Baileys Adventures

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…-Proverbs 17:22

Finding Our Path February 1, 2011

If I’m honest with myself, this is a post I’ve actually been looking forward to writing for some time. Have you ever felt a certain way but tried to convince yourself you felt something different because you thought you were supposed to?  I guess it’s lying to yourself, isn’t it?  I’ve been doing that.

At this point, we’ve been “trying” for three years, including two and a half years on some form of medication and treatment.  With 13 rounds of clomid and two cycles of injectible drugs to prepare for artificial insemination, it’s been a long road of trying to find the right combination of things to achieve pregnancy.  Obviously, we haven’t found it.  Now, I’m waiting on these stupid cysts to resolve so we can begin our third IUI cycle, a gracious gift from my parents.

Friday I went to the doctor to find out if my cysts were gone (they’re not) and to see if we were good candidates for a third cycle (we are).  Something strange happened there.  As he gave me bad but improving news about my cysts and good news about our chances for success, I realized that I was….disappointed.  Not that my cysts weren’t resolved, because I could have told you that already.  No, I was disappointed because he didn’t give me an out, and excuse, a reason not to go on with Round 3.  I realized that I had been pinning my hopes on the possibility that these cysts were a sign that I’m not cut out for gonadotropins.  I realized that I had been hoping that our success rate would be so low that it would be silly to go on.  I wanted to be able to say “We can’t do a third IUI.”  Because I didn’t want to do it.  I don’t want to do it.

That’s hard for me to admit.  It’s not hard for me to accept that I don’t want to — it’s hard for me to admit that to other people.  I’m supposed to push on, to persevere.  I’m supposed to stop at nothing to have my baby with Baileys eyes, good Hill teeth, and a brilliant little brain.  I’m supposed to strive toward a baby with my mama’s nose and Brian’s sisters’ figure.  A child who can sing but understands the writings of Hawking like his daddy.  I’m supposed to do it all for my possible child.  But at what cost?

Infertility has nearly destroyed us emotionally.  It’s tested our marriage, and it’s obliterated our finances.  When you add the other things that are going on in our lives, it’s nearly tipped the already precarious balance to a very scary place.  Some days I’m not even sure who I am anymore except in relation to infertility.  I’m learning to live with a load of guilt that I don’t anticipate will ever go away.  I’m learning to accept failure at something so basic it’s literally instinct.  As it stands right now, we can’t afford the scary stuff — a spate of bed rest would mean lost income that we can’t cover anymore because we spent all our savings.  A baby in the NICU could mean bills we would have no way to pay.  Physically, I’ve allowed PCOS — a disease, mind you — to have free reign in my body for three years.  I’ve gained an inordinate amount of weight from that, and on top of it I’ve added many cycles of what are basically steroids.  My health is great, but my body is a wreck.  At this point, I have to ask myself if being pregnant would be the best idea.    That’s a big question.

This isn’t a new thing.  Every few months we’ve made it a point to touch base and see if we felt that we were following God’s will and if we should continue. Obviously, if it was God’s will for this to work, I’d be pregnant, right?  Every time we’ve tried a new treatment or a new method, God has thrown up a road block.  Some we’ve told you about, some we have not.  Some have been minor — here’s six cysts for you! — but some have been major things.  Each time we’ve been able to see a road block pop up, either derailing us or sending us in a new direction.  Unfortunately we’ve usually seen it in hindsight.  This time we just had the foresight to stop and consult God before we jumped into IUI #3.   I talk a lot to Brian about the still, small voice.  This time, the answer was loud, and it was clear.  The relief we felt upon truly hearing Him can only be described as the peace that passes understanding.

10% of all couples who are of child-bearing age experience infertility.  Two thirds will go on to have biological children.  We are not in that group. At this point, we have made a very important decision and want to let our friends and families who have been involved in this process know where we are headed from here.  At this time, we will not be pursuing any further fertility treatments in hopes of pregnancy. While we will probably return to treatment in the future, it is not the path we are going to continue down in hopes of our first child.  We definitely want more than one child, and know that they will not all come to us in the same manner.  We are feeling very definitely led in this direction, and are making this decision after much prayer and discussion.

