Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just one baby, but very healthy!

He is a little tricky to see on here. His body is between the plus signs. You can click the picture to make it bigger.

I am officially 6 weeks along and am feeling pretty good so far. It feels very much like when I was first pregnant with Noah. I am very tired all the time, and my super-sensitive pregnancy nose is back in full force. My body is getting to be uncomfortable if I stay in one position for too long. There are lots of other subtle changes. It feels normal, considering what pregnancy felt like for me last time.

We went for our last visit to the fertility clinic today. This was the visit where were we did the big ultrasound. The doctor got the equipment going and took a look. Chris and I were really hoping that both boys that they implanted would take, but all that was there was one baby. He looked wonderfully perfect. He measured dead on where they wanted to see him. She said that this early on sometimes it is too soon to get a heartbeat, but his was there going nuts. She measured it and it came out to 164 beats per minute. She said that that was very healthy for this stage of growth. She ooohed and aaahed over my hormone levels. I may only have one baby in there, but he is fighting to be here and growing like crazy!

We had mixed feelings! On the one hand, we were so incredibly excited about this boy, and couldn’t help feeling just over the moon watching his little heartbeat flicker on the screen in front of us. On the other hand, we grieved for the family that we dreamed of that isn’t turning out the way we had hoped or planned. This child will likely not have any living siblings. In vitro is tough and more than that, it is incredibly expensive. We were lucky enough to do it the one time. In a sense I feel like a bad parent not to be able to give that to him, but it just is what it is.

One thing that really helped is that Chris and I fell in love with a boy name right off the bat. What a difference from the last time! It took us FOREVER to come up with Noah’s name! I am going to share it with you in a moment, but an explanation must come first.

Last time, we kept Noah’s name a secret until he was born. We did this because everyone seemed to have an opinion on what was a bad name. Because we had such trouble with boy names, once we found the one we liked, we didn’t want to risk having someone tell us it sucked and then ruin the hard work it took to get it. We knew that once people saw Noah and we told them what his name was, that no one would care what it was. It could have been Cletus Milton Wilkerson and it wouldn’t have mattered when you saw the beautiful baby! The problem was that we only got to enjoy Noah and his name for a few short days. Now that name represents sadness and grief to many, and that hurts my heart.

This time, this name came to us right away and we both loved it. It is Aaron Noah Wilkerson. I want to shout it from the mountaintops. As I looked at the ultrasound and saw Aaron’s heartbeat and the fuzzy shape of his tiny forming body, my heart just overflowed thinking about him and knowing that he is a boy and what his name will be. Through the grief and sadness, it provided the opportunity for bonding, love and excitement. It was needed.

Here’s more stuff we liked about this name:

  • Aaron means “mountain,” and Noah means ”peaceful.” Aaron will be our peaceful mountain.

  • He will be raised in the mountains in the shadow of peaceful and beautiful Pike’s Peak. This is home to us and we love it here and we are happy to have that in his name.

  • Also, in the story of Exodus in the Bible, Aaron was Moses’ brother. Aaron was a wonderful, faithful man that showed unwavering support for his brother. It shows the love and devotion we hope to share with him for Noah.

  • And most of all, he will carry on Noah’s name for us. Aaron will be here because of Noah, and hope he doesn’t mind sharing his brother’s name.

Aaron will be an October baby. His due date is October 20. I am excited because my birthday is October 10. Can you imagine having a baby on 10/10/10? That would be pretty cool. I would love to share my birthday with him. What a joy!

Having it be one baby in stead of two is going to be a good thing. It makes the pregnancy much easier and lower risk. We are all for lowering risk where possible after what we have been through. It is also very likely I will be able to do natural childbirth again, which is really important to me. Furthermore, as neurotic as we will probably already be, keeping an eye on one baby is easier than keeping an eye on two, so that can’t hurt.

Next step is to make an appointment with my regular OB and get on the normal schedule again. I am eager to get back to that after the craziness of fertility treatments. I know how to do this part and feel comfortable with the process.

What a strange mixture of emotions this whole journey brings up. Excited, crazy in love with this new child, extremely sad over the loss of our dream for family, all in one go. We are just taking it as it comes, and allowing each emotion to come up and work itself out. I must say that over the course of this afternoon and evening, the emotions are becoming less sad and more and more happy and excited. The bottom line is that we have no idea what the future holds. All we can do for now is think of this incredible boy that has come along against all the odds. He is healthy and strong, and wants to be here and be loved by us. What a blessing! I just can’t wait to meet him and start on the next leg of this incredible journey together.

