Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Infertility, my cross to bear (continued).....IVF #2

For the first three parts of this series, read The Beginning....Infertility, my cross to bear (part 1), Infertility, my cross to bear (continued) (part 2) and Infertility, my cross to bear....IVF #1 (part 3)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perserverance. Perserverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ----James 1: 2-4

I was still reeling from the grief of the miscarriage, as we made plans to move forward with another IVF cycle. I had my good days where I threw myself 100% into planning IVF #2 and then I would have horrible days where I would just cry for hours on end. As much as I tried not to focus on the heartbreak I was still experiencing, it always came back to me. The fact that I would never know this child broke my heart....I would never see his face, never hear his cries and never hold him in my arms and it crushed me more than I would have imagined.

At the same time, I knew that no amount of grieving or bitterness would bring me my baby back so I had to start letting go and moving forward. That's not to say I ever forgot....no, I would never forget. But there did come a day when the burden in my heart didn't feel as heavy anymore and it didn't hurt each time I drew in a deep breath.

In the evenings, after work, to keep myself focused on the journey ahead, I spent time reading my bible. I memorized the verse posted above and carried it in my heart at all times. I had to believe that things happened for a reason and that I would become a mother in GOD's time, not MY time.

As we were making plans to move forward, Tim and I sat down one evening to look at our financial situation. I almost keeled over when we both realized that we had spent almost $30,000 on just that ONE cycle. It made my stomach turn that we had absolutely nothing to show for what we had spent, except for our broken hearts and still empty arms. We were relying heavily on our home equity line of credit to pay for all our infertility services, even though we had no clue how we'd ever pay off all this debt (and believe it or not, 6 years later, we are still paying off this debt).

I had my phone consultation with Dr Sher to discuss plans for us to cycle in Vegas with him. He was sympathetic about our outcome from IVF #1 but he gave me hope that we could still have a successful pregnancy using my own eggs. We discussed some things he would do differently this next time around and by the time I got off the phone with him, I felt encouraged, hopeful and....yes, even excited.

I started right back up where I left off with acupunture and decided that this time around I'd follow the Traditional Chinese Medicine diet that was strongly recommended to me. I lived off of warm noodle soup, decaf black dirt tea, protein galore, and spelt toast (if you don't know what this is, then consider yourself lucky). I lost 8 pounds during the first 2 weeks. I was starving ALL. THE. TIME.

Oh and I also became wierdly superstitous...I had this smoky quartz crystal that I had to have with me at all times, I wore a pair of "lucky" socks that had been passed on to me after being worn by 3 of my IVF cycle buddies (who were all pregnant after wearing said lucky socks), and God forbid a black cat cross my path...I would go into hiding for days out of fear that I was doomed to an empty barren life.

Then came the day when I had a phone appointment with my wonderful nurse, Elaine (who was an absolute Godsend) and she e-mailed me my IVF protocol, which absolutely boggled my mind because I wasn't sure how I was going to keep all the meds straight without screwing it up! I wanted to run for the hills....seriously. I just stared at the protocol, shaking my head and thinking, "This is what has become of my life?? Why can't I just be one of those women who gets pregnant by just standing in the same room as her husband?!"

Tim and I began fighting even more than usual during this IVF cycle. Perhaps it was because I was more emotional this time around....from knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed. Just because I got pregnant on our 1st IVF didn't necessarily mean I'd get pregnant again this time....and just because I get pregnant this time doesn't necessarily mean I'd STAY pregnant....I was starting to come undone very quickly and I think it was taking its toll on Tim.

However, I did my best to find humor in the littlest things, to keep from crying every single minute of the day. One time, Tim was watching me prepare my Heparin injection and as I was about to inject myself, he said, "Do you always leave some air at the tip of the syringe?" and I said, "yeah, I don't want to risk squirting any of the Heparin out of the needle so I leave a little air pocket at the tip...why?" He just shook his head in disbelief and said, "You do realize in your conscientous effort to not waste any medicine, you're taking a serious risk. If too much air enters your bloodstream, it could be FATAL....you know, as in DEATH".

I just rolled my eyes at him but as I injected myself, I imagined the headlines in the paper the next day...."Infertile woman dies while injecting Heparin", with a picture of me laying on the ground, completely lifeless, with a needle sticking out of my belly and it made me laugh outloud. Have I mentioned yet that all these IVF meds made me a little insane? Not a lot....just a little bit insane.

