The result – day 27

The only thing behind door 2, ladies and gents,  is another ride on a roller coaster, maybe next time we’ll get the car, but the dice didn’t roll our way this time.
 
We stared bleary eyed at a pregnancy test at 5.30am this morning (1st wee of the day is best) wishing for a line. Even a faint one would be a smidge of hope.  After a long lie in we started, half heartedly at some counter theories ..”maybe you missed?”, “well they are only accurate 99% of the time”… who were we kidding?
 
Did the blood work and got the confirmed negative call around 3.30, just after I showed Mrs IVF her “hub adjusted” pregnancy test (I drew a line on in pen as a morale boost)
 
We aren’t done yet, but we are thinking about a different clinic…. we hear good things about a place in Colorado.
 
I can’t believe this is so hard and elusive.
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Coming up to a T Junction – Day 26

Well, tomorrow is results day and and I forgot that we come to this juncture every cycle and discuss whether we want to do a pregnancy test in advance or not. Many couples blitz the pregnancy tests non stop through the two week window. We feel that lots of negative tests, hoping for a glimmer or a positive line each day, can cause stress, and we are against anything stress creating so we don’t blitz and decide at the last min of we want to do something. That’s just us I guess.

Cycle 1 we didn’t test, we waited for the call, and then collectively and spontaneously burst into tears when we got the positive result. This has to go down as one of the most memorable phone calls I will ever take. The second cycle we didn’t make it to transfer and the 3rd cycle we self tested and were tortured with what could have been an exceptionally faint line. We stared at that thing for ages waiting for some neon fluorescent line to just blast its way out of the view window, but it never did, so we waited for the video result from a 3rd umpire.

 So the call comes in….

 “So, you got the call?” (me)

“yes” (Mrs IVF)

“so how did we do?”

I didn’t think this was a hard question… a yes or no would nail this. You cant be half pregnant you know. This has to be one of the oldest and well known saying and, well I believed it to be true.

“4”

“hmm, well what the hell does that mean?”

I had forgotten all the measures they use for this end of the game and had no idea if 4 was good or not..

“well its kind of pregnant but a very low score”.

So it looks like you can be half pregnant. Well, there you go.

We jabbed with progesterone away for a few more days but the levels never really rose much. You are supposed to double ever few days and after 2-3 days I think we hit 6, (she should be in hundreds or preferably thousands or well at least double digits!!!). The Dr’s suggested after a few days that we stop the progesterone shots due to the risk of an ectopic, and so we did and well, here we are….

We have decided to test tomorrow before we head out for the blood work for the umpires.

Mentally – things are ok I guess, but I feel more and more we have been starring in some sort of 60’s “creature from the  black lagoon” type horror movie where all the rest of the world decided to have kids why we weren’t looking and we were sentenced to a life of watching them.

We headed upstate for a bit of a night away yesterday. We had dinner at a very popular little restaurant in the middle of a town that has slowly had the life sucked out of it by a strip mall on the edge of town. (As a side note.. a woman rode past me yesterday on a bike as we were looking for somewhere for dinner. She was very friendly and just looking for a chat. I don’t think her driveway fully reached the road, but I mentioned to her we were looking for somewhere to eat. “I need to head home”, she says, “this town isn’t what it used to be, too many stabbings and a few weeks ago a woman back there (points behind her) lost a hand in a machete attack. I’m going home for a long bath, locking my door and not coming back out until the sun comes up. This place is different after dark”. Guess she had no great restaurant tips then and I have a pregnant wife (surely!) in the middle of gangland looking for a good Mexican feed, (thankfully with at least another 2 hrs of sunlight in the day)

Dinner was great in a real homely little place we found which was only slightly annoying from the visual of pregnant mums to be or just running / yelling kids everywhere. Its not a huge nightmare, but its like a fly that hangs around you in summer that nags you a bit that you cant see to escape from.

