Thursday, March 30, 2017

How to Add Instant Class to Your Ceiling

Adam is quickly becoming a professional woodworker.  At least according to me.  His latest woodworking projects have taken place in the nursery.  Let me tell you, these babies are going to have the fanciest room in the joint!  

I always figured we would just paint the walls in the nursery and call it a day.  But Adam says that's not good enough for our babies!  He wanted to try out some new woodworking skills and jazz up the nursery. So he's been busy making it a very special place for the twins. 

One of the updates Adam has worked on is adding a planked ceiling.  It turned out beautifully!  The new planking covers up the old popcorn ceiling and looks incredibly classy!  Now I wish all our ceilings were planked!  

It was quite the process and one that was started long ago, even before we started IVF.  We thought that "if we build it, a baby would come."  It took awhile, but two babies are headed our way now.  One of the first things Adam did was run some calculations to be sure that the added weight of the planks wouldn't interfere with the structure of the ceiling and come crashing down.  He found that adding the planks would still leave our ceiling structurally sound.  Gotta love that engineer mind of Adam's! 

Once Adam knew it was safe to proceed, he adding furring strips that ran perpendicular to the ceiling joists.  This would give the planks something solid to attach to.  You can see the furring strips on the left side of the ceiling.  


From there he carefully measured the necessary lengths of the planks and cut them accordingly.  I helped prime them before I was pregnant.  Eventually they will be painted white and adding a coat of primer will help get a nice, white finish in the end.  

Then the planks started going up!  Before I was pregnant, I helped hold the planks while Adam attached them with his nail gun.  I think we scarred poor Jazzy!  She was not a fan of the loud noises associated with the nail gun.  She would come join us in the nursery to see what was going on, but as soon as the compressor started filling up with air or a nail was shot, she was outta there!  

We got a few planks up and then took a few months off.  When we found out we were pregnant, Adam got back to work.  He made a "deadman" to take my place of helping hold the planks.  It probably would have been just fine for me to continue to help, but we didn't want to take any chances.  The "deadman" essentially held up the plank on one end while Adam worked with the other end.  You can see the deadman in the picture above.  It's the tall wood thingy to the left of me.  


After all the planks were in place, Adam got to work adding some crown molding.  He decided to add a two piece application and it looks gorgeous!  What's even better is that he found the crown molding at Restore so it was super cheap!  Yay for saving money!  Since the crown molding was much lighter than the planks, I helped hold it in place while Adam did the nailing.

But before he started nailing the crown molding in place, look what my sweet babies' daddy wrote where the crown molding will go.  It definitely made me cry.  



We've still got a few more pieces of crown molding to hang up and need to give everything it's final coat (or two) of paint, but it's well on it's way to the finish line.  And I must say, it's looking pretty classy in the nursery!  




Friday, March 24, 2017

What Everyone Says After You Tell Them You're Having Twins

Nothing has brought me more happiness than to be able to tell people I am pregnant with twins!  And all the responses from everyone have been so overwhelmingly sweet!

I am starting to look very pregnant, even though I'm only 16 weeks along.  I guess that's what happens when there are two babies in your belly!  Because I am starting to show, I've had quite a few people ask me if I'm expecting.  While I would never be so bold as to ask someone if they are pregnant, as I explained in this post, I actually don't mind when people ask me now that I actually am pregnant.  


The fun part comes when I get to not only say that I am indeed pregnant, but that I am pregnant with twins!  

The first thing people normally say is some version of "Oh my goodness!" or "Wow!" or "You'll have your hands full!"  I guess it takes a moment to process that there are two babies brewing in my belly.  

The next question I get asked by people who aren't aware of the infertility struggles Adam and I have been through and the fact that we conceived via IVF, is "Do twins run in your family?"  While Adam's grandma is a twin, apparently the father's side of the family has no bearing on the likelihood of twins.  It all has to do with the mother's side.  There are some very distant relatives of mine who are twins that were named Max and Rex, but I have no idea how they are related to me.  I don't think it really counts when they are that far up the family tree.  So I always answer with a no and say that we did IVF.  

I have found that some twin parents get really fired up about this question.  Even though I think most people are merely asking to continue the conversation, some people have the underlying question of "Did you do some sort of fertility treatment?"  The question doesn't bother me at all, especially since my fertility issues are an open book blog.  But I know some people keep their fertility struggles very private and can see why some people might be offended by it.    

People usually end things with some form of "Good luck!"  It doesn't always seem to be sincere.  Obviously going through a twin pregnancy and raising twins will be one heck of a job.  But it's the most exciting job I can dream up and I am so, so excited it's in my future!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Advice

Anyone who has ever been pregnant or is even trying to get pregnant will no doubt be bombarded with all sorts of advice.  Some of it is really, really good stuff and some of it is just plain ridiculous.
  


I've always taken any advice I get with a grain of salt, no matter the topic.  I have come to realize that just because something works for someone, it might not work for me.  But it still doesn't hurt to hear other people's ideas, because you never really know what will work for you.  It's nice to have a bank of ideas to pull from when you are stuck.  

I find I get the best advice from people who are like-minded to me.  It makes sense too.  Your personality will automatically lend itself to certain types of advice.  So I make it a point to seek out people who have similar lifestyles, beliefs and thoughts that I do.  

