Infertility Awareness Week

This week is Infertility Awareness Week.  I feel like I’ve been making all of my readers aware of infertility for quite some time now.  I try to be honest, open, and transparent about our infertility struggles, because I know we are not alone.  This week, however, you may see more people sharing about their struggles because of the awareness week.

Last Tuesday we received word that none of our embryos survived to our planned Day 5 Transfer.  We were sitting in our hotel room, waiting to head the 3 miles to the clinic for transfer when we got the call that there was no need to come in.  I had worried that this would happen, heck, I had even suspected it.  When you’re used to the only kind of luck you have being bad luck, you learn to anticipate the worst, but hope for the best.

It’s a very weird feeling to grieve for something you never had.  To grieve for potential little lives that could have been your babies.  It somehow seems different than the grief you feel when you get your period each month after hoping that your efforts were fruitful a couple weeks prior.  You’ve put so much time, effort, energy, and money into the pills, injections, invasive tests, travel expenses, and then in one phone call, it was all for nothing.  You feel somehow like your grief shouldn’t be as bad, because at least you didn’t get pregnant and then miscarry, and you don’t want people to think you’re being unreasonable for the sadness you feel in your heart when it doesn’t work out.  Not just sadness for yourself, but also your spouse, who is also grieving and feeling the same sense of loss you do.

So I took a few days to grieve.  To just be sad, to cry, to feel sorry for myself and my husband.  And then you have to figure out if it’s worth doing it all over again and maybe not having any different result.  For some people, that answer would be a definite yes.  Some people feel the pull to be a parent at all costs–emotionally and financially.  Some people would feel incomplete without a child in their life.  But then there are some people, like Eddie and I who are also content as just a couple.  We would love a child, we would welcome a child, we would kick ass at parenthood, but we don’t necessarily feel deeply empty inside because we haven’t reproduced.  So we will take the time to decide what is best for our family, whatever answer that may be.

But for now, being a family of two is pretty great, and I wouldn’t trade my mister for the world.  He’s been an amazing sidekick, not just through this journey, but through our entire life together.  I definitely got the best.

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We’re getting there!

I went this morning for my follow-up ultrasound after being on Estrogen for about 12 days.  They want to see an endometrial lining of at least 8 and I was at 10.4mm, so that is excellent news!  They also drew blood, so as long as my progesterone level is good (they want to see it low to know I haven’t ovulated on my own this month already) then we are a go for a transfer in the next week!

As long as the labs are good, fertilization will happen in the lab on Thursday and I will begin my progesterone injections, then we will watch our little embryos for a couple days to see what they are up to.  Depending on their progress, we will either transfer on day 3 (Sunday) or day 5 (Tuesday).  We may have ourselves a little Easter Egg Embryo!  After the transfer, we will have a waiting period where we hope and pray that our embryo implants and then we hope to hear the positive news that we are pregnant!

I truly never thought I would actually have a baby.  I mean, I wanted one, and I hoped it would happen for us, but I had accepted that I would just be the kick ass aunt rather than the kick ass mom.  And I realize nothing is a sure thing.  There are a million things that have to line up for us to actually get our baby in our arms… but this is the closest we have ever been to actually making that happen.  It seems totally unbelievable!

Please continue to think happy thoughts for us, and we are hoping that our 2017 luck is changing for the better!

Expect the Unexpected

If there’s one thing my mister and I have learned in our 7.5 years of marriage, it’s that very thing: Expect the Unexpected.  Life in the LaRosa household is rarely predictable, and when it becomes calm and smooth sailing, we normally know that is the calm before a very large storm.  This time was no different.

Things have been going pretty smoothly for Eddie and myself.  We are both working, bills are paid and we still have money to have fun, we are planning to start a family in the very near future… this calm never lasts for long.  On Friday March 10, I stopped by Eddie’s work to see him, and he asked if I thought he should go to the hospital, as he shoved his finger in my face.  Now one thing you need to know about my mister is that he never EVER suggests going to the hospital, unless it’s serious.  The only other time, in fact, that he’s suggested going, he ended up having a life threatening condition called Necrotizing Fasciitis.  He could have died had he not gone.  He knows his body.

