11; The Numbers Game

So we had our egg retrieval yesterday morning. But before that, Josh had to give me a shot in the butt on Thursday evening (to trigger ovulation) that was probably our most stressful interaction throughout this process yet.

It would have been hilarious to be a fly on the wall in our living room as I lay face down on our couch, screeching about how he was directing the needle too high (he wasn’t) and then in the bathroom as I checked the spot he injected at over and over again. I then proceeded to call my nurse — she didn’t answer — and Google to make sure we put it in the right spot. Like it mattered, as it was already over. LONG STORY SHORT, it was fine.

So we showed up Saturday morning and I got into the robe and the hairnet and all that fun stuff, and I was already nervous as hell. So then the nurse messed up my IV a little. I saw so much blood. I started crying. She felt terrible. I apologized profusely later for making her feel bad because it didn’t end up being a big deal and I barely have a bruise but man was it stressful. It was probably my tense ass’s fault to begin with.

Proof I was being a baby.

So I went under and my doctor got *drum roll* 17 eggs. 17! Which is kind of my lucky number. It’s my birth date (March 17), the day Josh and I admitted we had feelings for each other, and also the day we flew to Europe, which was the beginning of our trying-to-conceive phase (when we got there, not on the plane). The latter two are Sept. 17, which also happens to be my half birthday. Hooray 17!

I’ll have 1/2 lb. of Boar’s Head muenster cheese with a side of solid embryo development, please.

There’s ^ a photo of a not-entirely-unlike-a-deli-counter device that Josh got to follow along with in the waiting room during the procedure, which was only 15 minutes long. He had no idea what it was for lollll but once the doctor told him they got 17 eggs he was like oh God, it all makes sense now.

We were over the moon at this number, all things considering. And then today they called us and told us of those 17, 11 were mature and nine fertilized. Nine out of 11 is an amazing rate of fertilization. We are both very happy, and I would like to thank DHEA for making our reality of getting this far a possibility.

Post-op happiness.

We should be getting another call tomorrow letting us know how many of those nine make it the next 24 hours, and then what the doctor predicts as far as how many will make it to day 3 (Tuesday).

Our ideal scenario is to have enough embryos to let them age until day 5 (Thursday), then either do a fresh transfer then or send them for PGS (chromosome) testing and do a frozen transfer in a few months…but we may skip the PGS testing altogether for a few reasons:

  1. It will add $4,250 to this first attempt. Yikes.
  2. There is a lot of conflicting data out there about the accuracy. The test plucks cells from the outer layer of the embryo and screens those, meaning it’s possible they aren’t picking up whether the nucleus/center of the cell — where the fetus grows — is viable. So those that come back abnormal could, in fact, be perfectly fine, and vice versa.
  3. There are studies that show for women under 35 (38 in some studies), PGS actually has no effect on live birth rate or miscarriage rate and could, in fact, lower the live birth rate. I’m 33, almost 34.

So we’re not sure at this point. We are hoping we know what the right decision is within the next few days. We do both know we want a baby ASAP but we’re also trying to be smart.

“Thank God the stim hormones are done.” – Josh, probably

Josh has done an incredible job taking care of me, supporting me in the ways I’m asking (or trying to ask — I struggle with directness) and encouraging me to allow myself to relax, which is something I’m very bad at. Last night, after shooting me in the ass again with a huge needle of progesterone (the first of many), he thanked me for putting my body through all of this.

It has honestly not felt as hard on my body so far as I expected it to, which I’m very grateful for because I know pregnancy is going to do enough of that. But I know this is a lot to go through regardless, and I’m glad he recognizes that. And that he’s up for doing the shots. He feels bad sticking me with a huge-ass needle, but as long as I don’t have to look at it, I’m fine. Bonus about them being in the butt.

Friday night, the night before the retrieval, we splurged and went out for Mexican. I kinda regret it because I’m still feeling gross from eating in a way I hadn’t for a month. But we each had our first alcoholic drinks — a sangrita (sangria/margarita lovechild) for me — and I regret nothing. I was definitely tipsy off of that one drink.

There was also this text convo from the bathtub afterward, which again was not my finest moment but here we are.

He hid the package after this.

Until next time…think happy embryo thoughts for us and future Bab(ies) Haupt.

(P.S. I hope both teams lose the Super Bowl. #GeauxSaints)

10; SHOTS SHOT SHOTS SHOTS SHOT-SHOTS (IN THE BELLAAY)

I warned you about the songs.

I’m gonna start this off by being very defensive in that I will say I have not had a hormone-fueled outburst ONCE throughout the last 11 days of hormone shots, except this morning on the way to the doctor. I am proud of this.