I have been so fortunate to have several other twin moms share what worked and what didn't for them.  I get the idea that having two newborns at once is just different than having one.  So it's been nice to get an insider's view of what it's really like.  (Huge shout out to Katie, Jennifer and Bre!)  

There are also moms of singletons who also have given me sound advice and I am grateful to them for sharing their insights.  (Thanks Emily!)

I've also found it helpful to talk with women who are currently pregnant.  There's just something about being in the pregnancy trenches that helps you connect with others.  (I appreciate you ladies: Morgan and Jennifer!)

I'm also not afraid to ask random strangers.  To be perfectly honest, I chose the car seats we ended up getting because a lady in Babies R Us said that's what she was getting.  I asked her why she liked them and she sold me on them.  I also recently asked a lady at the grocery store what kind of wrap she was using. She was more than happy to tell me about it and why she chose it.  I find that most people are more than willing to share.

Not all advice is wanted or helpful.  There are definitely times I find myself politely smiling even though I am thinking, I would sooner die than do that.  But I try to remind myself that people are sharing with the intention of being helpful.  And I can appreciate that sentiment.    

Perhaps the best advice I've gotten so far was from my mom.  I was talking with her about how overwhelming it is to try to figure out everything I need to get and everything I need to learn before the twins arrive.  She reminded me that Adam and I aren't stupid and that we have common sense and will be able to figure things out on our own.  It was definitely a nice reminder and helped put things into perspective.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

First Trimester

I am so very happy to be into my second trimester now!  The risk of miscarriage goes down considerably after you make it past your first trimester, so that's a big relief.  I am starting to feel less exhausted, which is nice.  And my belly is starting to look very pregnant, which is fun!  

I thought it would be fun to take a look back at my first trimester.  Here it is in picture form: 
   



*Yes, I wrote down the wrong year for the six and seven week photos.  Whoops!
**I know I am facing the wrong way in my ten week photo, but my hair looked better from that side.

And here are four random, fun facts about my first trimester: 

1. I've only been craving two things: chocolate ice cream and/or frozen custard and Lion's Choice roast beef sandwiches.  Lion's Choice is a St. Louis based chain that is similar to Arby's, but way better.  They have delicious fries and this magically, delectable seasoning that they put on their roast beef sandwiches. Here's the problem:  There are no Lion's Choice restaurants in Kansas City!!!  There used to be two in Columbia, but they never caught on so they closed.  So I've had to improvise.  I go get an Arby's roast beef sandwich and then sprinkle on some of the seasoning I stockpiled the last time I was in St. Louis and hit up a Lion's Choice.  It's not the same, but it's better than nothing!  But I've depleted my stockpile of seasoning. I guess I'll just have to plan a trip to St. Louis soon!    
  
2. Back when I was in college, I got a tattoo of a horseshoe right above my hipbone on my stomach.  It looked far better when my stomach was flat.  While my stomach hasn't been flat for quite some time, it's certainly getting bigger each week now that I'm pregnant.  And each week the horseshoe gets closer and closer to laying down on its side.  It's pretty funny, but I'll spare you any photographic evidence.  

3. I teach middle school reading, so my students are sixth, seventh and eighth graders.  I decided to break the news to them by having them read an article about twins and then telling them there's a teacher who's pregnant with twins and asked them to guess who.  Very few guessed me, which was pretty entertaining. My favorite conversation went like this: 

Student: My neighbors are twins.   
Me: Oh, really?!
Student: Yeah, they fight all the time.  
Me: Oh, that's not good.  
Student:  But I'm sure yours won't.  They will be good kids because you'll be a good mom.  

I had to try really, really hard not to cry.  I think only one or two tears slipped out... 

4.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and am STARVING!  I keep a baggie of saltines in my nightstand drawer for these instances so I can have a snack but not have to get out of bed.  So at two or three in the morning, I'll pull out my baggie of saltines. Opening the bag always wakes up Jazzy.  Her little head pops up from wherever she's laying and she immediately comes towards the crackers.  So I give Jazzy a little piece or two since she's keeping me company.  Adam never wakes up.  I think it's pretty funny that Jazzy and I have a little midnight snack from time to time and Adam doesn't hear a thing!  You'd think all that baggie-rustling and cracker-crunching would stir him from his slumber.  But, no.  This is probably not a good sign for when the babies arrive...

I can't wait to see what the second trimester will bring!  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jazzy's Special Treat

Even though the twins aren't here yet, they've certainly been getting a lot of attention.  We wanted Jazzy to know that we still think of her as our baby and that she's a very special little girl.  So we decided to buy her a special treat.  

And what do you buy a very spoiled little dog who has everything?  Well, a pig ear, of course!


Jazzy was very interested in her special treat and dug right in.


  
We didn't let her eat the whole thing in one sitting.  We wanted to make sure it didn't upset her stomach, so we decided to take it away from her halfway through.  That didn't go so well...



Eventually we decided to offer Jazzy a trade.  We got one of her dental bones and lured her away from her pig ear with it.  That seemed to do the trick.  



Except I don't think Jazzy realized that we took her pig ear away from her when we gave her the dental bone.  When she finished eating her dental bone, she looked back to where her pig ear had been to find it gone!  She was baffled!  She wandered all around the house trying to find it, the poor thing!  Eventually she gave up.  We both felt kind of bad about confusing her so much.  