So as I’m looking at his finger, I’m seeing that it’s discolored and looking bluish/purple, and when I very lightly touched it, he nearly screamed in pain.  He had complained about a week prior that his last two fingers were kind of cold and tingly, but that’s not honestly out of the ordinary, considering he has some neuropathy issues from his cervical fusion a few years back.  But when it started changing color, he knew it wasn’t just normal.  So out to the local ER we went.  As we waited to be examined and see the doctor, the color began to get darker and more “dusky” as they called it.  They ran labs and a few other tests, listened to his pulse on a doppler, and determined he likely needed someone more specialized in hand surgery.  They weren’t sure, but believed he had a blockage of some sort.  The nearest hand surgery team was in Springfield, about 80 miles away, and we were given permission to drive ourselves there and had already been accepted by the plastic surgery/hand team, led by Dr. Nada Berry.  surgery 05  Once we got to the ER at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, we were examined by a regular physician and his residents, and then someone from Dr. Berry’s team came to do an examination.  Her preliminary assessment was that he had all the symptoms of something called Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome.  It occurs sometimes in people who do a lot of work with their hands, such as mechanics, construction workers, etc.  and can be caused by excessive banging with the hand, that then leads to a blockage.  The only catch is that typically this happens to someone in their 40s-50s, and even then, only rarely.  In fact, this was such a rare thing that pretty much every resident in the ER was coming in to his room to learn about him.  In fact, he even was asked by the head resident if he could present a case study about him for teaching purposes.  Kinda cool… I guess!

So the plastics physician was pretty confident that he had a blockage due to what his symptoms were, but they were unsure if it was due to an aneurysm or a clot, but at any rate, surgery was in his future and we were being admitted.  Ironically, we were admitted to the Ortho floor, because that is where they had an available bed, which is normally why Eddie is in the hospital in the first place!  Once settled in his room, we met with the vascular team, who would be doing an angiogram later that evening to get a clear picture of the blockage and see if there were any others.  For this, they go in through the groin and send a little catheter/wire up through the body, through the heart, and then down his arm… and they found exactly what they expected: a blockage.  Basically, you have an ulnar and a radial artery that sends blood down your arms and to your hand.  His ulnar artery was completely blocked and no blood flow was getting through.  He also had a couple small clots by his fingers in his hand, all of which would need to be removed.  They likely would need to use part of an artery from his leg to graft into the affected area of the hand/wrist.  Surgery was scheduled for Sunday March 12.

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After about 6 hours, start to finish, Eddie was out of surgery!  Dr. Berry met with me and shared that he had a huge blockage in his ulnar artery, around 3″ in length, total, was pulled from the wrist.  Additionally, he had two smaller clots by the fingers that they removed too.  As planned, they did the graft from the leg.  Her main concern right now was making sure he didn’t have vascular disease elsewhere in his body, since he is so young for the hammer syndrome to happen.  She would be ordering tests to look at his legs and heart for additional blockages.

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Thankfully, all testing for clots elsewhere came back negative, but meanwhile, Eddie’s leg began to hurt quite a bit where they took the graft.  It became super swollen, so much so that his wound began opening because of the pressure.  It was determined that he had developed a hematoma (collection of fluid/blood under the surface) and the only way to get rid of one that large would be to go in for another surgery.  Eddie didn’t mind though, as he was in so much pain because of it, that he wanted that thing out of there!  It likely developed because he was on blood thinners for his wrist problem, but then they allowed that other gunk to pool and collect under the skin from the other wound.  So, on Thursday March 16, Eddie went in for his second surgery this hospital stay (Surgery 17 total!).  Thankfully this surgery was much quicker and they placed two drains to hopefully help with the fluid.

