January 2017. A new year, a fresh start and a renewed sense of ambition and excitement to get this thing done!! As if we have any say in the matter. Let’s Do It! Here we go… for real now! Let’s get pregnant!! We met with Dr. Baker Jan. 18th and she said we should change up the medication, my lining thinning out was not great so we switched to Letrozol instead of Clomid for stimulating my follicles. We also talked to her about the possibility of IVF if the Intrauterine Insemination we were doing this time didn’t work. Like I said before, each time we learn more and things get a little more complex. The IUI would add a new element; Instead of us having intercourse and hoping Nick’s sperm would survive my vagina’s hostile environment the Dr. will take his sample which had been “washed” (concentrating the sperm) and place it directly in my uterus via catheter through my cervix. This gets the sperm as close as possible to the egg and increase our odds of getting pregnant. Meanwhile, as if this wasn’t enough to keep things interesting Nick and I took a big step and decided to refinance his student loans. All the shit people our age(s) do in 2017!

Nick was going to Las Vegas for the annual School Photographers Association of California conference, but when we went to the Dr. the morning of Jan. 25 to see how things were going we were surprised how well I had responded to the Letrazol. I had a GIANT follicle on the left (27mm!!) It was go time!! We ran home and had sex then I took Nick to the airport for his conference but he had to come home early for the IUI. Later that night I did my trigger shot in the bathroom at work. On Thursday I picked Nick up from the airport and on Friday morning Jan. 27th we did the IUI. I also had a urinary tract infection 😦 (this was especially annoying bc I needed to have a full bladder for the procedure but the UTI was making me have to pee every 5 min. I held it as long as I could, laying down after the procedure for a bit, Nick held my hand and was super supportive and goofy with me. Then finally I ran out of the room with the sheet wrapped around me to go pee. Of course I was cursing myself, “What if it doesn’t work bc I didn’t stay laying down longer???”.

Since we weren’t sure if any of this was going to work we decided to start looking into becoming foster parents. Nick and I signed up for the orientation in Whittier on Feb 2nd. We learned a lot about how the process works and decided it was right for us. No matter what happens we want to have a family, and we agreed that we are in a position to help kids who need loving supportive adults to care for them so we started the process.

We waited the 2 weeks. I felt a little different, my boobs were kinda tender but I couldn’t tell if it was just in my head. I took the test Feb 9th and my HcG was 38 mIU/ml (THIRTY EIGHT MILI-INTERNATIONALUNITS OF HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPIN PER MILLILITER OF BLOOD!! From an embryo!!  Growing inside of ME! Not from the hamster ovary cells!!!)

I got an email from my the doctor’s office to test again and make sure. It should double every couple days… on 2/11 it was 96mIU/ml!!! Shhhhh. Shhhhh. Be cool my baby…. I was too nervous to be excited. But I was excited, in my own way. Nick was EXCITED in his usual excited way!!!!!! I was pretty tired and trying to take it easy but I also have a hard time stopping myself from lifting and pulling and moving things at work. It was hard to pay attention to these things when I didn’t feel any different really.

On Fedb. 14th we went to the DCFS office and got fingerprinted for the LiveScan background check. Waiting in the office we saw people there with their foster kids (although they don’t use that term. We are considered Resource Parents, not foster parent… so these were Resource kids??) They were there having visits with the kid’s biological parents. It was not the nicest place to hang out, it had the requisite cheap institutional grade disinfectant smell. Nick’s fingers wouldn’t scan because they were so beat up from work — he had an instal that day. This was not the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s day but it made me SO happy. We went out on the 15th for V-day dinner at Crossroads and it was worth the wait. We were so excited about all the things in the works and the food was great!

We couldn’t do much but wait for me to get to the 6 week mark before an ultrasound could pick up anything. I was excited and anxious bc I really didn’t feel much at all. We already started with the week by week belly pictures, and I ordered a t-shirt that had the weeks on it to count down. Nick kept calling our embryo Hodor bc the follicle was so big. I wasn’t sure if I liked the nickname but I went with it, hoping the name wouldn’t stick.