Granted, Josh and I have been spending limited time together in the evenings after work, meeting up only for shots. I’ve started calling 8 p.m. happy hour, in my head.

*Insert buttery nipple joke*
Red spots and bruises are the new black.

I say “only” re: us spending time together in meeting up for hormone injections, but it’s an exaggeration. We finished season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel whichif you haven’t seen it, please fix that immediately. It alone is worth an Amazon Prime subscription. He let me sing karaoke on his new sound system last night. We tried to go roller skating a couple weekends ago (IDK man) but the rink was too busy. We’ve made some new recipes together.

It’s been fine, especially considering we haven’t had one drink since Jan. 1. I also gave up sweets this month, but I’m not gonna lie, I broke VERY mildly two times and one of those times was for beignets THAT I MADE. No regrets.

Proof of the initial fine-ness. This was two days ago. Poor bastard.

This morning, it was not fine. I was nervous for our appointment, hoping the nurses would find more follicles that looked like they would yield eggs but worried they would tell me that, instead, my ovaries look like a post-apocalyptic Tatooine. At my last appointment, on Monday, they found seven follicles that looked like they would definitely mature, along with 10 “little” ones they weren’t sure would, so I was nervous going in, to begin with.

I am a fan of silly old wives’ tales, so I told Josh as we drove over, “Hey FYI, according to the Mayan and Chinese gender-predictor calendars, our kid is going to be a boy since he’ll be conceived in February.”

Poor Josh proceeds to be like (apparently in a joking way, which I did not pick up on), “Aren’t those just for natural pregnancies? Doesn’t it not count for this?”

“Not count”? That, friends, is a phrase that has gone through my head so many damn times throughout this process I could write an entire book. So needless to say, I did not react well. And it was over something so minuscule, like shit I don’t even believe, but all I heard was, “This kind of pregnancy doesn’t really count.”

What he actually meant was that the people who made up the old wives’ tales (so, old wives, clearly) probably weren’t doing fertility treatments so I shouldn’t go by that, but I AM NOT GOING BY THEM ANYWAY, IT’S NOT REAL. Sigh. Like I said. It’s my first strike. And he handled it OK eventually, once I explained why it hurt and all of that. It was tense during the appointment because our clinic is literally a five-minute drive away and that wasn’t enough time to fix it, but afterward we figured it out.

Tonight is likely my last shot and thank God, because I am not going to miss the emotions, even though they haven’t been THAT crazy. I’ve mostly just felt really tired, which has led me to not keep up with my running, so that’s going to suck getting back into. I haven’t gained weight — in fact, I’ve lost some, which is great. I expected to gain, especially since I’ve felt a lot of heaviness and discomfort in my lower abdomen and I’ve heard hormone shots make you gain weight. But maybe it just depends on the person and life has thrown me a bone. Thanks, life.

Look ma, no pants.
“Smile, our child will see this.”

Speaking of bones I’m getting thrown, our genetic blood test results came back today and while Josh has a completely clean bill of ancestral health, I am the lucky winner of a Cystic Fibrosis carrier gene! And here I was sad that I’ve never won a big contest. But no, this threw me for a loop and was absolutely not something I was expecting so thank GOD we did the test. Apparently if both parents are carriers, their kid has a 25% chance of actually having CF, which is scary.

I also am a carrier for another couple minor things (thanks fam) but like I said, Josh has brown-noser blood, so we’re good. If we were both carriers of something serious, like CF, we would’ve had to screen our embryos with something called a PGD test — pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or, as I like to call it considering the thousands of dollars it costs, pocket-gutting diagnosis.

In happier news…

These were my results today. SIXTEEN FOLLICLES, READ ‘EM AND WEEP. IDK who would be weeping, except myself, from joy, but it felt cool to write that.

I am overjoyed at these numbers. I don’t think my doctor was expecting me to produce this many, and it gives me so much hope that we will have enough to work with come retrieval time. I know it’s more important that the eggs are good quality vs. the amount they get, but I don’t care. I feel so good, like my body responded well and like this process so far, knock on wood, has been going as smoothly as it possibly could have.

I truly credit so much of this part to the DHEA I’ve been taking, which…could or could not be true, but I am going to choose to believe it is true and tbh I might even suggest to my doctor that he recommend it to other younger patients with diminished ovarian reserve. I did not expect to get more than 10 follicles, let alone over 15. And while it’s possible not all of them will have eggs, I think from what I’ve read that they are expected to — like this study, which is one of approximately 34237 ones I have read before starting this process.

