21; Here I Go Again on My Ovum

I know it’s been almost four months since I’ve updated and I should’ve had more than enough time to come up with a wittier title, but just like baby-making, blog-title brainstorming is something I have enjoyed not thinking about. There is SO much to catch up on here, but I think talking to my loved ones and my therapist have really given me what I’ve needed these past few months. However, I do want our history down on paper to be able to look back on and appreciate everything we’ve been through, so here is that post. And I’m going to do my best to keep it short because to be honest, the last thing I want to do today is write or talk about anything conception related.

Previously, on Baby Haupt or Bust, Jen waxed poetic about how infertility feels like being locked between two worlds, neither of which you have the key for. That’s still true, but these past five months since we found out we had a miscarriage again have been…really nice. Josh and I have started thinking about living our lives again. We have each lost some weight, and gotten back into running. We’ve started truly enjoying (not fake enjoying) the things that we used to again, instead of them feeling like filler until a baby gets here. It’s very freeing and I’m very happy we have been able to find that again. I wasn’t sure we ever would.

One of those experiences was staying at this really cool AirBnB in St. Augustine this past September (two words: treehouse bathtub). It was the only time we’ve stayed at an AirBnB twice. The first time was in March 2017, after we’d been trying to conceive for six months and hoping “getting away” would be the secret everyone kept promising us it would be. (Spoiler: No.) But we enjoyed it there so much, we went again this past September and really relaxed. I also saw a tarot/palm reader in downtown St. Augustine, to whom I told I had been struggling with fertility. She looked at the side of my balled-up first for a few seconds and told me 1. I’m fertile, and have a good eight years of fertility left, 2. I had two miscarriages, both boys, 3. I should get my uterine lining biopsied, because that was my issue and after I got it cleared up with antibiotics I was going to get pregnant without the help of IVF.

Funnily enough, I already had my uterine lining biopsied at that point and was waiting for the results. I didn’t mention any of this to her. It was the last test result I was waiting for after a clean bill of blood tests from both Josh and me to check for reasons I might have miscarried twice (no chromosomal abnormalities in any of us, blood-clotting issues on my end, etc.) and our PGS results on our five remaining embryos. The latter was…not good. One of the embryos didn’t survive the thaw, and out of the four that did that they were able to test, one — ONE — is normal. Meaning we have one embryo left to transfer if we want to try that again, which we will eventually, but I will get to that shortly. We didn’t find out the sex of the chromosomally normal embryo, but the three that were abnormal were two male and one female. And our normal one? Our 1BB. The smallest 5-day blastocyst. Which is hard for us to wrap our head around, but for now, that embryo is our little lifeline.

But back to my uterine lining. I got the call a few days later that I did, in fact, have an infection (endometritis, to be exact — different from endometriosis) in my uterine lining, and I did, in fact, go on antibiotics which did, in fact, clear it up, according to the pathology. The doctor isn’t sure how long I’ve had it, but he suspects it happened after the D&C in April last year, which is apparently common-ish. And it can cause miscarriage. I am trying not to think about the money we sunk into two more IUIs and IVF after that, as they could’ve been a complete wash because of this infection, but it does eat at me, I won’t lie. It’s devastating to think about that possibility. So I’d almost rather be in the dark about how long this has been an issue, if that makes sense.

The palm reader also told me she saw children in my future, specifically girls. Which…I don’t know how I feel about when it comes to psychics and such, but I do find it really interesting the way certain people who may be more attuned to someone’s vibe pick things up. For her to know I’ve had two miscarriages and to call out the uterine-lining testing like that kind of blew me away, and inspired me to be a little more open minded. Josh and I have saged our house twice in the past week, hoping to cleanse the air and our minds a bit to welcome positivity and newness into our lives, and neither of us would’ve considered doing something like that a few years ago. But years of infertility will really change you. Luckily for us, I think it has mostly changed us for the better, but oh boy did it take a long time to get where we are now. And we’re nowhere near done.

Speaking of “near done,” I think Josh and I are coming up on that point in terms of this baby path. Today, we did our sixth IUI, our first in over a year. We had them stim harder this time, and I produced 5 follicles on the left and one on the right — two or three they predicted would mature enough to release an egg, all on the left. If this try doesn’t work, we will likely try IUI one more time right after this and if that doesn’t take, come February, we’re going to transfer our final embryo. We wanted to try IUI again first because it has worked for us in the past, is cheaper, and we’d like to save that embryo for a second child since the best time to use my eggs is as soon as possible.