Instead, we will be taking a few months off to process and heal, and to generally give ourselves a break.  At this point our plan is to then pursue adoption through foster care.  We would ask that you continue to lift our family up through this process as you have through our infertility.  While it’s exciting, we know that it will also bring with it hard work and possible heartache, and a whole other set of circumstances.  I personally can’t wait.  I feel like I am walking the path the Lord has laid out for the first time in months.

After we decided this, I sat down to write a little note to our families and friends who had supported us.  As I told them, we want to take the time to thank you for supporting and praying for us for the past three years as we have tried to start our family.  This whole process would have been so much harder if we hadn’t had the support of so many of our friends and family, without the constant encouragement and interest.  This definitely includes my bloggity friends who have been just as instrumental in my survival.  I know that at times people haven’t known what to say, or haven’t understood what we were going through, but the fact that you were there has been more important than you will ever know.

As we move forward, first taking care of ourselves and then trying to find a small person to take care of, we’ll need you.  I’ll still need to vent, to think “out loud”, we’ll still need prayer.  This decision will never take away my passion for infertility and breaking the silence that surrounds it.  Infertility, baby loss, barrenness, childlessness — all these things still weigh heavy on my heart and I will never stop listening, posting, advocating, and praying.  Share your stories with me or ask for prayer.  Let’s just add a new facet….let’s learn about foster care adoption, y’all.

And from the very bottom of my heart — thank you and God bless every single one of you.

Advertisements
 

Let’s Talk About IUI, Bay-bee December 16, 2010

Well, it definitely ain’t your grandma’s method of conception, but it’s not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.  I’ve said before that I want to be a source of information and encouragement to those facing infertility treatments .  So in the interest of all that, I’ll tell you about our first IUI.

When the Bravelle finally started working, it worked like gangbusters.  My only developing follicle went from 10 mm to 14.5 mm in 3 days, and from 14.5 to 19 mm overnight.  At that point, my estradiol number was 406.  All of this probably means nothing to you if you’re not in the middle of a gonadotropin cycle, I realize.  A follicle is the little fluid-filled cyst that holds a maturing egg prior to ovulation.  My clinic likes to see one or two mature eggs at 16-24 mm.  Estradiol is the estrogen produced by a developing follicle.  My clinic is looking for at least 250 before ovulation. So I was ready to roll six days after finding the right dosage. I was instructed to “trigger” on Wednesday, November 17.  I injected 10,000 IU of human chorionic gonadotropin that night, into my stomach.  Some doctors will have you or your partner inject this into a muscle like your butt or thigh.  Mine prefers that it be subcutaneously injected into the abdomen.  Easily done, as I’d had about 42 nights worth of injections to practice.  If you’re planning on using “timed intercourse”, this is your night.

The next day was a day of no injections or anything.  Just a laid-back Thursday around Baileysland.

Friday, November 19 was IUI Day.  We went to the clinic in the morning, and Brian registered for a collection room.  The semen were washed to improve motility and sorted to be sure that only the most perfect ones were injected. The actual washing takes about an hour, so we got lunch and milled around the hospital nervously.  When the sample was ready at the lab, I tucked it under my arm and we walked down the hall to the doctor’s office. I changed from the waist down and they did the procedure.

I didn’t find the IUI to be nearly as painful as a regular trans-vaginal ultrasound.  The speculum is never fun, of course, but that was the worst part.  The doctor inserted a tiny catheter into my uterus.  I understand this can be painful or sensitive for some women, but it really wasn’t an issue.  She inserted 30 million sperm with an 8% perfection.  She said 30 million swimmers is a great number for IUI, and that 8% perfection is about as high as they usually see.  They have very few men with 9-12% perfection.

After the procedure, which took about 10 minutes, I laid on the table for 20 minutes, and then went home.  I opted to take the rest of the day off and lie around.  I was quite crampy, but this is totally normal for me during ovulation.  I also found that I’m pretty sensitive to the hCG, because I was crampy, nauseous, dizzy, and sore for the next 11 days.

In interest of being informative, our costs broke down like this:  $228 for semen collection and sperm washing, and $117 for the IUI.  Not nearly as expensive as we had feared.  Brian’s sample was tested for anti-sperm antibodies, too, but we haven’t been billed for that.  It may have been covered by our insurance.

For this cycle, we had the following costs:

$1572 in office visits

Either @220 or $270 in medications (I lost track)

$345 for IUI

That was a little over $2100, not counting lost income, childcare for the Munchkins, and gas.  It was a very long cycle, to be fair.  Bear in mind that the cost at your particular doctor’s office may be different, but this should give you some idea if you’re trying to figure out how much this is going to cost you.