Our remaining days in the hospital were spent simply waiting.  Eddie had to have frequent checks of his hand right after that surgery, to be sure the blood flow was restored and continued to be, and all was well there.  Before he could go home, they wanted his INR (how thick/thin his blood is) to be between 2-3.  This can be a lengthy process to bridge from IV blood thinner to oral blood thinner, and it was taking forEVER.  We also found out that his hemoglobin was low, so over the weekend of the 18-19 (can’t remember which day!), he had to get two units of blood.  Because of this, it made his INR drop lower than it had been, and we were getting frustrated!  I had to return to work on Monday March 20, and I hated to leave Springfield without Eddie (I had stayed there since he was admitted).

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Ultimately, I headed home alone on Sunday March 19, but thankfully not for long!  On Tuesday March 21, Eddie was able to discharge!  His INR didn’t quite get to the level they wanted it to, but they were willing to send him home on injection thinners and the oral thinners until he was bridged over and at the therapeutic level for his INR.

Recovery for him has been rough this go-round though.  Having a bum hand on one side and a bum leg on the other makes caring for yourself a little difficult!  He’s also been in a lot of pain, which obviously makes things worse.  But there is certainly no place like home!  On Thursday March 23, we had a little scare though, as Eddie was feeling lightheaded, dizzy, off-balance, double vision, and pounding headache.  His mom took him to the ER just in case, to make sure nothing was wrong.  Being on the blood thinner and with his symptoms, of course they want to rule out a brain bleed.  But happily, everything was totally normal–even the INR finally!

It will be a slow road to recovery, and we will be following up with Anticoagulation Management Services (AMS) for at least a year, as they monitor his progress with the blood thinners and check him out to see if he has any kind of clotting disorder that we don’t know about.  But we will get there… we always do!

Many people have asked if they can do anything to help.  And I know a lot of times people say “let me know if I can help” but then so often, you never ask them for help because you don’t want to be burden on other people.  But the best thing that can be done to help us is one of three things (because Eddie will have missed a full month of work without pay): Food (meals or gift cards for groceries would be the most helpful.  Eddie’s not able to lift anything with his hand, so he’s stuck with only using his non-dominant hand.  Finger foods/snacks are easiest for him, as he’s not super coordinated with his right hand!); Gas (in the form of cards or PayPal would be super helpful.  He will have to travel back and forth from Springfield for several months as he heals, in addition to the transportation to Urbana to see the blood doctor for at least a year); Donations (I realize I just recently was posting about wanting to raise money for our IVF journey.  That can wait if we need it to–right now we need to just meet our basic needs financially, until Eddie is able to go back to work and we have steady income rolling in again.  The easiest way to donate would be to send through paypal to teale.larosa@gmail.com I realize some may think it’s tacky to ask for these things, but as I mentioned, so many have asked how they could help; Honestly THIS is how you can help).

Thank you to everyone for all your love and prayers of the past couple of weeks.  It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, but as long as my mister is next to me, the ride is always a little more bearable.

Next Steps & Fundraising

I feel like a lot has happened since our last appointment at MFS.  In reality, not much has happened, but it feels like we are making progress!  First of all, I am down almost 12 pounds toward my goal of losing 30.  This is great news!  For those that have been asking me what my “baby diet” (as I refer to it) is, basically I am just following a low carb/high protein diet.  Not like crazy low carb though–I’m trying to stay under 100 g per day, and get my protein as close to 100 (or more) as possible.  This is essentially the same diet I followed post WLS, but I am consuming around 1400 calories a day, which is more than I could hold after WLS.  And clearly it is working!  I’m also tracking everything with myfitnesspal’s app, which is super helpful.  I’ve lost my weight so far with just the diet modification, no exercise.  Obviously in the beginning, weight falls off faster, so I don’t anticipate that the remaining weight will come off as quickly as this first chunk did.