We gave her the pig ear again a couple days later and instead of starting to chew away, Jazzy decided she was going to hide it.  She took it upstairs to her bed.  We didn't want her to eat it during the day when we weren't around.  We were afraid she would choke on it, which I know makes us crazy dog parents, but we wanted to be around to supervise her.  So Adam brought the pig ear back downstairs and eventually got her to chew on it in front of us.  I guess she remembered Adam taking it away from her last time and didn't want to lose that precious treat.

More pig ears will definitely be in Jazzy's future! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nursery Plans

I am beyond excited to be getting the nursery together!  I adore doing projects around the house and the fact that this project is for our two babies is beyond exciting!  And let me tell you, this nursery is going to be pretty darn cute. 

Even before we found out we were having a boy and a girl, I had my heart set on painting the walls a bright, cheery green.  We started out with the idea of going with a light, neutral gray, so we got some paint samples in all the popular grays out there.  I am just not a gray person.  I think gray walls look amazing in other people's homes, but not mine.  I am a big fan of dark, bold colors.  Our dining room is teal, our bedroom is dark blue, our living room is chocolate brown, and our front door is bright blue.  I just need a little color in my life.  



 

So then I latched onto this green idea because it could work with both boys and girls.  And I wanted something dark and rich.  I feel like a darker color will make the room more conducive to sleeping.  I know the dark blue walls in our bedroom help make it feel cozy and calm.  I think green will do the same while the babies are sleeping.  On the flip side, I think it will be a fun color while the babies are awake. Plus, I like the idea and and I will happily be spending A LOT of time in there.  We have yet to narrow down the exact shade of green, but I'll be sure to let you know when we figure it out.    


(Big shout out to The DIY Playbook for sharing how to create mood boards!  Thanks!)

Another reason we think a bold color will work in the space is because of all the white that will be going on in the room to offset the dark boldness.  Adam has already installed a gorgeous white plank ceiling and is working on adding crown molding.  We plan to paint the baseboards, window trim and closet doors white, as well.  The white and the green will help each other pop!  

(Here's a funny side story: One of Adam's aunts asked him what the theme of the nursery would be and he said he didn't know what to say.  He told me he thought maybe "craftsman," since we were adding the wood plank ceiling and crown molding.  That made me laugh.  I had to explain to him that nursery themes typically are things like "Dr. Seuss" or "safari."  I'm not quite sure what our theme will be, but I think we should call it "craftsman" in honor of Adam's woodworking mind.)   

So far my sweet parents (soon to be grandparents!) bought the cribs.  (Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) Adam was actually the one to find these beauties.  He wanted to find cribs that were made of solid wood and had a nontoxic finish.  Furniture made out of MDF or other manufactured materials often are made of glue and finishes that have all sorts of chemicals in them.  At first I was annoyed that we would have to pick out something that fit this rigid criteria and I was certain it would cost a fortune.  But Adam found the DaVinci brand which features solid New Zealand pine, a nontoxic finish, it's lead and phthalate free, and is GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low chemical emissions.  It also meets all the current safety standards and had really good reviews.  Besides all that, it's cute!  And I do feel better knowing that our cribs are as safe as can be for our babies.  (Good work, Adam!  You will be a fantastic dad who will always have our babies' safety in mind, which I love you for!)  We both agreed the gray finish would look nice with the white and green we intend to fill the nursery with eventually.  

Once we get the basic shell of the nursery completed, then I can have some fun adding whimsical artwork, curtains and other finishing touches.  While I'm not sure of all the details right now, I do know it's going to be adorable and we're going to have a blast creating it for our babies!  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Boys or Girls?

Since we are having twins and our previous baby had several heart defects, my ob/gyn wants to make sure the babies are very carefully monitored.  So she sent us to see a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, Dr. Lu. A Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist is essentially a high-risk pregnancy expert.  Even though my babies and I are healthy, it's a good idea to keep a close watch on my pregnancy.  

We had our first appointment with Dr. Lu on February 28, 2016.  Walking into the office was a little scary for both Adam and I.  As soon as I walked in, I heard some say "hypoplastic" and it brought back some pretty scary memories of when we found out our first baby had something wrong with her heart.  But I am pleased to say our appointment went incredibly well and we got some visual proof that our babies are doing as well as they possibly can at this point in the pregnancy.  

The first part of the appointment was an external ultrasound.  The sonographer took a close look at our babies and recorded some measurements.  It was pretty surprising how much they had grown from our last ultrasound!  They were moving around quite a bit and one even waved at us!  We could see their spines and arms and legs.  They both had brains!  The best thing we saw was that each baby had 4 chambers of their hearts.  This was a huge relief.  While it doesn't rule out the possibility of heart defects, seeing those four chambers was a beautiful sight.  



Even though I was only 13 weeks along, the sonographer asked us if we wanted to know their genders. Heck yes, we did!

Both Adam and I thought they were girls.  I had had a dream that they were both laying on a blanket on the living room floor and they were both girls and Jazzy licked both of their heads.  Both of their heart rates have been pretty similar and on the higher end, which according to old wives' tales means girls. However, we were both wrong.  

The sonographer told us Baby A is a boy!



And Baby B is a girl!    



I honestly would have been beyond thrilled to have any combination of girls and boys, so long as they were both healthy.  But I am pretty darn excited that we get to have a boy and a girl!  