 

The Waiting…. October 20, 2010

Filed under: State of internal affairs,TTC — andreabaileys @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , ,

Is the hardest part, indeed! I’m still working my way through my first GNT cycle, with no concrete end in sight.  My dosage has been raised and I am responding well to the Bravelle. I’m being monitored very closely by my gurus. It’s all a waiting game from here out.

As you may have guessed, I won’t be blogging the actual date of my IUI. If it’s successful we want to tell our parents first, our siblings, and a few select friends early, but we won’t be announcing any impending pregnancy until between (or after) 8-12 weeks. Sorry for the “deception” – and trust me, I reserve the right to not tell you the truth if you ask our IUI date or if I’m pregnant – but this is one area where we are protecting some privacy. After the fact I’ll write about the IUI for anyone curious or preparing for one. But my timeline may be stretched a bit. If you know me you know I abhor lying in any way….so just allow me to evade the question, mmkay?

Meanwhile, I am exhausted and blogging with my thumbs to avoid going downstairs to the computer. Good times. Have a fabulous hump-day, friends!

 

Shot Through The….Belly October 13, 2010

Filed under: Infertility,TTC — andreabaileys @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Please excuse the awesome 80’s music reference.  You know you liked it.

If you’re looking for information on how to self-inject gonadotropins to stimulate your ovaries for purposes of fertility, you are in the right place.  If you’re interested in how one actually takes a shot to the belly, you’re still in the right place.  If the very thought of someone injecting themselves with a drug in the abdomen makes you queasy, you’re gonna want to click away and come back tomorrow.  I’ll understand.

When I started thinking about our injectable gonadotropin cycle (called a GNT cycle in our clinic) I played down the fact that I’d have to inject something into my abdomen.  I tried not to think about it.  Unfortunately, I had almost two months to think about it and worry.  I blogged a lot of my fear, but haven’t really touched on how scared I was to stick myself in the belly with a needle.

Then the boxes started to arrive.  My trigger shot showed up first. Next was the big ol’ box of Bravelle.  I’ll probably post a separate ditty to let you know about pricing for that, if you’re looking for information.  I meant to do it before this one, but life got busy.  Once the drugs were here and then the nurse called with my plan, and then the cycle started….well, I got scared.

Thursday was our anniversary, and ironically it was the day I started my injections.  We both feel this is pretty auspicious.  However, by the time we finished dinner and came home to face the needle, I was as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  I had texted with my wonderful sister in law, Nurse Baileys, the night before.  She reassured me that I would do fine, that it wasn’t a big deal, that the injection is supposed to go in fat so my abdomen really was the right place to put it, and that it won’t hurt much.  She’s a nurse, you know, so I trusted her.  We went into the bathroom, worked together, and got that first shot done.  And it wasn’t bad. I will tell you right now that there is some pain about two minutes after I finish, and it lasts about three minutes.  At first it was a sharp stabbing pain, and the next two days it was only an aching throb.  Now it’s a little twinge and I barely even notice it.  Honestly, it’s the same level of pain as a bad cramp or pinching yourself.

First thing: the injection doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would. So rest assured, you can do this. When I was nervous and started looking for information on this, I didn’t find much that was very useful about self-injecting.  So I’ll run through it for you a bit so if you’re getting ready to inject gonadotropins for a GNT cycle.  I won’t be giving all the instructions — that’s why you have a doctor and I’m sure he gave you instructions.  These are simply my tips and suggestions.

Assemble all your supplies first, and wash your hands.  I find it easiest to unwrap all my needles, syringes, alcohol swabs and pop the tops off my vials ahead of time so that I don’t have any opportunities to forget something or screw up.  Set out your nifty sharps bucket, too, or the empty can you’re using to hold your used syringes.  Trust me, get a sharps bucket.  Mine came free with my prescription, as did my needles and syringes.  Can I call it a rig?

I find it easiest to use the Q-cap, but you might not.  Either way, it’s not that hard to draw up the water and inject it into the powder.  My first time took me forever to get it all (I need the complete 2 ml so that I can use a half vial), but it’s gotten easier each time.  Remember to inject some air first so that the pressure forces the liquid into the syringe.