After dinner we headed to a drive in movie (yes they still exist!)which was great fun, but forgot how much of a great idea it is to take kids to a drive in, so the whole place was a creche. Even at Target today the woman who sold us the pregnancy test looked like she was about to drop a few kids. Mrs IVF thinks its good luck that a pregnant woman was on the checkout – its a positive sign she says. In my mind, that’s the sort of rhubarb I would expect from someone who is pregnant, so fair enough comment I guess.

We dropped into our local Gloria Jeans (for the Australian folk who read this – yes -its made it to New Jersey), for some form of blizzard-ice-age-in-a-cup type beverage and for the 1st time in 3 months we actually talked about results day. We both feel confident, but again, we really have no idea. We thought about the last 26 days and wouldn’t change anything we did, except maybe a bit more fitness and even more trips to the organic store, but really, I don’t think we can do much more. If we get a negative tomorrow, then the money we would have spent on genetic testing / PGD, (but didn’t) will be a silver lining, but if we get a positive, oh geez, who knows how we’ll feel.

Either way, the life freeze of the last month is over and we move on with life one way or another. Its like you have been on a long winding road trip where you have stuck to one route for days, taking in the scenery and the trip grows on you, its your route,  and whatever comes our way you take (including hitting some local wildlife I think on the day of retrieval, that was a tough day). Its like our own route 66 and then out of the  blue we have come up over a ridge hit a T junction. We have to go left or right from here. Do we take the route out of IVF land or drive back to the town center for the next chapter of the movie (which hopefully doesnt star a machete)? We have in a weird way grown attached to the route, we’ve coped with the hills and enjoyed the ride down the other side. Now its time to take a new path.

Its rare you get such decisive days in your life. Tomorrow night will be different than today, and that’s weird to know that its coming, so fot hose of you who have been in the car along this route and read some past posts..

*  after driving around the supermarket do we finally get a parking spot?

* do we ride the wave to shore, or are we going to get dumped into another sand bar?

* do we beat tribal council on survivor island?

* is there a car behind door 2 on the great IVF game show of life? and,

* do we FINALLY get off this roller coaster?

Needing fewer needles – day 22

Life ticks on in IVF land with significantly less action that previous weeks. In the two week wait period there is little procedure wise to do so we hang around, take it easy, cancel the sky diving, bungee jumping and break dancing classes and really just hope the kiddies settle in for a nice long 9 months growth spurt.

One thing that does continue though is the needles and for the legend recipient it’s really getting tiring. Our star pin cushion has to be well over 300 approaching 400 hundred needles by now (including acupuncture.) On one front, the number of injections has dropped back significantly from 2-3 a day + blood work needles from the clinic butcher + “nail gun” acupuncture twice a week to only acupuncture once this week and one needles a day. Sounds almost pleasant, but the daily needle is a dog. Its for progesterone. Its a drug Mrs P. Cushion  takes to tell her body not to hold a “fire sale, prices slashed all stock must go” sale in the ute (i.e. get a period). Its oil based, intra muscular and in the rump, and I have no idea what the oil  does apart from make it painful to inject (for her that is, it doesn’t hurt me as the injectee, but thanks for the thought). It doesn’t easily dissipate around the tush so we play “wack a mole” poking away each night trying to find a zone we can get another needled in that doesn’t hurt.

 poke

“does that hurt?”

“not sure, poke harder”

POKE

“OWWWWW!, don’t poke there”

poke

“does that hurt?”

“not sure…..”

 

 To alleviate the pain our victim also spend around 30 mins on a mini electric blanket before and after the shot to minimise the pain. Early in the cycle these shots aren’t too bad, but now a few weeks later they are getting more annoying, tiring, wearing out our lovely contestant and really killing the 24/7 party spirit we have here in IVFville.

When the star of our IVF show is confirmed pregnant on Monday we have another 5 weeks of this until she pretty much reaches late stage 1st trimester and her body has kicked in and she doesn’t need to do it anymore. File this under “small price to pay for the result”. Her words not mine. When we (ok “she”, but I did drive her around and stuff in my support role) were pregnant in cycle 1 the last day of progesterone shots (7 weeks in – so 50 shots) was the day she found she miscarried. Isn’t that just super.