Feb 25th & 26th we went to our Resource Family classes at Citrus College. Each day was about 7 hours. It was intense. I cried a lot listening to stories of what kids had been through. We had a couple sitting next to us, Aaron and Vanessa, who were also looking to adopt. Aaron grew up in the foster system and had stories that were heartbreaking but also reminded us of why we NEED to do this. People are terrible. Lot’s of people foster for the money. It’s not even that much money, but people take it and neglect the kids. The kids who wind up in the system have already been through something traumatic, they need someone to be an advocate for them and help them through this hard time. I’m so glad we went to these classes and made some friends who will be going through the same process we are.

On Feb 28th I had my U/S. On the monitor there was a gestational sac and yolk, but no heartbeat. My online searches lead me to a wide array of experiences. Some people could see the heartbeat at 6 weeks, some people couldn’t. My hCG was up to 7517mIU/ml which was good… so we waited another week. I went back on March 8th and there was still no heartbeat and no fetal pole. I was bummed. We were talking about my options for “removing the pregnancy” if it didn’t progress. I felt sick when I got home, looking at the descriptions of the procedures made me feel dizzy. I asked Dr. Baker if we could wait one more week before doing anything… just in case.

On the March 11th we went to our pre-placement class at Citrus and completed the final required training to become a Resource Family!!

I was exhausted. I think this was the most emotional thing I have been through in a long time. Nick and I leaned on each other. I know it was hard for him too. He reminded me to be positive, and my mom reminded me to be positive, but in my gut I felt like the pregnancy was over and then felt guilty for being negative. I went back to Dr. Baker on March 14th and to our surprise at 8 weeks we saw a heartbeat!!!! It was very tiny and slow, 64bpm.

Still, I was so exited to tell Nick!! I gave him the U/S printout of our teeny little sneaky Ninja baby…. The name that replaced ‘Hodor’. Dr. Baker did warn me though that something wasn’t right, and that the embryo looked more like 6 weeks. We waited for another week to see how things would go.

Nicks mom Jean came down that weekend so we could celebrate her birthday with her, she brought the crib that Nick used when he was a baby, and all the bedding that she made for him! I was so so touched. I really hoped that we would put our baby in there someday in the not too distant future.

March 24th I went back to Dr Baker and there was no heartbeat. Everything had stopped. I was sad and didn’t want to have to decide what to do about it, but I had to. Waiting to miscarry on my own could take weeks and it seemed like taking care of it while everything was smaller was a better way to go. I had to choose weather to have the D&C procedure (Dilation and Curettage is where the cervix is dilated and the doctor uses a “special instrument” – I imagined a long bar spoon with a twisty handle, to scrape the uterine lining) or to take a pill called Misoprostol, which would cause contractions to expel the pregnancy. Decisions, decisions.

This is going to sound crazy, but I didn’t want to be knocked out, I didn’t want a doctor to take it out of me while I lay unconscious. I wanted to feel the pain and grieve in my own way. And truthfully I wanted to see it. I was so skeptical of this Ninja baby that was inside of me. I know that sounds weird but that’s what I wanted. I went home and took the first pills (vaginal suppositories) at 1:39p and at 2:10p I took a horse pill ibuprofen. By 2:45p I was having chills and felt very cold. My nail beds looked bluish. I had cramps and was gassy. I tried to distract myself by watching some TV but the pain from the cramps was not something I could ignore. I took a little nap somehow, and Nick made me some potato soup. We stretched out on the couch and watched more TV. Sometime around 8 or 9pm the bleeding started. It was very heavy and the cramping was intense. I was searching the clots that passed looking for something that looked like the pink image of a floating back lit embryo that was present in every open tab on my laptop and phone. Finally a small clear fluid filled sac passed. I couldn’t see anything in it. I took the next pill and went to sleep. I slept for 9 hours and even though I didn’t bleed overnight the bleeding was really heavy when I stood up in the morning. It continued for like 10 days? Way longer than a normal period for me. Towards the end it was pretty terrible. There was a smell that I cannot describe. I’ve smelled it before, wafting from homeless ladies on the bus. I was extremely self conscious and could not change my pads enough to try and get rid of it. I still wouldn’t have done the D&C which would have removed everything at once. But I hope I never have to go through that experience again.