For the second part of our appointment, we met with Dr. Lu.  He told us that so far everything looks great. He shared some of the complications that can happen with twin pregnancies and things to watch for throughout the pregnancy.  He told us that he would like to see us at least three more times to check on how the babies and I are doing.  Other birth defects can show up later and other complications can arise, so it's a good idea to keep a close watch on the pregnancy.  But for now, everything is just peachy!   

I went into this appointment feeling nervous, but left pretty darn happy knowing we have a healthy boy and girl!  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jazzy Knows Something's Up

I'm pretty sure Jazzy knows all about the babies growing inside my belly!  While she's always liked to be close to me, she has seemed to want to be very close to my belly lately.  When I'm watching tv on the couch, typically Jazzy likes to lay by my feet or on her perch on top of the couch cushion.  But lately, Jazzy has snuggled right up to my belly when I sit or lay on the couch.  She rests her little head on my stomach and sometimes even drapes one of her little paws over the babies.    



I'm pretty sure Jazzy knows something's up.

Right now Jazzy is our baby.  She will always be one of our babies.  I know people say that and then they have kids and their pets sometimes take a backseat.  But Adam and I have vowed not to let that happen to our sweet baby Jazzy.  

Jazzy came into our lives at a time when we truly needed a little loveball.  I don't think Adam nor I really knew what Jazzy would bring to our lives, but we sure appreciate all the joy she has brought to us.  She helped fill the gaping holes in our hearts after losing our first baby.  

And she continues to be there for us in ways we never expected.  A few weeks back I caught a nasty stomach bug that was going around school.  I was super sick!  I spent almost all of the day in bed and Jazzy never left my side.  Usually she likes to look out the window in the living room and wander around the house.  But she kept a close watch on me all day long.  And she seemed to understand that I wouldn't be able to take her on a walk that day either, so she never waited by the door.  What a sweetheart!  


So I have made a promise to Jazzy and myself that there will always be plenty of room in my heart and my life for her.  While things will definitely change in all of our lives, I will always make room for Jazzy.  

She's already become a part of out nightly story time ritual.  Either Adam or I will read a book to the babies before I go to sleep.  (It's never too early to share the love of reading!)  We always invite Jazzy into bed to be a part of story time and she's more than happy to listen.  

I have strong hunch that Jazzy will love her new siblings since she has been so sweet to them already.  I think she'll be their protector.  One of the things I am researching right now, along with the surprising amount of the baby stuff I'll need to get, is how to help your dog through the transition of adding babies to your family.  I want to make sure Jazzy knows she's still just as important to us!  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

IVF Tips

The IVF process can be overwhelming at times, believe me!  Adam and I learned a few things along the way and feel like they might be things that could help others out.  So here are a few tips that helped us with the process.  


Shop around to find the best deal on medications.  
More than likely, if you are doing IVF, you will have to get your medications from a specialty pharmacy. Our fertility clinic has a contract with a mail order pharmacy, Conception Pharmacy.  So all of our prescriptions were automatically sent to this pharmacy.  Just because this was where our prescriptions were sent, it doesn't mean we had to end up using this pharmacy.  

Adam decided to contact some other pharmacies and get several different price quotes.  We ended up getting some medications from Conception Pharmacy and the rest from Freedom Fertility Pharmacy.  While this might have been more work, calling around and coordinating on Adam's part, we did end up saving hundreds of dollars.  

Make sure you have everything you need before you start your medication.  
After we met with a nurse from our clinic and she showed us how to do all the different injections, she recommended we look through all the supplies we had to make sure we had everything we needed.  This turned out to be good, solid advice.  In fact, we didn't have a certain type of syringe that we needed.  We were able to contact the pharmacy and get what we needed in time, but it was a bit stressful.  I'm so glad we looked through everything before the night we were supposed to start.  



Take it one step at a time.  
One of the feelings I felt most throughout this whole process was overwhelmed.  I was overwhelmed when I opened up the boxes from the pharmacy and saw all that stuff.  I was overwhelmed after listening to the nurse talk to me about all the different injections I would have to give myself.  I was overwhelmed when reading through all the different schedules and directions we were given.  



I just had to tell myself to take things one day at a time.  I tried not to see the whole big picture all at once.  I just figured out what I needed to do each day and then tackled that.  

Talk to other people who have been there or are there now.  
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to talk with several other people who have been through IVF before. Being able to ask them what to expect from the egg retrieval or hear them say that the shots weren't that bad really helped calm my nerves.  

There was also a crazy twist of fate that involved a co-worker introducing me to her niece who ended up having her egg retrieval right around the same time as me.  We sent lots of texts back and forth and I so appreciated having her there to talk to.  She and I knew exactly what the other one was feeling and we definitely helped each other out.  

Be there for each other.  
This is a crazy, stressful time for not only the person getting injected with hormones, but the partner, as well.  I know that Adam felt stressed out and overwhelmed at times too.  Thankfully we seemed to time our freakouts so that one of us was freaking out while the other person was having a zen moment.  

I can't begin to describe how grateful I was for Adam during this time.  He took care of calling the pharmacies and getting the medication I needed.  He came to all the big appointments.  He took the phone calls from the nurses.  He knew when to crack a joke and he knew when to give me a hug.  I am a thousand times more grateful that he is my husband having been through this experience with him.  If you are the supporting partner, take some notes from Adam because he certainly did all the right things. 