Beyond the shots, life is pretty low key. Mrs Cushion returned to work this week after her 3 day of lounge / bed rest. She managed to devour around 700 books in 3 days (she must skip pages I think) but I think returning to work is good as (a) being up and about helps he progesterone dissipate a bit and (b) it pays the bills. Mood wise, everyone is pretty chilled, happy to have made the two week window, anxious about leaving it, expectations are flat, life goes on, e.g. our brand new aircon system never worked, so Tim the toolman  is up on the roof now welding away. Wouldn’t it be great if having kids was like replacing a busted aircon unit…

“hello mate, our reproductive system is broken do you think you can pop around sometime and have a look at it”

“Sure” says Mr Repairman” looks like you need a new unit, this one is a bit old and the compressor has just had it. I can try and refurb it, but replacing the unit is probably better for the long term. The freon isnt swimming well, so let me boost that as well. I’ll get some guys around and we’ll switch it out in a day”

“fair call, lets go for the switch”

15 mins with a welding gun tonight and we are good as gold on the aircon front. 1.3million minutes later (roughly) and we’re still waiting on jnr to appear.  Switch aircon guy for stork and we are sorted.

Everyone is on mandatory fingers crossed mode from now until further notice. The kids should have bedded in on Monday this week, so its just grow, grow grow from here

Driving round the carpark – Day 19

The two week wait between transfer and the pregnancy test is a tricky place to be. Reading about fellow “waiter”, some blitz themselves with pregnancy tests while other just sit and hope and try to keep themselves busy. No one, it ever seems is brimming with confidence…. and that’s what this process does to you.. slowly saps you and builds up an enormous level of suspended hope whether you like it or not.  We are non early preg testers. We wait for the official thing, its kills us, but we don’t want to read a false  negative in advance in case it causes stress on the kids.

The Mango Princess though all this, bless her, is 100% calm and still enjoying, to a dregree, 3 days of virtual bed rest. She had read a pile of books, has the laptop by her side for updates from the celebrity world at her fingertips and enjoys doing very little, although this morning she declared herself bored.

Yours truly on the other hand, is tired, hasnt slept well for weeks and has resorted to going back to the gym to exhaust himself so he stops thinking. Only endorphins seem to be able to do that. Still, it appear the irony is everywhere. We live in a town where everyone has a pram and a kid and what i find is haunting me is that I can now pick ages a bit better (boys I think generally suck at that), so new borns would be a  sucessful cycle 2 or cycle 3 for us… the demons enjoy dancing around my head and playing with me like that.

The gym I go is one of these hard core kickboxing places and have found it a world away from the pregnancy thoughts, but today the woman next to me was well advanced on her pregnancy, so I laughed and got on with my jab cross jabs and resigned to the fact that there is no escape.

The ghouls in my head were at their best after our the miscarriage in cycle 1. We were naturally quite devastated so I heads up to the gym to blow some evil thoughts away only to find themselves well entrenched in my heads saying “if you don’t complete these 50 push ups you will never have a chid”… “if you don’t complete the ATTACK round at top effort, the child approval committee (that exists in some other dimension that approves who does and doesn’t have kids), will score you badly and you wont get your kid application approved”.. on and on. I went home exhausted and freaked out at how evil I can be to myself

Still, we hold out that this will work for us. I think I am resigned to live my life like this forever, but after 2 years I have really forgotten why my old life is like. Ever since I had bad results from my urologist (Dec 21 2007), I have been on a mission to improve things, which I know is a good thing. Now I am at a point where I haven’t had a drink for a year (apart from one 1/4 glass of wine), no caffeine (and I used to do 5 coffee’s a day, diet cokes etc  – so that’s just a generally good thing I guess)  and have lost over 10kg / 22 pounds.  So all good side effect I agree, but still… i would love to go out for a nice dinner and have a great bottle of wine, or go and grab some drinks with mates, or have a filthy hot curry, or ride a bike, or have a spa bath or….