I’M FERTILE, GUYS. I’M REALLY PRETTY FERTILE!

The plan right now is to go back in tomorrow morning for one more looksie and probably take the ovulation trigger shot tomorrow night for a Saturday retrieval. Which I’m super happy about because I really don’t want to take a whole day off of work if I don’t have to, since I’m a contractor and don’t have PTO.

In the meantime, I will continue my binge-watch of the creepy af show You on Netflix (I think John Stamos is about to show up, bless) and play The Sims 4, which I treated myself to because it was on sale and apparently it is 2014 in my house.

Before it showed up in the mail, though, I made Josh and me in The Sims 2 and Sim!Josh was way more excited than Sim!Jen about the baby we had. (We had two total, both girls.)

Josh, IRL: “WHO THE FUCK IS THAT MAKING OUR BED?”
He legit owns these exact pajamas.

I will probably update one more time Friday night with some nonsensical rambling borne out of nervousness for the weekend retrieval, but in the meantime…toodles.

9; Follicle-ing the Leader

Sometimes I make up asinine songs about mundane things in life, especially if I’m nervous about said mundane thing and especially if everyone else around me seems to be perfectly sane about it.

Example: I hate flying. Well, not flying itself, but turbulence, even the slightest bit. No matter how many statistics I read about how safe flying is, all the “You’re 239123819x more likely to die in a car accident!” comments do is make more more scared to get in a car. Yes, I know turbulence is like a pothole in the air, but if growing up in Mid-City New Orleans didn’t ensure me mental-anguish immunity based on that analogy, some dude’s blog is not going to.

Anyway, this is that song, because I know you’re dying to hear/read it. I wrote half of it on a plane in May 2017 and half this past November, after dropping an ex-friend off at the airport after a visit that ended up turning into a disaster proving I should’ve followed my gut and we should’ve stayed not friends. (Silver lining: It got me the rest of the way in the lyrics to this masterpiece.)

Sung to the tune of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid:

The stratus is always whiter
When you’re high up in the sky
You dream about going farther
To do that, you got to fly
Just look at this space around you
Right here on this Boeing plane
How you going to store your luggage
A way that will keep you sane?

Under the seat, under the seat
Darling it’s better, when you’re a jetter
Keeps your bags neat
They won’t tumble in overhead bin
When you’re knocking back your third gin*
It’s very small now, don’t try to crawl down
Under the seat

*I was, in fact, on my third gin when I wrote this line (not during the aforementioned drive, wow, I’m not an animal)

“None of this has a damn thing to do with IVF, Jen,” I KNOW, I’m getting there. Look, all this to say I started making up another song about ovarian follicles to the tune of “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants and I just wanted to tell you it’s a work in progress. But now that I write this, I realize I just wasted so much time and maybe I’m just that damn proud of my booze-infused flying song.

OK. Follicles. So I had my second post-stim scan and blood work today and everything is looking extremely…decent. The nurse told me my blood work looks good, and I have about 10ish measurable follicles — 5 on each side — and maybe a couple more little ones hiding up in there. I’m staying on the 300 IU of Gonal-F (the stim shot) every night, and I have my next scan Monday morning at 8:30. I also need to start taking Cetrotide every morning starting tomorrow, which is the shot that will keep me from prematurely ovulating. And yes, I want to write “ejaculating” every damn time but I haven’t yet, ha HA.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t starting to get anxious. I think a part of me hoped there’d be a whole host of follicles that would forget I’m such a wound-up B and once I pumped my body with more drugs than the entirety of Daytona Beach has ever seen they’d be like

No such luck. But my doctor isn’t upping my meds, so I’m taking that as a good sign.

There is still the potential for a miracle to happen, so until Monday, I will hope for a miracle — and in the meantime, work on being thankful that I have what I do have.

5; Being My Own Advocate, or It’s My Ovaries and I’ll Plan If I Want To

If there has been one constant in this ever-changing puzzle called Baby Haupt or Bust, it has been the fact that the only person who is going to advocate for what is best for me is myself. Josh too, of course, but to a point — over the past two years, our idea of what’s best has differed from each other’s. More on those super-fun fights in a later post or seven, but rest assured these experiences have actually made us so much stronger in the long run. Even now, before we have a baby in our arms, we can feel it. Wine helps.

Yesterday, we had a big disagreement — over Google Hangouts of all places, even though once we started this journey, we swore we wouldn’t talk about anything important over email or chat or anything like that. But when you’re married to a writer who can go on forever about things, you learn that sometimes that person has to get it all out through writing — and when that writer is a neurotic psychopath, they have to get it all out through words right. The. FUCK. NOW. (Being married to me is paradise, really. Can’t wait for all the hormone shots! Lucky Josh!)