We, of course, had our Flip video camera with us. Here’s the doc telling us there would just be one:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm Pregnant

I cheated. I was due to take the blood test at the doctor’s today, but all day yesterday I kept thinking about a leftover pregnancy test sitting in my hall closet. I am still taking hormones for IVF, and my thought was that I wouldn’t be able to take an at-home test because of it. Like, it would give me a false positive because of the particular hormones I am on. So last evening, I did some googling and looked at exactly what I am taking and compared it with what exactly an at-home test measures, and they appeared to be different hormones. With that out of the way I debated. I had a tough day at work, so am I in the best position possible to handle a negative test result? I tried to lay down and relax, but I just couldn’t. I had to pee anyways, and so without giving it another thought I grabbed the test and took it.

It came out positive.

Holy cow, it says I’m pregnant! I sat down on the floor in the bathroom and promptly cried hard for a good long time. I cried tears of joy. We have worked so hard and pushed ourselves to the limit to get here and it worked! What an amazing thing! I cried tears of terror. The last time we did this, we created a beautiful amazing little boy whom I loved more than I ever thought I could love another human being, and he died. It is no small thing to sign on to do this again. I cried tears of sadness. I keep a picture of Noah in the bathroom (his pictures are up in pretty much every room in my house) and I just looked at him and felt the sadness of him moving just one small step away from me. It is time to be excited about a new baby. Granted, he may not be in my womb anymore, but will always stay firmly ingrained at the very center of my heart. And then it was back to joy again. I went through these three emotions over and over again. Chris came home soon enough and found me. I told him and showed him the test, and he was just so happy. It made me feel better all the way around.

We had already planned to go out to dinner anyways last night. We went to my favorite Greek place that I have been craving lately (Mediterranean Café, downtown). We ordered all of our favorite things and pigged out. The place was quiet for a Tuesday night, so we got to celebrate just the two of us for one evening. There was still that small seed of doubt that maybe the test was wrong, but I knew I would have the final answer today.

Today I woke up excited. I got the grief stuff out of me the night before and today I could just think about my boys and know that at least one of them is there! I went to the doctor first thing and drew blood for the test. As the nurse was drawing my blood, she causally looked at me sideways and said “did you cheat?” I knew that she meant - did I take a home pregnancy test. I fessed up and said that yes I had, and that it came out positive. She smiled and let me know that odds are that the home test was right. She would call me later and let me know.

Later in the day, she did call and excitedly told me that the test had come out positive and got me all set up for the next appointments! I go for another blood test on Friday, where they will check to see that my hormone levels are increasing at a rate that would indicate a healthy pregnancy. Then, on February 24, I will go in for an ultrasound to see if both boys took. Please keep up with the sticky thoughts and prayers!! We would just love to have them both. My due date is October 15-20 or so. That’s a little tricky to work out. Most women don’t know the exact date that they got pregnant, so obstetricians have their own way of determining the due date based on the date of the last menstrual cycle. In my case, the IVF clinic knows exactly when I got pregnant, so their estimations will likely differ from what my OB will tell me. Furthermore, if it is twins, they will come sooner than a standard 40-week pregnancy cycle (which I think means they could come in September).

Either way, we have worked so hard to get here, and are just so excited. There is at least one boy for sure headed my way and I just can’t wait to meet him. Yes I have grief issues. Yes I will be overprotective, but I will love him so very much, and appreciate his presence on this earth more than he could ever possibly know. His life is the giant shining beacon of hope for us we have so desperately needed. Life can more forward and be meaningful again. There will be joy. And we are endlessly grateful to him for providing that for us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update on our remaining embryos…

As promised, the embryologist called to give us the status on the four remaining embryos we had. Unfortunately, none of the remaining embryos made it. The MCADD-positive one was only ever three cells big, and never divided past that size over a few days. That was not enough for the Stanford University project, and not viable for any other use. It was never meant to survive if that was all it could do over a six day period. The other three that they couldn’t get a reading on at the genetics lab began deteriorating on the last possible day of development. Again, these were never meant to survive, and fell apart all on their own.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am so glad that there are no tough decisions about what to do with leftover embryos. On the other, I do feel a little vulnerable having only one shot at this. We were only able to create two viable embryos and they are now in me. If this round doesn’t take, or if we want more babies in the future, this doesn’t leave us with options. Either way, it is what it is, and we have to learn to take each day as it comes, and not waste energy worrying about what may or may not happen in the future.