We have been in communication with MFS to discuss our fertility plan and our next steps to work towards that.  I will share more details about our fertility plan in the coming days/weeks.  I was instructed to call once my next cycle started, so that I could get scheduled for my uterine cavity study.  They like to do this around the second week of your cycle to have the lowest risk of infection.  Essentially this is like a dry-run of IVF.  They will insert a small catheter through my cervix, but instead of injecting an embryo, they will inject saline.  They will then use an ultrasound to get images of my uterus so that they know what they are working with.  They want to know that my uterus looks healthy and that there are no unexpected surprises.  While I am having that lovely test done, Eddie will also be there for an appointment of his own.  His will likely be a lot more fun for him than mine will be for me.  Yes, he has to provide a “specimen”.  When he did this a few years ago, he was able to do so from the comfort of our own home and then deliver it.  This time, no delivery is possible when it’s a 2.5 hour drive!  Additionally, we both will have urine and labs tested for their routine infectious disease screen.

As part of our fertility plan, we are required to also attend a one-hour counseling session at a nearby behavioral health center called The Cabin.  Basically we are just having a consultation to discuss how to best cope with the process of IVF and the feelings associated with that whole process.  It’s basically an appointment to equip us with tools to enhance our fertility treatment experience.  Because we are located in Illinois and they are in Indiana, we are able to do a phone session, but since we will be there next week for all of the above tests, we decided to just go ahead and schedule in person.  So next Wednesday will be a very busy day for us–testing/procedures in the early afternoon, then our counseling session in the late afternoon.  Things are moving along!

Some of you may have seen my recent fundraising post that I shared on facebook.  We started a fundraising site through Razoo, as their fees are the lowest of reputable fundraising sites we researched.  There are details on that page (linked below) about the costs we are facing and how we will use the money that friends/family so generously donate to us.  Please don’t feel obligated, but if you are inclined to help us reach our goals, you have no idea how appreciated it would be.  Several friends have already donated, and I want you to know that we intend to be very transparent about what we spend the funds on–they will be used exclusively for our fertility treatment and costs associated with that.  What a relief it is to know that next week when we go for our counseling session (a $120 fee), half of that will have been covered by our sweet friends who donated.  Additionally, our gas for the trip has been covered as well.  We are SO, SO appreciative and thankful.

It was a hard decision to make to create a fundraising page–sometimes people give the side eye when people create pages to raise money for things that aren’t terminal illnesses or great tragedy.  The best way we can think to share why we created one was simply put: we felt we needed to.  Sometimes people are willing to help, but all you have to do is ask.  And if we don’t ask for your generosity, then we likely won’t receive it.  Eddie and I have had a tough 7.5 years of marriage, health-wise.  for 6.5 of those years, Eddie was unable to work full-time due to physical injury/disability (though not deemed disabled in Social Security’s eyes, so no income coming in for him).  During this time, I was the sole breadwinner, working at our local mental health center.  If you know much about most behavioral health centers, their employees are not paid extravagantly.  We made this work for 6.5 years and did not ask for help.  We did what we had to do.  Thankfully, we are both able to work full-time now, and I also work a part-time job, but we both make very modest salaries, ones that don’t afford the luxury of having an extra $20,000 laying around in savings.  THIS is why we are asking for your help.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it takes that same village to make a child too!

If you feel inclined to donate to our fundraiser, I promise that you will know where your money is going.  I will be sharing regularly what part of our fertility journey you helped fund!  And if you’re not able to donate, we would love if you shared our story with others who may be in a position to help financially.  Thank you so much for everyone’s support, monetarily and otherwise!

Here is the link to our site: https://www.razoo.com/embed/6s018g?embed=tile

 

Hope

I wanted to share about my experience with the fertility specialist we visited last week.  I was so nervous going into it.  My previous experience with an RE (reproductive endocrinologist) wasn’t the best.  It left me feeling hurt and hopeless for a long time.  It made me not want to try.  But that is SO not the experience I had when we visited with Dr. Reuter and her staff at Midwest Fertility Specialists in Carmel, IN.