Don't be afraid to get professional help.  
Adam and I went to a couples counseling session with a counselor who specializes in fertility counseling. She herself has been through IVF 3 times, so she knew exactly what we were going through.  I wasn't really sure what to expect when we went to talk to her, but she gave us some of the best advice and it helped carry us through the process.  So don't be afraid to go talk to someone or ask for help if you are doing IVF. It is such a crazy, emotional process that it makes sense you might need some help.  

Save all your receipts for tax purposes. 
The IRS lets you deduct medical expenses on your tax return as long as they are more than 10% of your adjusted gross income.  So make sure you save your receipts if this applies to your finances.  It can help you out on your taxes.  

After it's all said and done, it wasn't that bad.  
Was IVF stressful?  Yes.  Was IVF scary?  Yes.  Was IVF expensive?  Yes.  Was IVF time-consuming?  Yes.  Was IVF the worst experience of your life?  No.  It's easy to get caught up in the awful parts while you are in the middle of the whole IVF process.  But, seriously, it wasn't that bad.     

If you are just starting this whole IVF process or in the middle of it, you certainly have my positive thoughts and well wishes.  And I'm here if you need someone to talk to or listen.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

IVF: PIO=Pain In My Ass

While the Lupron, Menopur and Gonal F shots didn't last all that long, there is one injection that lasts long after a positive pregnancy test.  That would be the PIO injection.  PIO stands for Progesterone in Oil.  I started taking PIO 2 days after the retrieval on December 11, 2016.  This was by far my least favorite injection of them all! 

This is an intramuscular injection, which means it needs to be injected into your muscles.  Yep, crazy, right?!  We were instructed to have Adam give me the injection in the upper, outer quadrant of the gluteal muscle (aka my butt).  It wasn't as terrible as it sounds, but it's definately not pleasant.  

The first step in administering it is to draw it out of the vial.  Since it is in oil, it is very thick.  You have to use a wider needle to draw it up.  When Adam and I were first going through all the supplies, we saw these drawing needles and I about had a meltdown because not only were they long, but they were wide!  I thought to myself, Adam's going to have to use a hammer in order to get that through my skin!  But upon closer inspection of the directions, we realized after you draw out the PIO, then you switch out the wide needle for one much thinner.  It's still just as long, though.  




Adam prepared the shots so I wouldn't have to look at those long needles any more than I had to!  I know it was no picnic for Adam either.  I know I would have had a hard time ramming needles into Adam if the roles were reversed.    

We eventually got into a groove and found some things that helped make them not so painful.  First, I always iced where the needle was going for about 5-10 minutes prior.  There were a few times when I didn't ice the right spot or for as long as I should have and I could tell a HUGE difference and it was much more painful.  Secondly, I leaned against our kitchen counter with the top of my foot on the side Adam was injecting into against the ground.  That way you don't have all your weight on your leg and your gluteal muscle is relaxed.  Thirdly, Adam stuck that needle in hard and fast.  The faster it went in, the less painful.  Fourthly, we had gauze and a band-aid ready to go as soon as Adam took the needle out.  It was important to keep the medicine from coming out of the hole and to put pressure on the area to help with bruising.  

It got worse, the longer they went on.  I was so sore and bruised.  

But I was happy to endure them because they served a very important purpose.  Progesterone is necessary for implantation of the embryo(s) into the uterus and and to maintain pregnancy.  Most women produce enough of this hormone on their own.  But with IVF, you want to give a pregnancy every possible chance, so it's pretty common to do progesterone shots as a part of IVF.

We ended up doing the shots until I was 10 weeks along.  We were both very happy when that day came! Here we are celebrating our final shot!  



While it wasn't fun, it was totally worth it.  We have two healthy babies on the way and I would do the shots every day if that's what it took!       

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IVF: Twins!

After the 3 blood tests, the next step was to go to my fertility clinic for an ultrasound at 6 weeks.  This ultrasound was partly to confirm the pregnancy and also to make sure everything was measuring within the normal limits.  

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, Adam started saying we were having twins.  I decided to play along.  I don't think I really believed there was more than one baby in there, but I didn't want to spoil his fun.  

So when the 6 week mark rolled around, January 6, 2017, we headed to the fertility clinic for our ultrasound.  I had Googled how much you could tell from a 6 week ultrasound, because I was curious.  I happened to notice that if there are twins, you can see two different egg sacs (as long as they are not identical and sharing the same egg sac).

So as soon as the ultrasound showed up on the screen, before the nurse even said anything, I saw two different egg sacs.  The nurse confirmed it by saying, "Well, there are two in there!"  



Adam didn't really seem all that surprised since he had been saying there were two in there all along.  I was a bit more surprised, but so incredibly happy!  

We went back two weeks later at the 8 week mark to check for their heartbeats.  And we were greeted with two strong heartbeats!  One was 179 beats per minute and the other was 171 beats per minute. Seeing the heartbeats really made it real for me.  Those little flickers on the ultrasound screen were beautiful!  



After that appointment I was released to my ob/gyn.  It was a little sad to say goodbye to our fertility clinic doctor and nurses.  They played such an important role in our lives and we will never be able to fully thank them for all that they have done for us.  If you are close to the Kansas City area, and need some fertility help, Dr. Brabec at Reproductive Resource Center is the doctor to see!     