I am still dealing with the after effects of hyper-stimulation (where the body goes overboard on the hormones and makes life pretty uncomfortable). Just the fact that we went through all of this to get two viable embryos makes it worth it. I have literally completely pushed my body to its limits to get these two boys. I may be uncomfortable, but it was necessary to get the result. They say it will take 2-3 weeks for this to work itself out. Because of how this feels, it is forcing me to lay around doing nothing a lot more than I would ordinarily do, which is probably best for the babies anyhow.

We are still just so completely excited. We have been happier than we have been in a long time thinking about the possible future with twin boys ahead of us. We have done as much as is humanly possible at this point, and it is up to God what happens next, so please pray for us! Think sticky thoughts for us and our boys! We would love to keep them both if at all possible!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Transfer

Our embryos, taken just a few minutes before the transfer. The one on top is already hatching!

This is the ultrasound pic showing one of our embryos in my uterus. It is the white spot close to the top. You can click the picture to make it larger.

Oh my goodness, what a day! I wrote A LOT this time, but it was such a big day with lots of activity. Here's the story:

I started off my getting a massage first thing. My acupuncturist thinks it is a good idea to get a massage between the retrieval and transfer because it is great for getting circulation going, which I will need lots of good blood flow to my uterus to support the embryos they put in there. It is also just a really, really nice thing to do for yourself, and if it is recommended (even slightly) but one of my care team, who am I to contradict their well thought out and researched opinion?

My old prenatal yoga teacher is a massage therapist, and also does hypnotherapy which I have been seeing her for during this last month. It isn’t the traditional “look at my watch swinging back and forth. You are getting verrrryyyy sleeeeppppyyy” sort of stuff. It is just about very deep relaxation. Stress can have a huge negative impact on your success in IVF. IVF is, by nature, a stressful process, so she has helped me relax all month long (I love her!!). This last week with hearing disappointing updates every day about our supply of embryos has just about sent me over the edge. I have already lost a child. This week, I was losing them every day and beating myself up for not being able to make healthy children. To spend an hour with her first thing was the perfect medicine. She gave me a fabulous massage all while helping me get my head screwed on straight again. It is time for the next phase of this process, and it is time to leave the stress of this last week behind me and focus on supporting the new life that will be placed inside of me.

The plan was to leave at 9:30 in order to have plenty of time to get to the hospital. They wanted me to show up about 11:30, and then do the transfer at 11:45. The one moving target in this was that we had to get the results back from the genetic testing. The doctor called and said that she wanted us to wait to come up to Denver until we had that back. If it made us late for our 11:45 appointment, that would be no big deal. The team was prepared to do the transfer whenever we were ready. As you can imagine, we were pretty anxious to hear what they’d found, so to cut the tension, we put on some old Seinfeld episodes and hung out. Finally the phone rang. There were two embryos that they had hoped to transfer. They were the best of the bunch. Both are carriers. Chris and I are fine with making more carriers. Just knowing about it is the biggest part of the battle. That gives options that we didn’t have when we had Noah. When these kids are grown and can have their own babies, they can test for it beforehand in their partners. And Chris and I know from being carriers ourselves that it doesn’t impact your health and livelihood in the slightest. We were so excited that the two best embryos were good to go for implantation. They had also been looked up and down for all the major chromosomal issues as well and came out completely clean.

And, they are both boys!!!

Through the whole process of screening for these various illnesses, they find the sex of the embryos. We wanted to know. Oh my goodness, we were just on cloud nine driving up to Denver and thinking about our boys!! The interesting part about these babies is that one of them got the carrier gene from me and the other got the carrier gene from Chris. It is amazing that they can tell that.

What about the other four embryos? One of them has full-blown MCADD, and the other three they could not get a reading. We asked the embryologist why that could happen, and he explained that most likely the cell they sent the lab did not have a nucleus. That means that they will likely not develop and be viable for implantation. Even the MCADD embryo is not looking so hot. He plans to give them another day before giving up on them. They cannot survive outside of my body for longer than 6 days. Today is day 6, so they need to be frozen if we are going to keep them, and he is going to tell us if that is even worth perusing. We were planning to send our MCADD embryo to the research project through Stanford University. If it doesn’t grow, it won’t be suitable for their purposes. The embryologist is supposed to call us today to let us know how they are doing.

