Can we get over the line(ing)?

Right, back in Denver and it’s all very deja vu, even down to only being 1 room away from where we stayed last time. We have been on a lining blitz, but we are complete amateurs, we really try to do the right thing, but who knows.

Today we went and saw The Oracle again.  I am sure I have mentioned The Oracle before but I cant find the post. Anyway, this woman, just like her name sake  in The Matrix is completely unassuming but has an air of all knowing in an incredibly disarming way. She is the acupuncturist, but deep down I think she is something bigger, potentially a god, who is just hanging around on earth in a simple office in the back of Colorado somewhere bringing her ‘erbs and somewhat magical knowledge to mere mortals.  You think you go to the oracle for a quick session of acupuncture, but you are really going for a lesson on life, except you just don’t know it until you leave.

Before Mrs IVF went in for her session today we had a fairly typical acupuncture type rundown with The Oracle, with tongue showings (Mrs IVF no one else) and a few tips on do and don’t. Tongue was ok, but the leg crossing was a no no, blocks major arteries and destroys your personal chop suey or feng shui or something. We discussed the diet and were told to avoid soy (oh whoops – so much for chinese last night!) as, well, that will give you estrogen, but you only have so many receptors in your body and yes these receptors will pick up soy from a bit of a stir fry but thats low grade compared to what you are sticking in your vajayjay and absorbing from the patches (oh man – low grade estrogen? – we are so out of our league on this stuff).

When Mrs IVF went in for her session I continued to download from The Oracle. So much to learn. So ying and yang. We are in a ying phase – calming, nurtuing, loving, motherly, massages, yoga, calming music, bla bla bla. We need to keep the ying high, (so much for ying and yang evening each other out!)… yang, well yang seems to be where I spend my life, it’s the testosterone side of things, kickboxing, blokeville etc. Every chick has her yang moments, but now, oh learned readers, we need to be ying. Bugger – kickboxing for Mrs IVF probably not great then?

Heres another. Ladies, want to get pregnant? go and find a baby and hold it, hang out with kids. Your body reacts to this. The Oracle says that women who live together over time have their periods converge (which even I knew) but didn’t know that holding a baby can kick off a the whole “chick system”. (So at least that explain something for me. As  I hold cheeseburger, I now know why I get fatter, it’s all the proximity stuff. Suddenly, its all so clearn now!) So – next time you are out with a fertile and really are dreading it, grab that kid and rub it all over you (without looking like a nutbag)… straight from the oracle. She would know. So get baby sitting people, your uterus needs you.

So I learnt a fair amount, but she ends off with this ” you just have to hope at the end, there really is no right answer”. What an oracle-ish thing to say.

So I spent time in The Oracles waiting room downloading calming relaxing music on my phone as the oracle dispensed her wisdom. (note Mrs IVF has passed out on the lounge tonight listening to a recording of a fireplace crackling away, so there’s a result!)

Tomorrow is scan day, so this is where we see if this is the end of cycle 5 or not. Over 7 mm please. Oracle not happy with 6mm so did some special job on Mrs IVF’s guts tonight, (nearly as good as what the white bean soup did to my guts at a later dinner). The good news from talking to the oracle is that she very very very rarely sees people who don’t ever cycle from poor lining (and sorry dear reader if you are one of these poor folks) as they just cancel the cycle and hit you with skud missiles of drugs next month to get you over the line next month, (or so I believe). SO, if we aren’t over the line, we just go skiing and if we are, then our journey across the rickety bridge continues.

Side note: If coming to Denver (maybe for a holiday or to see or make family?) go to a place called table 6 for dinner. Great little spot. Excellent food, don’t ask about the wine menu (no idea), but as we wrapped up a great meal last night sitting next to us was one of gods reps (a priest, not an angle) having a nice meal with a mate. They were chugging a beer! So I am even being out drunk by the lords reps. I have to be close to a low point on who can out drink me these days.

Wish us luck. See you on the other side of this. Lets hope the pond scum smoothie (plus everything else) did the trick.

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.

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.

Riding the wave – day 11

Straight to the punchline tonight. Bombs away… fire in the hole…. Cabin crew 36 hrs to landing.. we got the call and just launched the trigger. So no more stims, now one final trigger shot to mature the eggs and set them up for retrieval.
 
We dropped into the mothership this morning for our 2 min super scan with thr Dr (in normal white attire for once) and the results were pretty good. The Dr was very happy with progress, so the update:
* Lining: 7.33 type 1 (asked the dr – type 1 is multi layer – think of it as Neapolitan ice cream – and good, type 3 is thin and not so good, but our Dr shrugged it off and didn’t seem to care if our follice queen had steel wool as lining, ok… she might care then.)
* Follicles: 21! 15 >15 mm, with 8 over 18mm (even better we think – again – we really don’t know anything). Very nice. We have no overachieving nut bags either with the biggest at 20mm which is not on the freakish side and still (potentially) within maturity range.
* E2: tricky stuff this E2 (Estrogen) you need to keep it under 4500, maybe 5,000 tops but everyone reacts differently. If you hyper-stimulate, you body shuts down and you start to cook your organs. So – hyperstim is a big deal they watch for closely.  Luckily, (I hope) my legend wife seems to be able to take a fair amount, ( 3 days ago – 1,700, yesterday 2,600, today 4,000!). So no wonder we are triggering. The level will still rise from here as the trigger is still a stimulant (it does a final maturation on the eggs), but its a game of maximising your E2 vs not overstimulating. Our Dr today says that each mature eggs gives off around 200 (whatever you measure estrogen in – lets call them estros.) So the thinking goes… 21 follicles of a good size, and prob a whole bunch of small ones that also dump out estros and you need to keep around the 4,500 -5000 estros (max!!!)…. its tricky.
 