If I’m not pregnant by February, we’re considering a very big life change. Like, rent-out-our-house-and-move-to-NYC-for-a-couple-years change. Josh would need to find a job, but I’m very much hoping I can get on staff at PEOPLE next year and if Josh can get a job making what he makes here, we could do it, and be somewhat comfortable, albeit in a cramped space. And I think we’d have an incredible adventure. But for now, I’m going to take solace in the fact that my IUI went well (good sperm count, open cervix [I think – judging from comfort level based on past IUIs], good timing [again, I think, as I’m cramping like hell right now at 4 p.m. and the IUI was at 10:15 a.m.]). And hope that Haupt baby (or babies) come in 2020. Right when he/she/they were always supposed to. One day at a time.

20; What’s Behind Door #8?

Before I get into my primary spiel, just a quick update on the medical side of things. Our clinic’s financial department approved the $1,500 biopsy fee for our embryo genetic testing as opposed to the $4,000, thank GOD. They have enough of my money so really, one less thing I have to fight is great. We need to pay it by Aug. 1, and then the actual testing cost at the lab they send the biopsied cells to is another $1,500 ($250 per embryo plus a $250 flat rate for shipping). So $3,000 total which…kill me, but it’s better than $5,500.

I went to Quest for them to draw blood for my roughly 38473482 tests yesterday, to check for potential chromosome issues in me that would prevent me from carrying a healthy pregnancy. Nervous to get those results back. Josh does his tomorrow — obviously not to check for things that would be an issue with pregnancy, but things that would affect embryo normality I guess, in a way where we’d have to screen them in a more in-depth and, you guessed it, expensive way. The doctor told us it’s rare for anything to come back abnormal, so I guess we’ll see. So far we’re ticking off all the bad “rare” boxes, though, so what’s one more, eh? #jaded #salty

Our short-term plan is PGS testing on our five embryos in August, September biopsy on my uterine lining, and then assuming we have at least one chromosomally normal embryo, transfer in October. Third time’s a charm, right? Or I guess I should say eighth, considering the five IUIs before we started IVF. Which brings me to the title of this blog post.

In my last post, I talked about how the only time I’ve really broken down and cried since finding out we miscarried for the second time was once, while considering the person I am now vs. who I was before we started TTC. I was sitting on our couch, staring at this beautiful collage of photographs from the trip we took to Europe in September 2016, which was the official beginning of our TTC journey. I went through and was pointing out to Josh how much effort I had put into the photos I’d chosen to include.

Excuse my reflection in the glass. I’m a writer, not a fucking photographer, aight?

The big spaces were for the landmarks from each city (Paris, Munich, and London) we visited that corresponded to these canvas wall art pieces we had made when we moved into our house. The squares at the bottom of each of the three sections were of food from each place. The middle rectangles were of both of us for the London section (thought technically it was from Disneyland Paris, whatever), me alone (France), and Josh alone (Germany), to represent our respective heritages.

But even through all that, the one photo that stuck out to me was the second from the bottom, on the left side — us in Salzburg, which was the only big part of our trip that was almost completely impromptu. We went there for a single day on a suggestion from one of the waitresses in an Oktoberfest beer tent, since it was a two-hour train ride away and we didn’t have anything planned for our last day in Munich. So we thought why not?

O hi, Bavarian Alps and old FitBit and dress I don’t fit into right now.

This is not only my favorite photograph from our trip, but it was taken on my favorite day of our trip and during my favorite moment — right before watching the sunset over the Alps at the restaurant attached to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, where we sipped wine and just hung out for like two hours. Watching Josh find peace sitting high above the world and looking around and taking countless pictures (something he doesn’t do often) and telling me he was thankful I’d persuaded him to take this trip, even though he’d initially had reservations, was everything. Truthfully, if I knew what I did now about how much fertility treatments would ultimately cost us, I might’ve been hesitant too.

But the biggest thing I think about is how this moment was unplanned. And it turned out to be my favorite moment — me, a type A person to the point that my (multi-page) wedding-weekend itinerary is still a running joke among our poor bridesmaid and groomsmen friends, almost five years after our wedding. And it also made me realize a few things about life that, if you’re like me, I think you just can’t really understand until you live them, like how to find patience — true patience, not tourist-walking-too-slowly-on-a-narrow-sidewalk-in-front-of-me patience — and let go of things you have no control over.