Aside from the bleeding I was feeling normal and kind of wanted to be out of the house and out of this situation. We decided to join my Bike Gang for a day out to go see the poppies. There is something strange but so comforting about being around a bunch of close friends, a lot of whom had no idea what I was going through, so I could talk about other things and feel better for the moment. We had to cut it short because Nick left his car at the shop to be serviced and we had to pick it up. After he got his car I told him he should go see a movie with his friend Duch since I wasn’t interested in that movie and thought I’d go see something else. But then when my plans fell through I decided to just go home. Once I was back home alone some deep sadness set in. I cried it out and was mad that Nick had left me alone even though I TOLD him to go. I guess I wasn’t aware of how much it would affect me. We talked and I explained how I felt. He was sorry even though it wasn’t his fault. We ended up going to see Guardian’s of the Galaxy on Sunday night and I started to feel better.

I had to wait much longer for my hCG levels to drop this time. We decided to get moving on the IVF stuff. May 1st we had our consultation and our minds were blown by how futuristic and crazy the treatment sounded!!!! May 3rd I got my period and my hCG was low enough for us to begin another round of treatment. We didn’t have our Letter of Authorization for IVF from Kaiser yet (I have really good insurance that actually covers a big chunk of the treatment.) So we decided to do another IUI while we waited for the letter. I am not one to linger on the past… so we got right to it. We knew the drill and things moved quickly, but this IUI wasn’t successful.

We ordered baby safe paint for the crib Jean gave us and met with our social worker for DCFS. We also took more classes for services from UCLA for when we eventually get placed with a child.

And the beat goes on…..

Hey Cyster!

I went in for the ultrasound day 4 of my next cycle. I had some cysts which is common for me after my period. Some of the follicles that develop keep growing even though an egg has released and they should just go away. In my younger days I had a couple times where an ovarian cyst had grown as big as a baseball. The last time this happened I was in at the gym when one I didn’t know I had ruptured. I was in a lot of pain and had to be picked up. My gynecologist put me on birth control. I asked if that was the only way to prevent them, since I didn’t really want or need to be on the pill, she said it was. I thought about risking it and getting them very occasionally, it’s seriously like one every 5-10 years. Actually, the reason went on birth control when I was 16 was due to an ovarian cyst, not sexytimes. But when she told me it was possible for a cyst to grow so large that it could twist the ovary, cutting off the blood supply and lessening my ability to conceive in the future, I just took the prescription.  At this time I was 31? 32? I guess my clock was quietly ticking, because what she told me caused a bit of soul searching and some unexpected crying. I had no idea what I wanted but some part of me wanted the option to have kids.

I shouldn’t have been shocked this time when my fertility doctor told me I needed to go on the pill for 3 weeks to get rid of the cyst. But it seemed so wrong! We’re trying to get pregnant and I have to take a contraceptive? Anyway, I followed her instructions and met back up Dec 6th 2016. Everything had resolved and we were good to continue. I took Clomid for 5 days, starting the Saturday of Santa Con! (ADULT!) We went on an awesome getaway w/ friends to Yosemite and then when we came back we had another ultrasound to see how my follicles responded. I had 2 contenders, a 13mm follicle and a 17mm follicle. However, Clomid sometimes causes your lining to stay thinner than it needs to be for embryo implantation. (I have a suspicion that the adverse side affects– that happen to affect other things NECESSARY for being able to conceive are not coincidental. My suspicions about a lot of these things will get their own post soon!) I was prescribed Estradiol (vaginal suppository of estrogen) and it helped a little. We went ahead with the plan: on 12/23 we had our prescribed sex, then the prescribed hamster injection, then x-mas eve more prescribed sex, then x-mas morning sex, then after a hike we had Game of Thrones sex (ummm nothing crazy, we just happened to watch GOT after.) I was hopeful because we did it way more than last time and it was a stress free time. Days off helped. But sadly after 2 weeks (the longest two weeks…..) my test was negative.