We left bright and early on Wednesday February 15 to head to Indiana.  They are on eastern time and we are on central, so we had to allow for an extra hour due to the time change.  We left at about 630am for our 10am (Indiana time) appointment.  It wasn’t a bad drive, one I suppose we will get used to over the next weeks and months.

When we arrived, I was impressed with how nice the facility was.  It was located in a medical building with many other types of offices on each floor.  The entire floor where MFS is located is dedicated to their services.  They do everything in-house there, from basic testing, to semen analysis, to IUI, to IVF, and even more!  Everything under one roof is pretty great.  The waiting room was very peaceful and accommodating, and every single staff person we encountered was absolutely amazing and kind.

Once we were called back, a tech took me to get vitals and then led us to a consultation room where we would meet with Dr. Reuter.  We sat in there for what felt like an eternity, but was actually only about 20 minutes.  I felt like I was going to either barf, cry, or both, the entire time.  Even though we were there, I still felt like it was going to be a waste of everyone’s time, I wasn’t totally convinced she would help us.

Eventually she came in, and it was clear that the delay was because she was reading our chart and previous test results, and considering what the best plan of action for us would be.  She was very prepared–she knew about our family history that we had taken time to complete for new patient paperwork, she knew about my weight loss surgery history and lifelong weight problems, she knew that we had tried to have a baby for a very long time without ever receiving a positive pregnancy test.  She was so prepared, and she was so kind and empathetic.

She discussed with us several options that she felt were the best chance for us to have a baby.  She disagreed with the previous specialist that simply trying oral or injectible hormones would be a benefit to me, but she also expressed that she didn’t think that would be a high-risk thing to try if we wanted to (unlike the previous doctor who said due to my weight it was too “risky” to give me the medication I “needed” to reproduce).  She believes that there is more going on with my body than just low hormone production, and that after 7.5 years of trying and never having a pregnancy that we should pursue aggressive treatment.  After several options that she presented to us, the choice was made for us to pursue IVF.

There are a few hurdles we have to get over before we can begin the process though, the first of those is within my control.  She is willing to do IVF, but their IVF table is rated for a certain weight, and I am about 30 pounds over that.  So once I lose 30 pounds, she is willing to move forward.  Other hurdles include insurance approval.  Our doctor and the facility is out of network, which means we will probably have to pay as much for one round of IVF and medications as we would if we bought a brand new car.  It’s not cheap.  On top of that, we will have a lot of gas money to spend going back and forth to Carmel for our testing and procedures.  Additionally, we will have hotel stays once the time comes for transfer because of the need to monitor things for a few days.  Dr. Reuter also did her part to educate and inform Eddie and I about the potential risks of pregnancy in someone my size.  She did her part to inform me though, and we believe the benefits outweigh the risks.  She is only willing to transfer one embryo at a time when we do the transfer due to the fact that I would be considered a higher risk pregnancy anyway; she doesn’t want to throw multiples into the mix and make the pregnancy even higher risk.  I respect that and understand it and I’m willing to compromise with her on that.  But it also might mean that we go through all of this and it doesn’t end up being a successful attempt.  That’s OK though, because at least she gave us something in this appointment that we hadn’t had before: HOPE.

So the next steps are to wait for pre-authorization from my insurance to move forward with some updated testing.  Eddie has to have a new semen analysis since it’s been 2.5 years since his last one (all was good then!), and they will do a uterine cavity study on me to see how hospitable my lady bits are for hosting a baby.  I will also be busting my tail to lose 30 pounds (9 down so far!).

Infertility is something a LOT of couples deal with, and until recently it was something that people went through silently, without much support from others, because it was something people were embarrassed about or uncomfortable talking about.  I feel like the more people that share and talk about infertility, the more we will realize we are NOT alone in this, and the more we will have support from those who love us.  Eddie and I appreciate all the love and support that we know our friends and family will provide in the coming weeks/months.  We couldn’t do this without you!