I look at the girl in these photos and see so much anticipation for the next chapter of life. Someone who armed herself with the key to all the big milestone doors along the way well in advance, dotting every I and crossing every T to make sure when she got to the BABY door, the key would slide in and turn without much resistance. High-school and college graduation, financial independence, health, a decent amount of travel, marriage (I had to wiggle that key a little, admittedly) — you name it, I was able to achieve most of what I wanted through hard work and perseverance and just being a generally good person. The person in those photos knew that preparation was the answer and, in turn, the key to all those big life-milestone doors.

The person today, who’s a few years older, a few years wiser, and a few notches sadder, doesn’t feel that way. Not completely, anyway. I feel like I had the right key and it unlocked the BABY door, but something unexpected happened: Another door appeared just a few feet in front of it instead of giving me a 9-month-long hallway to make my way down until I reached the next door, MOTHERHOOD, which I had the next key for tucked firmly in my pocket. There was no middle key, that I knew of, but my focus was so zeroed in that it seemed I missed some piece of information that everyone else picked up except for me. And I’m still figuring out what the label on this next door says, because it’s like it’s in a different language or code that I’ve been working on cracking for the past two years.

A door at the Salzburg fort with creepy puppets behind it. Don’t ask. Also, floral flats with a floral dress? WTF, Jennifer.

Another issue? The BABY door I came through slammed behind me, which I was used to with all the other doors I’ve passed through in my life because I was always moving forward. It was never an issue. But the problem now is that even though these doors have little windows in them, they feel soundproof. So I sit here and look through them and pretend to be happy, both for the people still behind the BABY door and already past the second mystery one, but I can’t be a part of either of those groups because Josh and I are perpetually trapped in this limbo room.

The first group, we’ve left behind. We don’t party anymore. We don’t do things that people without kids do, not really. And on the rare occasions we do, we don’t get the same satisfaction anymore. And then we have friends with kids whom we’re happy for and we love their kids, but we can’t fully care. Because when you can’t have kids and you want them, the last thing you want to do is be around someone else’s kids all the time. And even if you did, you’d just have to sit there and pretend to care when all they’re doing is talking about their kids, even during the rare occasion when said kids aren’t around.

I was talking to my friend about this a couple of weeks ago (who, incidentally, just had her second baby, who was with her at the time and snoozing like the angel he is) and told her what happened, and she said she sometimes struggles with being the person she was before children and wants to change that and tap back into her independence more in her hobbies and things like that. She listened and sympathized and then did what any good friend does: She told me, in so many words, to love myself, and encouraged me to try and be the person I was before I started trying to have a baby because that person is enough.

The problem with that is that the person I was before thought she would have a biological child someday, and the person I am now isn’t sure of that anymore. Not that my entire identity hinges on the idea of motherhood because it truly doesn’t and I don’t think it ever will, but I knew how to enjoy and be who I was before this because I knew that part of my life that was important to me — much more important than I even realized three, five, 10 years ago — would happen. Eventually.

Almost exactly 10 years ago. One time was enough, though.

I explained to my friend that I feel like once you unlock the next phase of your life, it feels like, for me, permission to breathe and settle back into your old bones — the ones that have kind of held you there the whole time, waiting for you to come back once you figure out the next thing. And I don’t know how to settle back since I haven’t figured this big thing out, for the first time in my whole life.

So now, in these next few months leading up to our October transfer (assuming we have a normal embryo in there), I’m working on finding out who I am outside of the assumption that I, one day, will have a biological child of my own. I truly don’t know that anymore, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. But now, over a month after learning we lost the second pregnancy, another breakdown hasn’t come. And I don’t think it’s going to. Which I don’t see as strength, really, because crying is OK, but I think it’s a sign I’m working toward getting to that life-without-kids or life-with-kids-in-a-different-way mindset, even if I’m not meaning to or even if I don’t completely understand it. And that’s all I can really ask of myself right now.