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

IVF: The Call

Ever since the embryo transfer, I was feeling pretty positive that I was pregnant.  I had a good feeling about how everything had gone so far and I felt like we had been in good hands with our fertility clinic. Besides, I felt like Adam and I were due for some good news.  I just felt like it should be our turn for some happy news.  

The 8 days we spent waiting seemed like an eternity.  It was hard to go on with our everyday lives knowing we had this big question mark up in the air.  

I'm not really a religious person (I tried to explain how I feel about religion and God in this post), but I sure did a lot of praying.  Adam came across these affirmations and they actually proved to be pretty helpful for both Adam and I.  I must admit, I did feel a bit silly saying or thinking some of them.  But it did give me some direction on things to say/think other than, "Please let me be pregnant.  Please let me be pregnant.  Please let me be pregnant."  

December 22, 2016, the day we would find out if we were pregnant, finally came around.  The lab at our fertility clinic was closed for the holidays, so I had to go to a different lab to get my blood drawn.  I went to the lab first thing that morning.  The gal who drew my blood said the results would be sent over to my doctor's office that day.  So we would know the results by the end of the day.  

Adam and I wanted to get the results together.  So we arranged for him to come home from work a bit early and call the clinic once we were together.  My school was already on winter break, so I wasn't at work that day.  I spent all day waiting to make that phone call.  

That day, I started to get nervous and question my positive thinking thus far.  What if the results were negative?  What would we do then?  Where would that leave us?  

Adam finally came home and we sat on the couch with Jazzy to make The Call.  The receptionist answered and said she would track down a nurse after we explained why we were calling.  It seemed to take a really long time.  Was it because it was bad news and the nurses were playing rock, paper, scissors to see who would have to break it to us?  Did they even have the results from the lab?

At last, one the nurses, Marci, said hello to us.  She didn't waste any time.  She said she had some good news for us and told us we were pregnant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I could literally feel the relief come off of Adam and I.  We were so happy and I think a bit in shock too.  We had waited for this good news for such a long time and not just the 8 days.  We had waited 3 and a half years.


The next step would be to have two more blood pregnancy tests to make sure my HCG levels were doubling every 3 days.  The first test showed my HCG level at 187.  The second was at 1779 and the third was at 4929.  After those 3 tests, it was safe to say I was pregnant!     


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

IVF: Embryo Transfer Day

December 14, 2016, was our embryo transfer day.  I was supposed to arrive with a full bladder so I began drinking water as we drove to our fertility clinic.  I was also supposed to take a Valium an hour before the transfer to help me relax.  I had never taken Valium before, so I wasn't sure what to expect with that.  I took the Valium on the car ride over.  By the time we got to the clinic, I was already feeling a bit weird from the Valium.  I just kinda felt like I was floating a little bit, but my mind still felt pretty sharp.  

Adam had set up for us to chat with Dr. Brabec before the transfer to help us decide how many embryos to transfer.  When we arrived at the clinic, Dr. Brabec told us that we ended up with 2 viable embryos and they both looked really good.  She said that as long as we were okay with the prospect of twins, she would recommend we transfer both.  

Dr. Brabec hadn't lead us astray yet, so we decided to just go for it.  We also felt that freezing just one embryo might not be the best option.  Not all eggs survive the freezing and thawing process and we didn't want to end up not being able to use the leftover embryo in the future.  We figured we had dreamed about having two kids, why not have them at the same time?      

I should also mention that I continued to drink water during our conversation with Dr. Brabec.  On some of the instructions we received, it mentioned that if my bladder wasn't full enough, I would have to be catheterized.  I didn't really know what was involved with that, but I decided I didn't want to find out!

Once our conversation was over, we made our way to the fertility clinic's surgery center, which was where the transfer would take place.  By this point, I was miserable because my bladder was so full!  I could barely move around and getting up on the table was darn near impossible.  I was trying not to say anything or make a big deal about it.  But after the nurse got the ultrasound going and saw how full my bladder was, she figured out I must be pretty miserable.  

I ended up having to be catheterized anyway so they could empty my bladder a bit.  It didn't hurt at all, in fact it was a huge relief!  I immediately felt more comfortable and was able to actually put my hips down on the table and into position for the transfer.

The transfer itself was super quick and didn't hurt at all.  Thanks to doing a trial embryo transfer back in June, Dr. Brabec knew exactly what size catheter to use and exactly which position to put it in my uterus.  Rodney was there with our embryos and he handed off the syringe with them to Dr. Brabec.  She squirted the two of them into my uterus and that's all there was to it!  

I was able to get up right away, but it was recommended that I take it easy for the rest of the day.  I could get a snack from the kitchen or go to the bathroom, but I wasn't supposed to do any housework or run any errands.  I spent most of the day on the couch, hoping with everything in me that we would get pregnant.  I took off the following day from work and continued to take it easy.  I wanted to give my body the rest and time it needed to accept our little embryos. 

We got a picture of our beautiful embryos to take home with us.  We put it on the fridge as soon as we got home.       


Now we had to do more waiting.  We would have to wait 8 days until I would have a blood pregnancy test done to see if I was pregnant.  Let me tell you, it was a longggggggg 8 days!  