I feel like this round was a last push for the year. The office is closed for x-mas and that would have been when we needed to do the IUI if we were going that route. Timed intercourse wasn’t working so we decided next round we would for sure do IUI.

***Bonus Cystory Lesson***

One time when I had an ovarian cyst –this is when I was 22 maybe? I was googling a bunch of stuff bc I really didn’t understand how it all works. I came upon a description of a type of cyst that now haunts me. It is called a Dermoid cyst of the ovary. It contains “a diversity of tissues including HAIR, TEETH, bone, thyroid, etc.” It develops from a totipotential germ cell (a primary oocyte) that is retained within the egg site. (Those were not the types of cysts I was getting, for the record.) A normal person might be like “Eew. no.” but I was like “hm. what do those look like????” and thanks to the interwebs now I know. And so do you mwahahahahahha. (I know you’re looking! Bleh. Stop.)

Oh I want to take you home. I want to give you children.

First attempt: Timed intercourse (So romantic!)

Once we had the plan from Dr. Baker things moved pretty swiftly. I took a pregnancy test before beginning. I guess it’s a precaution before taking these drugs to make sure I’m not already preggers. It was negative and I started the Provera. My cycle began 10-13-2016. The ultrasound was good. They look for ovarian cysts with the baseline ultrasound and luckily I had none. I took Clomid for 11 days to stimulate ovulation. I came back in for my next ultrasound and it was working. My follicles responded well and we waited another day for them to grow more. On 10/25 I gave myself my first injection of Ovidrel. Ovidrel is a “trigger shot” that stimulates the release of an egg. It is Human chorionic gonadotropin (Hcg) although it does not come from humans, and it is not synthetic– it comes from genetically modified Chinese Hamster Ovary cells. So Not Vegan. I am sad to say I didn’t look up any of the drugs I took in this process to see what was vegan and what wasn’t. There is a long list of mixed emotions I have about this whole thing… but my desire to make a little jerk “mini me” and “mini Nick” beat all the other things. Later I’ll explain how I plan on trying to redeem myself.

The trigger shot is a crazy thing. Once administered we have 24-36 hours until ovulation occurs or when the insemination should occur. So we had sex right before the trigger shot, then again the next morning, then again later that night, then we were supposed to again the following morning but things didn’t work out. This gives new meaning to the term “spray and pray”. As exciting and fun as it sounds it’s a lot of work. There is an element of pressure that isn’t normally present. There is also the side effect of decreased cervical mucus from the Clomid, which makes things more difficult. I found that PreSeed, a popular lube for when you want to keep sperm ALIVE, is kinda gross. It’s VERY goopy and not slippery and fun. Also you use an applicator similar to the ones for Monistat and it deposits a blob of cold goo inside you, so I had to warn Nick to wait a minute or he’d get a “cold surprise!”. Laughing helps.

I couldn’t help but be upset with myself for getting sore, and with Nick for nothing really, but I was upset still. I can see how these treatments and this whole process can mess up marriages. This was just the beginning, we had to keep it together. We talked things out as always and Nick gave me a bunch or leeway for being jacked up on hormones… even though I felt mostly “normal” and not like I was all jacked up on homrones.

We waited for 2 weeks to find out if it worked. It’s hard to stay distracted during this time and not obsess about everything. Obviously drinking isn’t an option, so I worked and we went to a fun wedding for Nick’s friends, Ray and Tori. I got a supercute haircut from Lauren at Stag Hair Parlor (holla!!). On the morning of November 9th I woke up early to go take my blood test at Kaiser in Pasadena. I listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on the way over and ugly cried in the parking lot before I could go in. I was not feeling super optimistic. Later that afternoon I got the test results and the message from the nurse saying that I was not pregnant and to call the office on the first day of my next cycle to come in for a baseline ultrasound.