I’m in that group of people who love The Greatest Showman. I KNOW, OK? But I saw it right when it came out and loved it immediately so whatever. Anyway. I was on an outdoor run for the first time in literally months a couple of weeks ago, and I put “This Is Me” on to take me through the last couple of minutes. For the first time, I heard the lyrics in my own voice as they applied to this infertility journey and I just lost my shit. Thank God 1. No one else was around, and 2. I was wearing sunglasses. But I just felt those words in my bones and it felt good to feel something.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t know if this is all just some test of patience or willingness to let go or sanity or all of the above, but if it is, I just wish whatever powers that be would believe me when I say I’ve learned the lesson. Because while I’m OK most days, other days I feel like I’m screaming into the void, just waiting for someone else to pass through who will eventually remember where they left their key and give me a sympathetic nod as they leave. Because the one constant is that they always do. And right now, I’m figuring out whether to keep searching for my copy of that key to the mystery door or resigning myself to the possibility that I might have to start accepting that there is another way out.

19; Just You and Me, Babe

It’s weird going back and reading my last post. Underneath all my snark, most people might not see a real ray of hope, but God, was I hopeful. Not as hopeful as the first time I got pregnant, because after so much heartache, how can I really be? Up until now, over the last almost three years, every tiny victory along this journey has been directly followed by unimaginable heartache either in the form of a negative pregnancy test or a miscarriage or, even worse, a miscarriage followed by a surgery in which I had to sign a line reading “Mother” even though I might never actually become a mother. It’s like the universe is playing a cruel joke, daring me to be hopeful — giving me juuust a little more rope than last time with which to keep my head above water before reminding me that one chop means just as far of a drop down regardless of how much rope is dangling below me.

Such was the case last month, when Josh and I went in on June 13 for our second ultrasound appointment at 6 weeks, 6 days gestation. My doctor saw a bit of a bigger mass, but still nothing resembling a fetus, and definitely no heartbeat. He rooted around in there for a while too. The me from two summers ago probably would’ve been uncomfortable, but two years into my relationship with this doctor and his staff and I barely flinch during these ultrasounds, blood tests, etc. It’s truly a thousand times more uncomfortable to sit in the cold exam room, bottomless, and listen to the same woman on the TV screen explaining how IUI and IVF work in her maddeningly calm voice, reading from a script I can recite in my sleep by now. The worst is having to assure the staff when we experience a negative test, or a loss. At this point, Josh and I are so numb we feel like we are the ones patting their arms.

My doctor told us to remain cautiously optimistic, but Josh and I knew. We probably knew after the first ultrasound, truth be told, because the mass looked nothing like the perfect little round yolk sac I’ve seen in countless ultrasound photos on Glow (just search “5 week 5 day ultrasound” and a bevy of options pop up — on Google too). After that appointment, we did remain hopeful, but we stopped making plans and resigned ourselves to just be patient for the next eight days. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

But then June 20 came and the doctor had to look us in the eye and tell us there was no heartbeat and the pregnancy wasn’t viable. Again. Which was what we knew going in, but still, a sliver of hope remained (even though our biggest hope was a yes or no answer, nothing morally gray — no “maybe”s.) My doctor told me he had been hopeful, and my biggest (silent) question was, and still is, “How?”

We said the only thing you can say when the last thing you want to do is break down in front of your doctor and his new assistant: “It’s OK!” And of course, it’s not. Nothing about this bullshit is OK, but Josh and I are both put-on-a-brave-face-and-scream-together-later kind of people, which is not something I would change for the world but can be difficult. It was extremely difficult last year. We barely made it to the car before sobbing incoherently, wiping our faces as best we could before going into Publix for brie, wine, and Reese’s Easter eggs.

This time was different, though. We got my prescription for misoprostol, the miscarriage pill that didn’t work for me last time (more on that in a bit). We immediately agreed we would be getting margaritas at our favorite Mexican place down the road. And then we stepped out in the pouring-ass rain that had been only slightly less insane when we left our previous appointment, and we went and we had margaritas, tortilla chips, and guacamole for dinner while a tornado watch was in effect.

Thank GOD this was strong — as was its successor, a (smaller) mango variety.

That Saturday, June 22, I took the misoprostol, and I swear to God the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse exited my body that night. Every time I thought it was over, from about 8 p.m. until 1 a.m., it was not over. It was not truly over until about 2 a.m., but during that time period, Josh and I re-binge-watched the first season of Stranger Things and ate a huge crab feast that helped put me in better spirits (figuratively) and wine that help put me in better spirits (literally).

Not pictured: Hazelnut M&Ms (BOGO, thanks Publix!), more wine, and a glitchy heating pad.

The next morning, we slept in and met Josh’s brother Jeremy and his wife Jess and some friends for brunch at a place in College Park that, bless them, made the strongest mimosas I’ve ever had. You had to go up to the bar for refills, and I watched this angel pour roughly 2% juice and 98% champagne in my glass. I told her she must’ve known how much I needed it. She winked and said, “I got you, girl.” Indeed.