The day before our cycle was to officially begin, Tim and I packed up our car and drove the 9 hours it would take us to get to Vegas. He focused on his talk radio crap shows and I had brought along our portable DVD player so I could get lost in romantic comedies and not have to think about IVF for a little while.

The day of my first appointment finally arrived. It was the moment of truth. I walked into Dr Sher's office and immediately felt inadequate. Almost every woman there was stick thin, with huge boobs and fake tans. I mean, really....who has such a dark, rich tan in December? And who can have such a flat stomach while stimming during an IVF cycle?? The minute I inject myself with Follistim, my belly puffs out as if I just binged on 10 huge bowls of red beans and rice.

After registering for my appointment, I managed to squeeze my fat, bloated ass into a chair in the waiting room and promptly buried my head into a magazine so I wouldn't have to compare myself with all the Barbies in the room.

Finally, we got called back and I sat on the exam table, barely covered by a way-too-small paper gown (which, by the way, I always wonder why those things don't come in varying size...like S, M, L, XL, and Fat Bloated Ass). In walked Dr Sher and I just stared at him in awe...you'd think it was God personally walking into the room and handing me a baby himself.

He had another RE with him, who was planning to take over another one of Sher's clinics...he asked if I minded if Dr B stayed in the room and I said, "No...at this point, so many different people have seen my hoo-haw...what's one more?" Dr B said, "Oh, this one...she has a sense of humor".....why, yes I do, and thank you for noticing. It's the one thing I had managed to salvage during this torturous hell, which some people casually referred to as "trying to conceive".

Dr Sher started the ultrasound and he was as quick as could be, rattling off a bunch of numbers to the nurse to write down. Then he turned off the ultrasound machine and said, "Okay...." and I said, "Um....okay, what? Break it down for me....how many follicles do I have brewing in there?!". He looked so serious as he said, "Well, not too many I'm afraid....you have 1 follicle on your left ovary and your right ovary has maybe 5-6 follicles but they are all very small. But don't worry...I think you're just starting to take off and everything will be fine...just keep stimming and let's give it another week". WTF??!!

I had stimmed for 9 days already and this is all I had?! I was pretty sure I heard God laughing at me....Dr B added in, "Sometimes it takes a little time to prepare a good meal". I just sat there, shaking my head and said, "I'm not a freakin lasagna....I want big, huge follicles...lots of them....how can this be happening? I had better results on my last IVF by this point...." and then my chin started quivering and I knew what was about to happen. I was going to bawl....bawl my eyes out, right there on the exam table in the paper gown that barely covered my fat, bloated ass. Either that or I was gonna puke....I decided crying was much more....hmmm, well...lady-like.

The next day I had a serious breakdown in the bathroom as I was about to get in the shower. I saw my bloated and bruised belly in the mirror and it instantly made me angry. I kept thinking there had to be a reason God was putting me through all this...there's always a reason for everything, right? But so far I hadn't learned anything...hadn't experienced any major "ah-ha" moments, like Oprah has.

One of my cycle buddies and I were talking one day and she asked me, "So tell me, have you had a complete breakdown yet?" and I told her, "Yes, here and there". She said if it were her in my shoes, she would've given up by now and just gone and packed her bags and headed home, completely devastated. I told her that I just couldn't give up now...I had come too far to just walk away, especially when I had Dr Sher telling me my ovaries just needed some more time.

So my attitude was that I was just going to have trust him and be patient with my body. I wanted a baby so badly that anything I had to endure at that point was a walk in the park compared to going home having given up and never knowing what might have been. "So", I told her, "until Dr Sher tells me he's lost hope that I'll have a baby, then that's the day I'll give up".

Unfortunately, a week later, that fateful day came. After stimming for another week, 15 days in total....7 injections on each of those days....Dr Sher did another ultrasound and there were no follicles at all. Not even immature ones....all the small follicles I had a week ago were now gone....vanished into thin air, as if they never existed. He didn't even have to say anything. I had had enough ultrasounds to know what I was looking at....my ovaries were completely empty. He turned off the machine and asked me to sit up and then he said, "I'm so sorry but it looks like this is the end of the road for you....". I tried my best to stifle the tears that were threatening to come. My head was spinning and I couldn't grasp onto any thoughts...I was in shock. Then I heard someone sobbing....and I quickly realized that it was me.