Going back now and looking at my notes about everything, I was like John Snow…. I knew nothing. 😉 I mean, I knew a little, but I feel like it was child’s play.  I didn’t keep good records of dosages and times and explanations of what we were doing. Just the gist of things, enough to follow the Dr.’ s orders. Anyway it could have worked so it was worth a shot. This first attempt “fixed” all the real problems as to why we weren’t conceiving: it made my follicles grow and it made me ovulate. Each time we try it gets a little more complex and a little more invasive but we keep moving forward and we are learning more everyday.

Well… There’s a bathroom down the hall

While Nicole has had to deal with WAAAAAAAAAYYYY more testing and doctor visits than I did, there were still a couple of test that I had to go through as part of the Infertility diagnoses. First off we both had to take a full complement of STD tests. This was pretty standard, pee in a cup and have some blood drawn. This was no biggie and  after a few days, we heard back from the doctor that there are no secret STDs causing our infertility.

Now for the much more awkward test. I needed to provide a sperm sample so they could count how many I was producing as well as how good of swimmers they are (motility). To do this test you have to have the sample at the lab within 30-45 minutes of ejaculating. Because we live a fair distance from our doctor and LA traffic sucks, there is no way for me to drive between my house and the doctor in this amount of time. This means that I would have to provide my sample at the doctors office.

The first step is to get the empty sample container from the lab and make sure it has the right name (they are very concerned about mixing these up). Now, I’ve generally had problems at Kaiser before because while the offices are all housed in one building, the staff has no idea what other departments do. So when I go to the lab and the terrifying unattractive lab worker gives me my specially labeled container I ask, “So where do I go next?”

Her response, “I don’t know, but if you want there is a bathroom down the hall”.

I’m pretty sure this is wrong so I say, “I’m pretty sure there is a room specifically for this”.

“We’ll if there is I sure haven’t heard of it”. She says.

I leave, and wonder how many people she’s convinced to jerk off in the lobby bathroom.

I go up the stairs from the lab and into the office that our fertility doctor is in. There the nurses are much more helpful and tell me, yes, there is a room on this floor and where to go. I go into a room that is just a small office type room with a chair and and some magazines. There is also a DVD player that looks untouched for years. OK, time to get down to business. And then! Laughter! apparently the room door is not particularly sound proof and I can totally hear all the nurses talking in the hallway about someones birthday party. Once that dies down I “provide my sample” and go to the lab to hand it in. I hand it over to the terrifying unattractive lab worker and get the F out.

A few days later we get the results. It turns out they are a little low. Nothing terrible, but lower than average and not what our doctor wants to see. Our doctor then proceeds to tell me that its common that the first sample is low. Apparently our bodies can know masturbation vs sex and will not send out as much sperm when masturbating. Also, stress at time of ejaculation lowers your count. So masturbating combined with the terrifying unattractive lab worker and the nurses talking hurt my sperm count. Because of this I had to retest.

This next time I went in like a pro. I avoided looking directly at the terrifying unattractive lab worker. I brought some headphones. I was ready. And my count reflected that 40+ million sperm in a cup later. Our doctor was happy with how the second test went and I was done with my share of the testing.


Not typical waiting room material

Test Shoob Babies

Here we are, in the midst of our first cycle of IVF (in vitro fertilization). Nick and I have been TTC (“trying to conceive” as the fertility blogs say, and I swear that’s the last time I’LL say it) for a while. It’s been quite a journey. We’ve shared with some friends and coworkers but now we’re getting into some crazy sci-fi stuff, and we think it’s fascinating and cool. We want to tell people all about it all the time, but maybe not everyone cares and it’s hard to tell. So, if you wanna know keep reading, and if not–then please enjoy the rest of your day!

Let me warn you. I might be saying things about SEX and my PERIOD etc.  These are totally acceptable to me but for some reason on other fertility related blogs grown women feel the need to say things like “tonight me and DH (dear hubby) did the BD (baby dance)..” Please understand that I find that repulsive and would much prefer to say “Nick and I had sex.” or we “did it” but that could be confusing bc we didn’t DO IT, as  in make a baby. Anyhoo. You’ll get it I hope… but no Aunt Flo niceties here, so buckle up.