The glimmer of hope still exits as the more I have got into my blogging the more I have read other people stories. Still a blackhole of posts from guys (where are you?), but what I keep finding is all these long and painful IVF stories with photo of kiddies and very relieved, thankful and grateful parents. Time and time again. The web is full of successful IVF bloggers! We just haven’t got there yet, so chin I guess, and keep the faith.

Thinking more about it, if you recall the analogy in my 1st post, around waiting for a car park in a supermarket and other keep grabbing “our” spot as “we have been here waiting longer”,  I guess I am not fussed waiting longer, I am used to this now, its just feels that its holding us back from doing other things (like travel that we love) and also piles pressure on the thought of if we’ll ever get there. If some would tell me we’d get there on the 9th IVF go, at least I have an end date, but as my WWII vet says – that’s not how this thing works.

This has to be one of the hardest things you do in life, but still thing we have a great chance to get there. I really relly do. So the demons can bugger off.

Pregnant pause in IVF Land – day 16

Well, we are oficially pregnant. Its a big bold statement but according to dictionary.com pregnancy is “having a child or other offspring developing in the body” and I can confirm that we now had 4 offsprings developing in “the body”, so I declare the situation one of official pregnancy. Nowhere does it say that the embryos need to be attached to the mother…hmm, minor point and our last hurdle we know we need to clear. So this takes us up to 24 children we have “had”. Alas the 1st 20 didnt hang around for icecream, but we remain hopeful.

 So 4 is an extremely good result considering we started at 5 and had to jump maturity, fertilisation and time hurdles (i.e. surviving 3 days from retrieval).

 “Pick your doctor” bingo continued as per usual and today was the end of season finale with The Mango Princesses  last chance to see which Dr she would get for transfer and see if she can come from back from a 2-1 deficit. So who was our Dr out of the 4 in the practice? a random 5th doctor we have never seen. She was a lovely lady and clearly knew her stuff, but no idea where she fits in. So, Dr Random informed us that we had 4 embryos to transfer, one at 6 cells, 2 at 8 cells and 1 at 10 cells (the 10 celler fella was at 8 cells, but it split again just before before they were transferred back we believe). They are all about the size they should be, so that’s great, and they look good, but we know that doesnt mean a huge amount consideirng all the sexy but genetically defunt predecessors we have had. They even give us a photo of the 4 of them. Our 1st family photo. How nice.

The surgery today is pretty straightforward and Mrs Mango doesn’t even get any anaesthetic or a local (on Monday she was put under) and today only take about 20 mins and is pain free, (apart form having a very full bladder which they request so they can better see the ute on the ultrasound). She lies flat for another 20 mins post surgery then you are out of there. We always stay at a local hotel so Mrs Mango can maximise her time being horizontal. Our clinic says you really only need 20 mins lying flat, some clinics suggest up to 3 days. There is nothing to lose from lying flat longer so we take the long option which my gold medallist sleeper has no problems adjusting to.

Today is a big day for the wing man and I drive carefully from the hospital to the hotel (I have a route planned and drive slowly in the fast lane as there are fewer bumps) and the princess reclines the seat and enjoys looking at street lights and leaves on the trees. We drive carefully. Imaging having a car accident in the middle of all this.

Anyway, the kids are settling in, (think grains of sand on a peanut butter sandwich – no idea why people tell you its peanut butter – or tennis balls on a football field to give you an idea of proportionate size here) and Monday week is the pregnancy test – the final hurdle So that’s pretty much the journey… now we just live out a 2 week wait with acupuncture sessions a few oral drugs and a horse needle in the princess’ bum each night.