Dr Sher explained that with all his 22 years experience in this field, especially working with patients like me with high FSH, he knows when to call it quits and after me being on the most aggressive protocol possible with such a poor response...well, it was time for me to call it quits. Apparently, I had waited too long to try to have children. I was only 34 years old but I had the ovaries of a 60-year old.

As I cried, I asked Dr Sher, "Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive that this is IT for me? Can't I try one more time? What do I do now? Where do I go from here? Why is this happening? Please explain it to me because I don't understand....what exactly are you telling me...this CANNOT be happening!" Tim was in tears by this point as well, as he stood next to me completely helpless and powerless to do anything but wrap his arms around me to try to take the sadness and the heartbreak away but knowing full well that not even he could dull the pain I was going through.

Dr Sher took my hands in his and he said, "Look at me....just focus on ME and listen with all your heart, okay?" I stopped crying long enough to nod my head, as he continued, "With all my experience, my professional opinion is that your ovaries are done....I'm afraid you are at the bottom of the barrel here, with nothing left to give. I believe within the next 3-4 years you'll be completely menopausal. I think you need to give up the dream of having your own biological children. I honestly think that, if you want to experience a successful pregnancy, the only way you'll go on to have a take-home baby is by using donor eggs. You know I very rarely recommend that to my high FSH patients unless I firmly believe that's the last option....and in your case, I feel it's the last option".

I shook my head, still in denial, and asked, "Can't I try another protocol? Surely, you, of all people, has to have something else up his sleeve?" but he didn't answer. He just looked at me with such sympathetic eyes. I continued, "Please don't tell me that I can't have my own biological children....please don't tell me that. You were supposed to be my miracle worker...you were going to be our answer to prayer. And here you are telling me that this is never going to happen for me unless I give up the idea of conceiving a child with my own DNA?? I just don't think I can....I don't think I can use donor eggs. I want my child to have MY DNA....my eyes, my hands, my smile....I can't do this".

He squeezed my hands tightly in his and he said, "At this point, you need to decide if you want to be a mom or if you want to keep putting yourself through this heartbreak and disappointment, continuing to do IVF after IVF with the same devastating outcome. When are you going to decide you've had enough? I can tell you that when you're holding that baby in your arms, it won't matter how he or she got here...you will just be so overjoyed by this new life that God has blessed you with that you simply won't remember any of the pain you're feeling now. Believe me when I tell you this....you can do this....you CAN".

But did I believe that? That was the question. I just didn't know when to call it quits and wave the white flag....would I always wonder "what if I had just tried one more time with my own eggs".....oh dear God why did this have to be so damn hard?? And if I was able to have a child conceived with donor eggs, how would I feel every time someone would say, "She looks nothing like you" or the day when my child might come to me and ask why we look so different from one another. What would I say?! How do I ever tell my child what I went through and what I gave up in order to bring her/him into this world?

I knew in my heart that Dr Sher was right. I knew I would do anything it took to fulfill my dreams of becoming a mother. We weren't like those other couples who could afford to do IVF after IVF with the hopes of getting lucky on that 10th cycle. We were in debt up to our ears, with no idea of how we were going to get out from underneath it all. Our next cycle had to be "the one"....we had to go for broke and come out on the other side....the one with the happy ending.

But at that time....on that specific day, I was just too consumed with heartache to see it. I couldn't believe that just a mere 4 months prior to this I was pregnant with my own flesh and blood...a child who shared my DNA... a child whose face I should have been able to look at and see myself in his/her reflection. Now that would never happen...I could not believe that I had forever lost out on the opportunity to have my own biological children.

Tim and I had some big decisions to make, I knew that. But, first, I had to go through the gut-wrenching grief one must go through in a situation like this. It was one thing to know I had to go through IVF to conceive a child but it was another thing to actually have to say goodbye to the idea of having a biological child. My worst fear had just happened....and it was so much more unbearable than I ever could have imagined.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths -- Proverbs 3: 5-6

To be continued.....


Morgan said...

Wow Helene. I didn't know you had to go through all those shots. It sounds miserable!

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your story!

Tami said...

WOW, you had me in tears. I'm sooo sorry you've had to go through this.

I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next post!



Heather said...