So tipsy I didn’t even care that there was no A/C. Probably why they make the drinks strong.

I still haven’t really cried about it. I’ve had a few moments where I’ve felt angry and I’ve come to a pretty serious realization about my “now” vs. “then” persona and self regard which I am realizing as this goes on is too long to include in this post, but I will in the next. I honestly don’t think the big cry is coming. I think it was the other day when I sobbed to Josh about how infertility really feels, and that’s the analogy I’ll go into in the next post. Josh told me I “should write a short story” about it, which…we’ll see how it looks in blog form first.

The great news is that when I went in for a follow-up last Monday, June 24, the doctor gave me the all clear — meaning it looks like, fingers crossed, the misoprostol did its job this time. He said my lining was still very thick, but then starting the next day I got the period from hell that is just now finishing up, which I hope means things are back on track or will be soon. I’m still getting positive pregnancy tests, but I think that’s typical. I’m going to test every few days with the cheap strips just to make sure the line is getting lighter. It’s a strange feeling to hope for that when I would normally hope for the opposite. But then again, nothing about this has been normal.

As for next steps, the doctor wants us to each take a series of blood tests related to recurrent miscarriage since this is our second, to check if we have chromosomal abnormalities in our own bodies that might be affecting the embryos (Josh) or the ability to carry a baby (me). He also does want to do a biopsy on my uterine lining, in September, to check for inflammation that could be hindering fetal development. We’ll be doing our next transfer in October.

Oh, and guess what? He wants us to retroactively PGS test the embryos for chromsomal abnormalities — a procedure I wanted done in the first place and was convinced not to do, and now costs a $4,000 lab fee as opposed to a $1,500 one. He told us science is always changing, which is fair, but there is a study that came out between February and now that had him pushing for it considering our situation. It addresses the reason we made the decision we did — the fact that there was conflicting evidence about whether the cells the embryologist pluck out to test from the outer layer of the embryo, which becomes the placenta, accurately reflect the normality of the inner portion, which becomes the fetus. We were terrified of throwing out embryos that could actually be normal, or abnormal but self-correct in the womb. But this new study took hundreds of discarded embryos, tested the inner portions, and found that the same abnormalities were reflected almost 100% of the time.

I get it. Things change. But here’s the thing.

The very nice yet firm email I sent, and my doctor’s very polite response.

Do I know whether this means he’s going to discount the entire $2,500? I don’t. But we’re going to push for it because it’s the least they can do. Although they did send us a sympathy card, which was very sweet.

For now, I’m trying to focus on the positives of not being pregnant, aside from being able to again imbibe alcohol, which I’m actually trying to limit. I am committed to losing weight again. I weighed in at 152 lbs. this past Saturday, and I’m aiming to be back around 130 by the time of our next transfer in mid-October. I’ll be able to go to Halloween Horror Nights, which I look forward to every year. We have more time to save money for my maternity leave. I don’t need surgery.

I can eat salads again and am not craving carbs 24/7, though it’s still not great. I can run. I don’t need a nap every afternoon. I have control of my body again, and amid all of the emotional upheaval…I am thankful for that.

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)

8; Taking the (Needle) Plunge

Well, long time no talk. It’s been about three months since I’ve updated this blog after starting it and subsequently going balls to the wall with my brain dump, and I truly wasn’t even finished. I had lofty goals about rehashing the events up to this point — breaking out each failed IUI individually, for example — but I realized I really don’t want to. I don’t have the energy, and looking back to a stage I feel moved on from (mostly) sounds 100% unappealing. That’s probably why I stopped for so long.

What I do want is a place to just write out what I’m feeling along this path, when I’m feeling it — and from late October to now, I was feeling like I just didn’t want to think about it. Which was good. Josh and I were able to, despite a few bumps, enjoy the holidays, which came with five extra pounds for me on top of the 10 I gained post-miscarriage, but I’m working on it, OK?

I was also kinda sorta hoping that the miracle pregnancy people told me happened to their great-aunt’s neighbor’s niece right before she started IVF would happen to us, but here I am, which means it did not.

We *did* get to drink fancy warm winter drinks at Tavern on the Green in N.Y.C. at Christmastime, though. #win
Also grabbed a drink at Eataly’s swanky rooftop bar.
And ice skated at Rockefeller Center because it was a bucket-list item for me and not everything we do is alcohol related (unrelated side note, we gave up alcohol this month).