 I heard once that normally, when a egg gets fertilized that when it embeds in the ute it sends messages to the lining shedding section of the brain not to do any shedding (so stopping your period) but when you do IVF they wash the eggs along the way so they lose this covering. To compensate you need to take progesterone shots in your arse for 7 weeks to simulate the same effect. How awesome is the human body that its that tough to replicate.

Anyway the 2 weeks is a bit of a killer, but now with the great Don’s words ringing in my ears around the WWII POW’s maybe this time will be easier. We have been full time residents in IVF Land for a while and desperately want to get out, but life is what it is and we take it as it comes.

Houdini produces a magic lake – Day 15

I had a chance to speak to our legend Dr today, and it never left me that you are chatting about life and well… life matters like you are chatting about a good movie you saw recently. We discussed the mango princess’ new career as a magician and her houdini trick to make a dozen or so eggs disappear into thin air. When I asked where the eggs go, she wasn’t sure but she said she sees it from time to time. I asked a different way..
 
“What caused all that E2 if it wasn’t eggs?”
 
“oh”  comes the response from the legend, “that can be the gorgonzolaorisinimistinment“.
 
“ah ok“. which translates into “I threw a big word at you so I hope you will now stop asking”. This was later conveyed to Houdini as “I think sometimes follicles stim and they are empty”. Houdini, suffice with the answer, moved on to more important things, like the Amercias next top model finale on this evening.
 
The big chat though apart from magic was WTF do we do from here. Genetic test or not – we had to decide today. The report from the dish was that the kids were doing well and we have 3 doing really well and 2 that are chugging along nicely but not at full speed, (which doesn’t mean much – we put the 3 sexiest embryos back in on cycle 1 and got nowhere. The uglies are often the goodies). All 5 kids have 3 – 4 cells, which is exactly where they should be at this stage. Example pic below (not one of my kids)
 
 
So we discussed things for a while and the verdict is in – we decided not to do any genetic testing. We decided to let mother nature do her job and if the kiddies have a genetic issue, as Darwin says, they generally sort themselves out.
 
As for Houdini, she is upbeat and cramping less, but still sore. She went for scans again this AM to see how things were going and Doogie Houser was on duty so she also got a grilling on the magic trick from Houdini and confirmed our belief that the whole thing is a bit of a mystery. Still – who cares – focus on the famous 5. The scan checked out her ovaries (still somewhat monstrous at 7″ x 5″ and 6″ x 4″when they should be walnuts) but the Dr was ok with it.
 
Houdini also seems to be holding a bit of water, as Dr Houser asked her if she passing as much she was drinking (and you drink a lot of water in IVF land) and the passage of water seems to have dropped back a bit. I had a mental image of a puddle in the middle of her ute that I thought the kids wouldn’t appreciate, but it not there, its just “inside” . So if nothing else out of this cycle we have developed a new lake on this planet.. in my wife’s guts. How nice. Lake Houdini we shall call it.
 
Enough for now, tired, but you get that when you are the parents of 5 kids beaming in ESP messages from a dish somewhere… kids… they wear you out.
 

Tribal council is on strike – day 14

The last 24 hours have been pretty long. We are 2 weeks into this cycle and it feels like 2 years. This whole process is a drug that seems to suck you in and take over your life. Hooray! – another drug to deal with! (but at least this one is free and doesn’t require a needle).

So, welcome to “Survivor Island: IVF Land”, which is a whole new phase in this process, (with new drugs and bigger needles! oh, the joy this gives the jabbee is well … nil). This is the really fun part where we get to see day by day, who gets voted off.

“IVF Land” Survivor Island has 3 or 4 challenges depending upon our choices. Nothing is guaranteed and all or anyone can get voted off at anytime.

Opening ceremony / Base camp: 5 eggs retrieved

1st challenge: Maturity. So out of the batch how many are good? In the last 3 cycles we have consistently lost 30% of the eggs here. Today we didn’t lose any!. All 5 were mature. No one was voted off, no one went home. Tribal council abstained.