This is Heather from the TTC boards. I'm sorry you went through all that!!! I thought my IVF protocol was bad! God really does have a sense of humor, doesn't He.
I love following your blog and watching the kids grow.
(Noly & Jule's Mommy)

MoodyMommy said...

I had just made the appointment and booked the hotel room...we were gonna have to go out of town for IVF...I went to the doctor for my weekly appointment...I was 3-4 days pregnant!!! That was my happiest day ever!!!! Until I realized I was on BED REST for the next 9 months!! YUCK!

Amy said...

This must have been a hard time on the family. I am glad to see you made it through though.

Fearless Mom said...

what a heartbreaking story. good thing we know the happy ending. your children are miracles!

Kristina P. said...

I don't know how you persevered after all of this.

Kim said...

Perseverance must finish its work . . . wow, what a story.

MamaHen Em said...

I can't even imagine how you managed during this time. Obviously God knew what his plan for you was and you have your sweet babies, but I found myself crying as I read your story. Unimaginable heartbreak and the struggle to be a mom. I can't wait to read more of your story.

Amy W said...

The story of your first IVF cycle was already heartbreaking. I can't even imagine what you went through after the second. You obviously persevered. And look how many people you have already offered hope - just by knowing the end of the story.

Jenny said...

Wow, you have sure been through a lot! We did 5 IUI's, which was an emotional roller coaster, but what you have been through sounds like HELL!

I'm eager to read the rest of the story...

Shelly said...

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Jen said...

Hey Babe -

I just finally caught up on your blog for March, April and May. Thank you so much for posting your IVF journey. I remember that time and I knew it was really hard on you but I had no idea how much you really went through. I was so involved with my own life that I wasn't there for you like I would have liked to have been.

I wish I could go back in time and give you a big hug and let you know it would all be ok.

You are one of the strongest, best Moms out there. Just stay strong and keep on keeping on.


MommyAmy said...

Wow! Your children really are miracles!

Imjustagirl said...

I just stumpled upon your blog infact I did a few different searches and yours kept coming up so I started reading. Yesterday I had my egg retrival this is my second ivf cycle first one one egg fertilized but did not take this one they got 9 eggs 7 were mature they did ICSI because of poor egg quality 1 fertilized I go back for egg transfer on Thursday. Thank you for sharing your story I don't have anyone I talk to about this so I find comfort in reading! I pray one day God will bless me with a beautiful family. My husband is a godsend but he keeps telling me not to worry he just doesn't fully understand my emptiness. I look forward to reading the rest of your story. Your family is BEAUTIFUL!

Kathy B! said...

What a long and miserable path you had to follow to get where you are today... Sounds like it really strengthened your faith though.

Your writing on these posts is really raw and emotional. For obvious reasons. It's heartbreaking to read some of it. I say this every time, but I'm so glad you got your pot of gold at the end of your journey...

Heather Happymaker said...

Heartbreaking! But look at you now! Your kids just touch my heart. Come to think of it, so do you.

The Daily Dean Chronicals said...

Again...what a heartfelt journey you are sharing! I too was superstitious! I had to drink water like it was going out of style after every injection! I think it was my thoughts of getting that drug in my body faster!? Who knows? Thanks for sharing!

Zeemaid said...

wow. thanks so much for sharing. your story is absolutely amazing! I can't believe you had to go through so much, take so many shots and administer them yourself. I don't know if I could have done all that. You've an amazing amount of courage girl.

You must have really been floored when you got pregnant the 2nd time.

Again, wow. You've written your story really, really well.

Anonymous said...

Wow your story is so gut wrenching I feel your pain along with you. I can only imagine how that felt. Your such a great writer, I can't wait to for part 4. You amaze me with your strength!

Jen said...

I am so glad that you are sharing this story. I really do look forward to reading it.
I know that some where out there a woman is reading this and you are giving her hope, some one you can empathize with her. Now that is a powerful thing.

The High Family said...

Seriously Helene- take these words and put them in a book. Sell it. I will buy it. I Promise!

You have the most amazing ability to draw your readers in and have them feel your raw emotions as if they were their own. Simple amazing!

Oh the climax...can't wait for more!

Megan said...

ok. so I know this was from may, but did you finish? Did I miss is? I just thought about it seeing the embryo pictures on your post today.

You need to finish!! No leaving me hanging!

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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