We got up to Denver and they got us back to the operating room pretty quickly to get our boys implanted. The whole process was pretty quick and easy. The lab where they keep the embryos is just off the operating room where they were doing the implantation. They knocked on a window that led to the lab from the OR or called down the hall for the embryologist to come in when they needed him. I had to go in with a full bladder because I guess that helps them see what they are doing in the ultrasound to make sure that they transfer the embryos in the right spot.

Before we began, the embryologist gave us a picture of our embryos! We were just amazed and excited to see them! One of them has already begun hatching (the top one). That is a critical part in development. The embryo sheds it’s outer shell and the new outside of it sticky and helps it to stick to the uterus and begin bonding with it. This little guy desperately needed to be put in me before he completed that process. The other hasn’t gotten there yet, but is plugging along in its development just great.

Once it was all over, they had me lay on my back for about 20 minutes. They left me in the room with Chris, and the two of us were just giggly and excited that we were finally here. We are so excited to know that we have boys. We would have been happy with anything, but to have it be personal enough to know the sex of them, and begin to imagine what life would be like is just so cool. And, we have the comfort of knowing they are healthy. We may be always be neurotic about every bump on the knee or sore throat, but it will be based on our grief and not on an actual illness. That is so much easier to handle.

After 20 minutes the doctor came back in and got us set up to go home and relax. My parents had driven us to the hospital, so they had the car ready, and we hopped in and headed across the street to grab some lunch before we went home. I was beginning to feel a little crampy and uncomfortable, but thought I could make it through this quick stop. I let the others get in line at the restaurant, and I sat down in a nearby booth. I started to feel worse and worse, and before I knew it, the world was starting to spin and I felt like I might throw up. My mom was there and got me to the bathroom. I sat down on the floor and she handed me cold compresses (thank God it was a onesie so we had the place to ourselves). I didn’t throw up, but I felt terrible. We decided that I should go back to the hospital. My stomach hurt worse and worse, and I was just so lightheaded and nauseous.

Chris took me straight back to the outpatient surgery center where we just were, and the doctors from the fertility clinic came and checked me over. Basically, because they were so eager to have me release as many eggs as was safely possible, counting on some not making it through the testing process and would be sick, they had me on some more elevated doses of hormones than what they would ordinarily prescribe. That can cause some side effects like swelling and excess fluid in the abdomen (which causes pain) along with dizziness and nausea. It is uncomfortable for me, but not life threatening by any means, nor does it harm my embryos that were just transferred. So, the game plan was to get me comfortable so I could go home and to give me some medications to keep me comfortable over the next few weeks as these excess hormones slowly make their way out of my body. They gave me some pain medications, and got me feeling more normal. They gave me all the release paperwork and had discharged me again. I went to use the ladies room before we left, and sure enough I almost fainted as soon as I was upright and threw up. They put me back in bed again, and this time decided to hook me up to an IV and get a couple of bags of fluid in me along with some anti nausea medication. At this point, the outpatient surgery center was closing so they had to move me down to the ER.

I have to say that through all of this, I am amazed at the care and attention that the hospital staff paid me. It was a totally different experience from every other hospital I have been to where you wait and wait for someone to see you. There was an amazing nurse who was hardly ever out of eyesight when we were in the outpatient surgery area. It was outside of her duties to take us on, but she did anyways and cared for us so well. The doctors from the fertility clinic were constantly present. One of them in particular sat with us for a long time and personally took us down to the ER and made sure we had everything we needed before he left. He gave us his personal beeper number and told us to call him with any questions, even if it is 2:00 in the morning. We sat in the ER for a few hours as they dripped IV fluid into me, and Chris never left my side. We were still so very excited about our boys and talked a lot about them while we waited. As evening came on, the ER got more and more interesting with all sorts of people coming through (that in itself is a whole other blog post!). We were finally released about 8:00pm. I felt well enough to survive the drive home. We got home about 9:00 and I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see my own bed!

I am on bed rest today, and will need to keep things slow and easy for the next several weeks. We do our first pregnancy test on February 10. It will be a blood test at the clinic. They will do a series of them over the coming next few weeks. Somewhere they will do an ultrasound to see if both stuck. Think sticky thoughts for me!! We would just be thrilled to have both boys. We will let you know!