Try, Try Again…

Three years ago was the start of a tough time in my life.  Poppy died.  I had the enormous task of cleaning a house filled with 30 years of memories.  I sold that house.  We tried to have a baby.  I was told by the fertility doctor that she wouldn’t help me until I lost 30 more pounds (after losing 150 already).  I got a mass in my breast.  I had several mammograms at 30 years old.  I had surgery to remove the mass (not cancerous, woo!).  It was a whirlwind.  I gained a lot of weight.  And I’ve felt a lot of guilt.

I allowed these things to get in my way and I allowed them to be the excuses for my re-gain post WLS.  I accepted that I would continue to be heavy.  I accepted that I probably wouldn’t have a baby ever.  I figured it is what it is.  But I’m trying to convince myself that it doesn’t have to be.

We are going next week to a fertility specialist in the Indianapolis area.  I don’t know what she’ll say.  I don’t know if she’ll help us.  I don’t know how we will afford it.  But we are going to try.  I don’t want it to be a waste of their time or ours, and I hope it won’t be.  I know she will tell me I need to lose weight (yeah, like I don’t know that?), but I’m hopeful it will be a more positive experience than I had with the last specialist.

Time will tell…

Long Time Gone

It has been quite some time since I’ve written–I had to go back now and check to see when the last time actually was–February.  And here we are in July.  So what’s been going on?

We were lucky enough to travel to Florida twice this year already.  The first time was just for a long weekend for a friend’s wedding, which was lovely (but the drive was NOT).  The second time was for our family vacation to Anna Maria Island.  It was a very pretty place, and somewhere on the Gulf where I had not actually been, so it was nice to travel somewhere new.  Later this month we have to take a long drive again, but this time to Colorado.  I have a conference to attend for my Thirty-one business, and Eddie always comes along for the ride.  This will be my third year going, and I’m excited to see what’s in store.  After this trip though, we will be saving our pennies, as we have one more trip planned at the end of the year for a good friend’s wedding–in Cancun!  We’ve never been out of the country, which reminds me… passports… and we opted to have this trip be our anniversary/birthday/Christmas present to one another.  We are “experience” people and would rather go places and experience things instead of have actual possessions anyway, so not getting the physical gifts on those holidays is not really a big deal to us.  We will have the memories!

Eddie had a double osteotomy last summer and is still healing from the second one.  For those who don’t know, they cut a chunk of bone out of each of his thighs, essentially breaking them each, then put a plate in and wait for the break to heal.  One of the breaks is still there (how he walks around I have no idea) but it is slowly getting better.  Once it’s healed up, two more surgeries will be in the works to remove the plates, as they are causing a lot of pain and discomfort in being there.  Hopefully once the plates are out he will have more relief from the daily pain he is in.  He is the toughest person I know and I don’t know how he does it.  No other choice though, so just have to keep plugging along and live the life you have!

Despite his surgeries, he’s still done great maintaining his weight loss from the sleeve surgery in February 2013.  Over 2 years post-op and he still maintains a 200+ pound weight loss!  At his lowest he was around 160, but he is more comfortable hovering around 190, which is what he’s maintained. I’m so proud of him!  I, however, have struggled with re-gain.  I could blame it on a number of things in my personal life, but the bottom line is that I stopped following my bariatric diet plan, and when you do that, you gain weight.  I lost my Poppy, I had a stressful year afterwards, I had a giant tumor pop up in my breast and had to have surgery to have it removed (no cancer!), and a host of other stressful things happened that I couldn’t control, so I let my eating get out of control too.  I am working hard now though to get back on track and lose what I gained in the last year (60 pounds), and then hopefully some beyond that.  My initial goal though is to take off what I had gained back.  It seems that no one really talks about re-losing the weight after a post-op gain.  I’ve gone to support groups to seek motivation from others who may have done it, but those people aren’t there.  I’m sure they exist, but they’re not around to be motivation… so I will be my own motivation, and I will then go to those support groups after I’ve succeeded so that I can be the motivation for someone that might be going through this too.

I guess there’s not a whole lot more going on right now, just mostly same old same old… plugging along and rolling with the punches!