Monday, March 6, 2017

IVF: Rodney

The day after the egg retrieval, we were supposed to hear from our embryologist named Rodney.  As our embryologist, he was the one who used Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (aka ICSI) to fertilize my eggs with Adam's sperm.  In this process, an embryologist takes a single sperm and injects it directly into an egg.  

In traditional IVF, you just mix eggs and sperm in a dish and see what happens.  You may or may not end up with fertilized eggs with this approach.  But with ICSI, you make sure every egg has the opportunity to be fertilized.  It doesn't mean every egg will fertilize or turn into a viable embryo, but it greatly increases the chances.  When we asked about ICSI, our clinic told us that this is becoming the norm in IVF.  

So Rodney injected one of Adam's sperm into each of my 5 eggs that were retrieved on the day of the retrieval.  He watched over them and then called us the following day with a report.  

His phone call actually woke me up.  As soon as I heard the ring, I knew exactly who was calling so I tried to make sure I sounded awake when I answered.  Rodney's jolly voice told me he had some great news to share.  He said that 4 of my eggs had fertilized!  Once the eggs are fertilized, they are called embryos. So we now had 4 embryos!  This was great news!  He said he would call again in a few days with another update.  

For some reason, it just tickled me to think that this man named Rodney was watching over our embryos.

I got another call from Rodney two days later, which turned out to be even more great news!  He said that all four of our embryos were growing appropriately.  Maybe it was just in my head, but I felt like he was a bit surprised by this.  Given the fact that we only started out with 5 eggs and we still had 4 healthy embryos at this point was pretty awesome.

Rodney said although he couldn't make any promises, he was pretty certain we would have at least one viable embryo to transfer.  He said unless we heard from him, we should plan for our embryo transfer to occur on December 14, 2016.  

Now we had a big decision to make.  How many embryos should we transfer?  All along, Dr. Brabec said she would transfer one or two.  She had told us that given my age and other factors, I should be able to carry twins if we were to transfer two embryos and they both implanted.  I think we had both leaned towards transferring one embryo up until this point.  Obviously a twin pregnancy has the possibility of more complications.  But transferring two embryos would increase our chances of ending up with a singleton pregnancy.  



Adam had called the fertility clinic and set up for us to come in and talk to Dr. Brabec about the number of embryos we should transfer prior to our embryo transfer.  One of the things I was supposed to do in preparation for the embryo transfer was to take a Valium.  We wanted to make sure I was coherent enough to make such a big decision before the Valium kicked in.  This was yet another example of how Adam stepped up during this whole, crazy process.  

I'll share all about our embryo transfer in the next post.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

IVF: The Egg Retrieval

The egg retrieval was something I was very nervous about.  I would have to get an IV (more needles...) and be under anesthesia.  I wasn't sure how painful it would be afterwards either.  And there was the fear that the doctor wouldn't be able to retrieve as many eggs as we had hoped.

Based on our last conversation with Dr. Brabec, we knew going into the retrieval that I didn't have very many eggs.  Her expectation was that we would end up with 4 or 5 eggs.  Obviously when you are going through the IVF process, you want to end up with as many eggs as possible.  The ultimate goal is that you end up with lots of healthy eggs, some of which you can freeze and use in the future if the first transfer isn't successful.  

Although we didn't expect our egg count to be very high, we relied on the fact that it only takes one egg to make a baby.  I kept repeating this thought in my head on the morning of the egg retrieval and I was managing to stay pretty positive.  

We woke up early, got ready and headed to the hospital.  Our fertility clinic is actually attached to a hospital, so we knew where we were going.  Once we arrived and got all checked in, we headed to the fertility clinic's surgery center.  Adam waited in the waiting room with me until they called my name. Then I was on my own.  Adam had the important task of going to the fertility clinic and providing some sperm. It was a bit nerve-raking to be on my own, but all the nurses were the sweetest, kindest, warmest people. So I knew I was in very good hands.  

Once I was called back, I got into my gown and a nurse got to work getting my iv put in.  It was freezing cold in there and my veins weren't cooperating at first, so they put this heater thing in my gown and had me put my arms inside my gown so I could warm up the veins on my arms.  Eventually I got warmed up and she was able to locate a vein.  It only took her one stick, which I was very thankful for.  They started me on some saline, which helped make me less thirsty.  I hadn't been allowed to eat or drink anything since the previous evening.  Several different nurses, the anesthesiologist and the doctor doing the retrieval all stopped by.  Due to a scheduling conflict, Dr. Brabec wouldn't be able to do the retrieval.  Dr. Phipps ended up doing the retrieval.  He was a man of few words, and kind of stood off to the side of things during all the preparation.  I remember trying to figure out if he had steady hands when he shook mine since he looked a little on the old side.  It turns out he did a wonderful job and I didn't need to worry at all.  

Several different people asked me to tell them why I was there, which I guess is just protocol.  I remember trying to be very pleasant and polite, but all I really wanted to do was cry.  I was getting nervous!  

Eventually I was wheeled back to the room where they would do the retrieval.  I moved onto the operating table and they got me all situated.  They wrapped my top half up like a burrito and took off my glasses. The anesthesiologist said she was going to inject the medicine to put me to sleep and that I might feel a warming sensation and then....

...I woke up in another room with a male nurse typing on a computer in front of me.  I had my glasses back on.  It seemed as if only a second had passed.  I asked the nurse if he knew how many eggs they were able to retrieve and he said 5.  Which was great news!!  There was a chance that there would be fewer or possibly even no eggs, so I was very happy to hear we had 5!  