About 2.5 years ago Nick and I we looking at open houses because we think that’s a  fun thing to do. I kept looking at tiny places and Nick said something smart, bc he’s a smart guy… “You should probably think about if you ever want to have kids.” or something like that. I DID want to have kids and Nick said he wanted to have kids too! We went about our newish relationship and joked about him being a stay at home dad and stuff like that. In October 2015 I was ‘late’, but instead of it being scary it was super exciting. We both realized how much we wanted to be pregnant and I decided to go off my birth control. I ended up getting my period that month and I suspected it might take my body some time to adjust, when few months passed and we weren’t having any luck, we decided to look into things.

April 26th 2016 I saw my OB/GYN and she said because of my age and how long we had been trying, we could see a specialist. She referred us to a Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Baker. The soonest appointment wasn’t until JULY 1st. So we went about on a great mini-moon and amazing honeymoon and when we got home we had our work cut out for us! Lots of Dr. appointments, lots of tests, and waiting.

In that first meeting we got some instruction. I had a full blood test to check my hormones and check for STDs etc. and they tested Nick’s blood and sperm. I was prescribed Provera to induce a bleed since my cycles are pretty irregular and as soon as that started I could come in for an ultrasound and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test. I was told it’s a simple test that can show if my tubes are blocked by sending dye though my uterus and it will fill my fallopian tubes and spill out the ends if everything is working. The test also seems to clear blockages for some women… like Draino!

I got my period and went in to the Dr. Office on day 3 for an ultrasound, they looked at my ovaries and counted the follicles. I had a lot.

On day 10 of my cycle I was scheduled for the HSG. I started doxycycline 2 days before to prevent infection. The nurse was really nice and told me what was going to happen. The Dr. came in and began. The speculum went in, my cervix was cleaned w/ betadine and  the Dr. began to poke around. What typically happens is a catheter is inserted in the cervix and a small balloon inflates to hold the catheter in place while the liquid is pushed in. Poke poke poke… nothing, another Dr. came in and tried and couldn’t get it either. Apparently a smaller catheter was needed, they tried to call Dr. Baker but she was not available. They had to send me home w/ no HSG. The problem is that there is a specific window of time when the test can be done and we were at the close of that window. I finished out my antibiotics and waited until the next month.

We used Provera again to start, took the doxycycline again. This next attempt was a little cray. I was told to bring someone with me. Nick was busy with a school picture day and couldn’t be there with me. So I did what anyone would do, I asked my Bike Gang and Reverend Joe Borfo saved the day!  The reason Borfo needed to be there was to wheel me from the Kaiser office on the south side of Sunset, to the Kaiser office on the North side of Sunset. Apparently there’s a liability issue with a KAISER EMPLOYEE taking me across the street in a wheelchair with a catheter in my hooha. Hmph.

Dr. Baker even had a hard time getting the catheter in, I got scared she might give up, so I told her not to worry about hurting me (I’ve learned I have a pretty high tolerance for pain)  so she clamped something and used a shepherd catheter or something like that and got it in! They taped the tube of the catheter to my thigh and in my hospital gown were on our way across Sunset Blvd! The Dr. over there helped me onto the table and hooked up the dye and we watched it on the monitor as it flowed through my uterus and fallopian tubes and out the ends. It was really pretty. hsg.jpg

Anyway, this awkward and mildly crampy procedure was followed by Vegan Chilaquiles at Millie’s (where Pauley Shore goes for breakfast apparently!!) I was pretty happy with the way the day turned out. Having the support of a friend made it much easier!

After we completed all these crazy tests we met with Dr. Baker again and she gave us a diagnosis. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Nick’s tests all showed that he was fine and had normal healthy parts and made normal healthy sperm. There is not really a cure for PCOS, it usually doesn’t even get diagnosed unless someone is trying to get pregnant. Something like 10% of women in the U.S. have it. Some women have excess facial hair, or weight gain. The only symptoms I seem to have are acne and irregular periods.  PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women, BUT there’s still hope for me, in the form of pills and injections and a patient and willing husband.

Next, I’ll tell you all about our treatments so far and where we’re at now!! :))