2nd challenge: Fertilization. Ok so the egg might be good, but it takes 2 to tango and my fellas might be rubbish. Normally we have lost an additional 30% here, (so all up we are down around to about half the eggs / embryos we started with.) 

What is tricky here is that we do ICSI. For the uninitiated, there are actually 2  ways to create a human being. You let the boys and the girls swim together in the pool where they all hang around having a swell time and eventually (hopefully) all hook up. The second option is you grab the fella by the scruff of his neck and make him head butt the nearest female. (How romantic). I cant remember the fancy name that ICSI represent but I prefer my own interpretation – I Can’t Swim Internally.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, tribal council took a holiday (and they can stay there) and we have 5 fertilized eggs!!! So all the kids are still on Survivor island! 5 eggs, all mature. all fertilised.. Can i type that again… it felt good, 5,5,5….

So another day on the roller coaster and it was clearly an up, but we are no fools and we still have a few challenges to get through

Challenge # 3: Genetic testing (optional) Boy – have we debated this one. Officially known as PGD (Policing Genetic Duds, in my speak) the process is simple enough, but its not an easy call. Here’s the recipe: Take a cell out of the day 3 embryo (I believe the kids don’t miss it, you are too early in the process for that, and they don’t give it back), cook and cool it a few times, put some fluro die on it leave to rest and then check under some funky disco microscope and count the colours. 2 of each colour is good. 1 or 3 is bad (its looking at the 8-12 chromosomes that cause most 1st trimester miscarriages). This process is called FISH (Fun In Synthetic Heaven – my term (again)). I believe this process holds the Guinness book of records for the earliest disco a person has attended in their life (3 days old).

If you pass the test, you get an embryo that has a lower chance of miscarriage, but who knows how much playing with it upsets the bugger and he / she might not want to play ball and implant in a pregnancy. (i.e. You make him head butt his girlfriend then 2 days later rip his arm off and expect him to be happy and grow another one back in a few hrs, which, a lot of the time, happens. Nice work kids, keep it up) The other option is that you just drop them back in and hope that what turns into a pregnancy has no genetic issues and goes full term. No arms missing, but no idea if the kids you drop back have any genetic issues. Tricky call.

So far we have had 1 miscarriage on a genetic issue (cycle 1) and out of the other 9 embryos we PGD’ed in cycles 2-4, only 3 passed. So that’s a crap pass rate, but we don’t know if the 6 that didn’t make it was due to sulking / dropping out over a missing arm (i.e. the shock was just too much) or if they were genetic issues involved. I think most were genetic. We have a call in to God’s wingwoman (our Dr) in the morning to chat further.

So tomorrow we’ll get up, have breakfast, check out the weather and play God’s secretary for 15 mins (assuming the tribal council aren’t back from vacation) and make a few potentially life and death decisions and then head off to work for a bit of email and a herbal tea around 10.30am. All in a normal day in IVF land.

If we PGD and pass, we will transfer back the winners on Friday. If we don’t do PGD, and tribal council leaves us at least 1 winner, transfer will be Thurs.

 These hurdles don’t get any smaller. If anyone has the magic answer, please drop me a back a note, don’t be a stranger.

As for our patient, she is out of bed a fair bit more today and riveted by (what feels like) a 45 hr season finale for The Biggest Loser. So life is returning to normal a bit more I guess. If The Biggest Loser is an enthralling ratings bonanza by watching fat people turn to thin people with tears of joy over an 18 weeks people just wait until they wake up to IVF and what they can do on TV with a couple slowly turning insane over their parenting desires. Must watch TV.

The pain front for our legend mature egg grower seems to be improving with fewer huddled shuffles around the house but out of this process she has managed to pick up a bruised belly button. Now out of all the parts of your body, I bet you have never bruised there, and I don’t recall seeing that in the IVF Land brochure we picked up before this trip.

With that folks, I leave you. The demons headed home for a sleep after a big party yesterday, but they know where we live and sadly they have key to the door. We are too tired to get too excited, but every day like today is a great step, we recognise that.