The nurse asked me how I was feeling and if I had any pain.  I said I was okay and only felt a little bit of cramping.  He asked if I wanted anything for the pain and I said no.  After laying there for a few minutes, I got my wits about me.  I realized my eggs were no longer in me, so I could have some pain medication if I wanted.  I wouldn't have to worry about how it was affecting my eggs, so I said that I would take some pain medication after all.  The nurse injected in some medicine into my iv and in just a couple minutes the cramping stopped.  

From there I was moved to another area called recovery.  The new nurse with me was actually one of the nurses from when I had my polypectomy.  For some reason it made me feel better to see her familiar face.  Adam came back a few minutes later and I was very happy to see him.  I made sure to tell him that Dr. Phipps had retrieved 5 eggs!  After a few more minutes, the nurse asked if I was feeling like I was ready to get dressed.  I was, so she took out my iv and I got dressed.  

I wasn't in any pain, but was still a little groggy.  From there, a hospital volunteer wheeled me out to the front doors while Adam brought the car around.  On the ride home, I remember feeling relieved that the retrieval was over.  I felt like the scariest, most invasive parts of the IVF process were over.  

Now we just had lots of waiting and hoping to do.  We would hear from Rodney the embryologist the next morning.  He would let us know how many of the eggs fertilized.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

IVF: Checking on My Ovaries

Another big part of the Ovarian Stimulation Phase was going to my fertility clinic for blood draws and ultrasounds.  The purpose was to see how my ovaries were responding to the medications.  I would go in right at 7:30 when they opened and then they would call Adam in the afternoon once they had the blood work results in.  Since I'm a teacher, it's hard for me to answer my phone during the day, so Adam took over that responsibility.     

After being on the stimulating medications for two days, I went into my fertility clinic to see how I was responding.  I was told that things seemed to be progressing, but they upped my Gonal-F dosage.  We ended up having to order more medication as we went along.  Thankfully, Adam kept a close watch on this and our fertility clinic was able to give us some samples towards the end so we wouldn't have to purchase entire vials.  

I had to miss part of school each morning I went in to the clinic.  I wasn't pleased about getting my blood drawn so much or missing so much school.  After each blood draw, on my way back to school, I would stop and get hot chocolate from Starbucks.  It was my reward for having to put up with blood draws.  

The other part that just about broke my heart was that I was restricted from doing any sort of exercise and was expected to take it easy.  Since my ovaries would be producing multiple follicles, they would be getting very heavy.  There was a risk of my ovaries flipping over, which would cut off the blood supply and result in having to have a surgery to remove them.  That was enough to scare me into listening!  I had some very kind co-workers who helped me limit all the walking around I typically do in a school day.

But, boy was it hard to give up my walks with Jazzy!  It nearly broke my heart and made me cry when I would come home from school and Jazzy would be so excited to go for a walk.  But I couldn't take her and I couldn't make her understand why.  She would sit patiently by the front door as if saying, "Um...excuse me.  Now's when we are supposed to go on our walk!"  Adam really picked up the slack for me and took her when he got home from school and right before he went to bed.  He even took her some mornings before he left for work.  It's a good thing he was around!  Especially since I was feeling like a deadbeat dog mom at this point.  


I went in two more times for blood work and an ultrasound and the last time I went in, I could tell the nurse wasn't super excited about how my ovaries were looking.  When I asked how things were, she said I had a few follicles that were the right size and would probably contain eggs.  She didn't say much more and I felt like she was holding something back.  But she did rave about the lining of my uterus!  She said it was nice and thick, which is what you want at this stage in the game.

The call we got the afternoon of my final blood draw and ultrasound wasn't the news we were hoping to hear.  The nurse told Adam I ended up with 9-10 follicles and they expected to retreive 4-5 eggs if we went forward with the retrieval.  I remember Adam emailing me at work and told me to call him when I could.  I knew something was up.  He told me we had the option of moving forward or canceling the cycle and trying again later.  I'm not going to lie, that was hard to hear.  We had gone through so much already and spent lots of money on the medications.  If we canceled now, we wouldn't have to pay the full amount of an IVF cycle.  But then we would also end up right where we were before we started IVF: without a baby.  

After Adam and I talked, he decided to call and ask to speak to Dr. Brabec to get her opinion.  She told Adam that she still had hope that this cycle would be successful if we moved forward, but wanted us to understand our odds weren't as great since there wouldn't be as many eggs.  She said that she has told patients in the past that they should cancel a cycle and she wasn't saying that to us now.  

Adam and I felt like we were already in this thing.  I didn't think that I would respond differently to different medications or during a different cycle.  During all the times we tried IUIs, I never seemed to produce many follicles.  I just felt that things wouldn't be different if we tried again.  We decided to move forward and remain as hopeful and positive as we could.     

So we scheduled our egg retrieval for December 9, 2016.

Two days before the egg retrieval, I had to administer a trigger shot, which promotes the completion of the egg maturation process.  I had to take it at exactly 9:00pm.  This was also one that I injected in my belly fat with a tiny needle.  It didn't hurt, but was a bit stressful since I had to inject it at 9:00 on the dot.  But Adam was there and told me exactly when to stick in the needle.  There was no turning back now!