But NOW, this infertility shiz is priority No. 1 yet again because tonight, my friends, is my first dose of stims (stimulation drugs) for our IVF retrieval cycle. Hooray!

So to start — remember when I told you my AMH was .31 and all the details about what that means? Of course you do. Well, I got my blood drawn in December and after three months of taking DHEA, it went up to .79. Which at first consideration is still low, but when I really think about it, it more than doubled. Which is fantastic. I’m hoping by retrieval time at the end of this month/beginning of February, my egg count and quality will have made the four to five months of taking the DHEA 3x a day worth it, even if only in my mind. Good enough for me.

Speaking of shit I have to put into my body, here’s my pharmaceutical setlist for the foreseeable future:

  • Letrozole (more mild – oral stims)
  • Gonal-F (injectable stims – these are the $$$ drugs)
  • Cetrotide (prevents premature ovulation)
  • Novarel (trigger shot to ovulate 40ish hours later)
  • Vivelle dot patch (estradiol/estrogen)
  • Progesterone and oil – More on this fun later once I start it, but if you want a preview, you can read this amazing post by my favorite infertility blogger, Heather (and this one too tbh, she’s fantastic)
The spoils, part I.
Non-refrigerated spoils, a.k.a. part II.

$3,600 worth of drugs, folks, which…I’m relieved about. I never thought I’d say paying $3,600 for one month’s supply of medications would make me say that, yet here we are. I’m relieved because the clinic estimated $5,000 to $7,000, so Josh and I prepared ourselves for $7,000. And I should be getting a rebate from this amazing program my friend Amanda told me about called Compassionate Care, which anyone can register for and then they offer you a percentage off certain medications based on your income. Josh and I “only” qualify for 10%, but 10% off of the two in the above list that it covers — Gonal-F and Cetrotide — is $335! Big chunk of change for us.

To be candid, we applied for two grants and did not get chosen for either one, so we took out a home-equity loan to pay for this which, if we don’t end up needing more meds and do a fresh transfer, is costing us $16,500 out the gate including the meds. If we produce enough good-looking embryos to risk aging to day 5/blastocyst stage and doing the PGS testing with a frozen transfer later, that will add about $4,000 to the total. Each subsequent transfer/”try,” assuming we have embryos frozen, is $5,000 to $7,000, so the idea is that having PGS “normal” embryos to work with will make our chances of a successful pregnancy higher the first time. Our loan was for $25,000, so we have a little wiggle room for now, and time to save up if, God forbid, this journey continues beyond the first try or two.

I’m putting these numbers out there because it’s completely insane that so many insurance plans (including ours) do not offer to help couples struggling with infertility. It’s garbage, and I really hope that changes ASAP. We are in the lucky group who can somewhat reasonably afford it, if not via our ideal scenario. So many people cannot.

Anyway, the plan is to start the stims (Letrozole and Gonal-F) tonight and take them for four nights. Then I have my first follicle-check ultrasound on Wednesday morning to see how those babies are growing. I should mention that on my medicated IUI cycles, I took 75 UI of Gonal-F two or three times, every other day. This time? 300 UI every damn night for what they estimate will be 12 nights. Oh boy.

I’m pretty worried about how they’re going to affect me, physically and emotionally. Josh says he’s ready and not worried because the 75 UI didn’t really have a big effect on my moods, but I don’t think he really knows what he’s getting into. I already asked him in advance to forgive anything that comes out of my mouth this next month and, if I get pregnant, the next 18.75 years after that.

The list of things he does for me is endless. This is us having fun.

There are a few more exciting things going on for me. I got full-time hours at my job, writing for PEOPLE.com, which is faaaaab. I’m very thankful to be working 8 to 4, Monday through Friday at my dream publication and not having to feel the need to seek out side projects. And I’ve rejoined Weight Watchers (sorry — it’s “Wellness That Works” now) and lost almost 5 lbs. these first two weeks back. Overall, I’m feeling good, and like I’m allowed to relax some and move forward.

But this post was mostly to tell you guys that IVF is officially a go, and moving full steam ahead. We’re scared. We’re nervous. But mostly we’re excited — truly. It’s been a lot of waiting up until this point and regardless of how this all turns out, we feel like there’s nowhere to go but up.

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.