The needle you use to draw up the medication looks huge, I know.  It is!  It’s like two and a half inches long!  It never, ever, ever touches your skin, so don’t worry about it.  The injection needle itself is tiny. Mine is only a half inch long and is such a high gauge that it’s pretty much hair-thin.  Trust me when I tell you that you’ll barely feel it.

One of the benefits of this whole infertility mess is that I am completely over any fear of needles that I may have ever had.  And procedures are pretty much old hat at this point, too.  If you are at the point where you’re starting gonadotropin injections, you have this needle business down pat.  This is easier than the monthly blood draws, and smaller than any IV you’ve had. Hear me:  It’s Not That Bad.

Sit comfortably is the advice they give you.  I’ve done a few of my injections standing (if you fall and crack your head open, you may not hold me responsible), but sitting is easier.  One thing they don’t tell you is a little embarrassing.  But I’m going to be straight up with you, my gonadotropin-injecting friend:  if you have PCOS and are injecting for fertility reasons, and you are built anything like me, you are probably going to have a harder time seeing past your own breasts to inject yourself than anything.  Trust me.  Figure out the best way to sit before you’re about to stab yourself.

Pinch an inch.  Pinch more than you think you need to. There is not much creepier in this procedure than feeling the needle inside your belly, under your skin, with your thumb.  If you don’t pinch enough belly, you’re going to feel that needle, trust me.  And it is bizarre.

Pick a different spot each night. I only bruised from my first injection, but I think that’s because I pinched too hard.  I was all nervous and bared down….with the wrong hand.  Switch it up for yourself.

The actual stick is not bad at all. Nurse Baileys told me to think of it as a dart. Remember that you don’t actually have a ton of nerve endings in your belly — relatively speaking it’s just not as sensitive as other places.

The medication takes longer to go in than you think it will. Just push that plunger and trust me.  It requires a firm hand, and takes a minute.  And remember, don’t pinch harder in your quest to push harder!

When it’s all in, let go of your skin and pull the needle out.  I’m finding that I’m not doing this fast enough — and I keep catching the needle under the very edge of my skin.  It’s creepy, so learn from my mistake.

I don’t know if anyone made it through all that, or if it helped at all.  I know it would have been nice to hear before I had to do it all myself.  If you’re still reading, and you need to know how to do this, what I really want you to understand is that it is seriously not that bad.  It doesn’t hurt at all, really.  I don’t mind it anymore and I’ve only done it five times.  If you have any questions you can add them in the comments or email me at TheBaileysAdventures (at) gmail (dot) com.  I promise it will be okay.

 

Big Ol Box ‘o Fun October 6, 2010

Filed under: TTC — andreabaileys @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve decided to blog this cycle in detail (not that much detail…get your mind out of the gutter).  When we began looking into information for gonadotropin cycles, we found startlingly little information beyond “this is what gonadotropins are, here’s the basic biology of how they work”.  Very, very little information that wasn’t put out by a pharmaceutical company, actually.

So I’m going to be really open this cycle.  Ask me questions, ask for details.  I’ll give you prices, even. Because we’ve only been estimating our costs for this cycle because no one has posted good information about costs that I could find.  It may seem like a lot of information, but hopefully someone out there can use it.

When the doctor decided what drugs I would be on, the nurse called them into the pharmacy.  My insurance company (whom I like to curse) insists that I use a mail order pharmacy if I want my drugs covered, and they have a specialty division for infertility drugs.  I’m special, ya’ll.  The pharmacy called to schedule my delivery the same day we decided to postpone our cycle due to my trip to Women of Faith.  I asked them to push back until mid-September.  I knew they only carried one of the meds, and I would have to arrange for the big shipment later.

I had completely forgotten about this until this box appeared on my doorstep on September 14th…..

I couldn’t think what it could be, and didn’t recognize the return address.  The last thing I received in a box marked “Perishable” was fruit, so I was immediately stoked.

I opened it to find….

A cooler.  At this point, I actually still wasn’t sure what it was.  I am slow.

Opening the cooler revealed this:

Now I got it.  The 30 syringes and 60 needles definitely clued me in.  Big needles for mixing drugs and tiny needles for stabbing myself.

All of that packaging, cooler, and ice packs were for this…..

Inside that box on the right is one vial of human chorionic gonadotropin.  I’ll use it when my eggs ripen to trigger ovulation.  It’s one shot worth.  All of this is for one shot and 30 needles.  The unmixed medication doesn’t even require refrigeration, for the record.

