging, I guess?  For now, it's just my stance against Facebook(I refuse!) and an attempt to hopefully share our lives with friends and family.  
My first post is dedicated to our very exciting news.  Everyone checking this blog probably already knows, but I'll say it anyway because it's fun!  Billy and I are expecting  (the "expecting" is for you Martha).  It was an awfully difficult journey to this point and one which so many of you knew way too well.  I'm sure I'll write more on the "journey" later because it did forever change me, and I would love to be some sort of support for other couples dealing with infertility.  For now though, I'm enjoying our news! 
Well, I'll keep this short for the first post, but I promise much more later!  I'm going to try and figure out how to make this thing a little less unsightly.