So the trigger takes a little bit of work vs the other drugs. For a start we actually need to mix some drugs, (great idea that we just did the kitchen up, its great ambiance for brewing up drug cocktails). Its not hard, mix a bit of water with some powder, switch the needles around a bit and one quick jab in the rump-lestiltskin and you away. The trickiest thing on the trigger is that it’s timed. We are given very clear instructions on what to do and exactly when as 36 hrs from the shot the ovaries will release the eggs. So we did the trigger at 11pm tonight, so 9am Monday the Mango Ppineapple Princess  is in Hospital and at 10am they are doing a quick procedure to take the eggs out, (an hr before the deadline.)Quite remarkable when you think about it.
 
We read a blog during the week of a couple who weren’t aware of the time sensitivity and just did the shot earlier in the night. When they came to retrieval, no eggs. Cycle over. I feel sorry for them. We have also had our own nightmare around the trigger shot. In cycle 2, we had an 11pm trigger as well. At 10.45 we went to the cupboard to prepare the drugs and couldn’t find them. Issue? Oh yeah. If we miss our window then ok, we push pack the retrieval an hr or so maybe, but the prob then is they line up all the triggerees in a very tight timeline that makes landing at Heathrow look like landing at Lithgow (and I don’t even think Lithgow has an airport), so if we slip into another “landing slot” it would have been us who get bumped. So, we frantically tore the kitchen, bedroom and study to shreds and then at around 11.15 we found the drugs between to colanders we pulled out in our haste. We jabbed frantically and called the at call nurse. Verdict – not too late, we’ll be fine, but we could have done without the stress.
 
Maybe its because of  “the cycle 2 effect” but this shot always freaks me out a bit as we really need to get it right, but in all reality, its very straightforward. I like to go over the instructions carefully and watch a few training vids online they give us access to. You can see the Monday morning coffee chat now.. “get up to much on the weekend Mister IVF?… Oh watched a few drug injection vids on sat night…. you know… the usual”
 
Anyway… we’re away now …. 33.5 hrs to retrieval.
 
A few other quick updates:
 
* The follicle queen is doing remarkably well considering the hormones gushing around her guts. She has been purky and bubbly all week but around 3pm this afternoon she hit a bit of a wall. She wandered into the study looking as white as a ghost and felt nauseous. A quick 4 hrs wipe out sleep and she was up and about again. Tomorrow may be similar.
* Nothing new on my side. I drove to the Dr’s again today (go hub – do you thing!) and won the bet for who the doctor was. So 1-1 on the Dr prediction scoreboard. We really like this Dr but she looks 9 years old. Its a bit weird talking about kids with someone who looks like one, but she is fantastic, so friendly and really helpful. You can sort of get the feelings she has seen it all with this IVF stuff.
* We owe an apology to the mechanic. It appears her measuring is pretty spot on after all, so after a bit of anxiousness all week around two follies being counted as one (and we even though that she was double counting some follies in her totals) it appears our 9yo Doctor (Ms Doogie Houser) scanned pretty much the same result. We now like the mechanic a lot more, but the pink outfit is still a bit weird.
* I also owe an apology to the jabbee. I have left out some needles – 7 to be honest. I had forgotten to count the morning blood work done by the butchers. So with today’s trigger and lupron shot that takes her up to 220. This may seem a lot, but we have barely started.  Today’s butchering was one of the better ones, she bled through the band aid and through her top. Next step is a airlift to a hospital (oh hang on- we were in a hospital.)
 
So all looks good right? We’ll see. After being immersed in this (again) for 11 days non stop, this process is casting its all encompassing spell again. The feeling is similar to waiting for someone at the airport when you are really excited to meet them but are fed up waiting in the crowd checking out every single person coming out the door. 11 days is a long time to wait for someone at the airport checking everything (sadly).
 
Also – we have seen this movie before… its a move of catching the perfect wave and riding it to shore. Today is the day the wave breaks – and from here we just ride it. Each of the three previous versions have unfortunately dumped us head long into a sand bar, and just like body surfing, rarely do see a dumping coming – you always think you can surf the wave and also, you rarely come out of a good dumping without getting hurt.Still – we’ll see. Send through all positive vibes please!!
 
Next steps are another scan tomorrow to check E2 and make sure the eggs didn’t prematurely jettison (believe to happen we hear)
 
Here we go, wish us luck
 
The body surfers