One shot.  Which cost $70 after insurance.

 

Early Morning Doctor Visit August 10, 2010

Filed under: Doctor's Visit,Infertility,TTC — andreabaileys @ 1:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Monday morning found Brian and myself en route to the fertility clinic for a quick ultrasound and visit.  Since I didn’t ovulate last cycle, I needed Provera to start a new cycle.  You may remember that massive doses of progesterone have not worked in the past, and until I finally asked the doctor to check and see if I even had any uterine lining we just kept doing the same thing with no results.  Seems to be a trend for us.  So Provera has only worked twice for me, and I wasn’t holding my breath this time.

I finished the seven pill course on last Thursday and expected a new cycle over the weekend.  Since Brian will be in Lynchburg for the next two days I knew that if I wanted him to go along I’d need to make an appointment for Monday at the latest.  I arranged for a half day of vacation and we were ready to go.  Except for that part where my body didn’t cooperate with my timing and my new cycle hasn’t started yet.  So I was in Charlottesville for no real reason.  The doctor reminded me that Provera can take up to ten days to work, but the few times it’s worked for me it’s been almost immediate.  The ultrasound looked fine and we set down to talk about our options and the injectible gonadotropin cycle with IUI that we’re planning on doing next.

The basic plan for our gonadotropin cycle (called a GNT cycle at our clinic) is to go in on CD 1-3 for a baseline ultrasound (or CD 49, if you are Antsy Impatient Pants like me).  Then I will start with the injectible gonadotropins on a CD 3, 4, or 5.  I’ll inject whatever the dosage is every day.  I learned how to mix the meds, fill a syringe, and inject myself Monday at the doctor.  Every five days or so I’ll return to the clinic for an ultrasound and blood work to see how my eggs are doing.  This can take anywhere from 10 days to three weeks or longer.  We expect a dominant follicle or two to develop and when the doctor decides it’s “ripe” (seriously, it’s the word they use.  *shudder*) then I’ll do a trigger shot of human chorionic gonadotropin, or HcG.  It will cause me to ovulate in 38-40 hours so we can do an IUI at some point in that period.

During the IUI, the sperm are procured from Brian and then washed.  I’m serious.  I have images of them scrubbing his swimmers with tiny brushes and soap, a la the spa scene from The Wizard of Oz.  Anyway, they’re washed and then ready for insemination.  They’ll be dropped off in my uterus via a catheter about an hour later.  Then I’ll lie there for about 20 minutes before being sent home to wait the longest two weeks of my life.

That’s it.  That’ s our master plan at this point.  Unfortunately, there are a few monkey wrenches.  I’ll be out of town for two nights and two days at the end of August.  I somehow doubt that I’ll be able to make it from DC to Charlottesville for an IUI or any ultrasounds during that time, and asking YaYa Princess for the use of her spare room for baby makin’ would just be awkward, even for us.  So if we start this GNT cycle right now, we could be derailed by the only trip I take by myself all year.

The other monkey wrench is the price.  In a best case scenario with only two ultrasounds during the cycle and all my drugs being covered by insurance, each cycle will run a minimum of a thousand dollars.  It’s seriously expensive.  This is our pull-out-all-the-stops-balls-to-the-wall so it’s costly.  A GNT cycle in an of itself runs over $700 at this clinic.  If my drugs weren’t covered by insurance and we had to get them through the “budget pharmacy” at the clinic, it’s $55 per vial.  We’ll start with a conservative 25 vials.  You get the idea.

So, needless to say, money is a huge issue.  We have enough saved/allocated/moved around and finagled to do two cycles.  After that, we’re done until we can save $1000 more.  So this may very well be the beginning of the end.  If this doesn’t work, we’re probably done.  In light of this, we’ve decided to hold off until after my trip to DC so we have no giant plans standing in our way.  We’ll start our GNT cycle as soon in September as we’re able.

That’s it.  That’s our big plan, complete with timeline and cost analysis.  I personally spent much of yesterday in tears over the sheer  stress of it all, and knowing that if this doesn’t work we won’t be going any further.  It’s so strange to think that we’re putting all our eggs in a basket that isn’t iron-clad, and that when it’s over we’re done.

Hope you all have a lovely day, and that you can stay cool if it’s half as hot as it is here!