Our disagreement was over how to proceed with our IVF treatment. We met with our doctor Wednesday to go over some of the basics and here’s basically what transpired:

Me: So doc, blah blah, egg retrieval in January plus PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening) and a frozen transfer in May, right? YAY!

Doc: Actually I think we should do a fresh transfer in January and skip the testing, a.k.a. the exact opposite of what you’re telling me lolz!

Me: …?

Doc: Your diminished ovarian reserve means you probably won’t produce a lot of eggs so we don’t want to put them at risk by testing them, freezing them, defrosting, etc.

Me: OK cool that makes sense.

A little background, which I touched on previously but didn’t go super into: I have something called diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which means the little ovarian follicles that produce eggs? I have fewer of those than most women my age, and therefore fewer eggs and years of fertility remaining than most women my age. Dr. Google gave me this handy article predicting IVF success rates at this one clinic based on AFC (antral follicle count).

I had 12 at my last scan, which is pretty close to the low end of normal but my doctor says the Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is a better indicator of how my body will respond. Anything over 1.0 is considered OK, with somewhere around 2-3.5 being average for my age. Last blood draw, in April, mine was a freaking .31. Nine months before that it was 1.3, so it dropped like whoa. My doc said that can happen as a result of fertility medications, which…great. Nice catch-22. My ovaries are literally a perfect reflection of my personality, which is the type to throw out shit I might need later based on the self-assurance that I probably won’t need it, and half the time I’m kicking myself because I trashed an important document or something. See also: My nails, which I have bitten since before I can remember, and my eyebrows, which I over waxed/plucked in high school and are now mere shadows of their formerly bushy selves. Josh is even worse — he thinks I’m a pack rat, and I probably am compared to him. But the point is, if he had ovaries, he’d have NOR, which is Nonexistent Ovarian Reserve, which is something I made up. But alas, he’s a man, and his man reserve is fine because OF COURSE IT IS.

I’ve been taking this supplement called DHEA, which is a controversial thing in the medical field. My doctor gave me the OK to safely take it but warned me there haven’t been enough studies to back up its supposed benefits, which are that it could help elevate AMH and AFC. This, in theory, seems absolutely ridiculous because AMH and AFC are indicators of how many eggs you have left and women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, meaning you can’t magically start producing more like Yoshi. But I’ve heard stories from other women who beg to differ and whose egg quality and AFC/AMH numbers have been improved as a result of DHEA supplementation. There have been been some studies that report this, too — specifically for younger women with DOR, like me — such as this one, but I’ve also read it can be detrimental to women whose DHEA is not low to begin with. From everything I’ve read, I think we can assume mine isn’t great. ALSO…my AFC was always around 8-10 before this last ultrasound I had (my first since starting the DHEA, about three weeks prior), which tells me the DHEA might be up to something. Regardless, I’m taking it until my retrieval cycle and going to get my blood drawn again in December. So we’ll see.

Oddly, DOR doesn’t really affect pregnancy rates because you’re usually still ovulating fine. So even though I have this, I’m still a case of unexplained infertility.

Anyway, back to the soul-crushing IVF consultation, with a little aside. This was also a fun convo:

Me: I’m thinking May if we do a frozen transfer.

Doc: Why wait that long?

Me: I’m not trying to have a baby over the holidays, we already have way too many of those plus our anniversary.

Doc: Wow, I’ve never heard of a woman caring about timing before when it’s taken them this long to have a baby.

Me: First time for everything huh? HAHAHAHA. (< I did not say this but I should have, like GTFO I do what I want.)

I shit you not, he used the word “inappropriate” twice. TWICE. Not about this, but in general — and he meant it like “not the right course” more so than “Bitch, what are you on?” (I think). I’m probably the most annoying patient he has ever had but when I pay you $20,000-$25,000 after I’ve already paid you at least $10,000, you will take it. I have learned in the past two years not to apologize for asking questions or for pushing for a certain test or procedure, and I’m so thankful for that. I truly believe it has made all the difference in getting us closer to becoming parents.

So many tangents. I’m going to wrap this up and finish over the weekend with the thrilling conclusion about how I Josh and I decided to move forward and why. Surprisingly, it involves me letting go of some of the control, but it’s not blindly following exactly what the doctor says either — which is something my husband wishes we could do, but we cannot. Not for this much money and not when so many variables are at play.