A Sudden and Unexpected End of an Era

I just came home from another 10 days in the hospital. Collectively, I spent nearly half of November in a hospital bed.

I missed Thanksgiving.
I missed Gus’ first trip to the dentist.
I missed my cousin-in-law’s entire trip out for Thanksgiving weekend.

I got out of the hospital (my 1st trip) after three days, feeling like my old self, just taking the occasional tylenol and ready to get on with our planned embryo transfer, which was pushed back a few days to give me time to heal.

And I did heal, and we had our transfer, and I was feeling really optimistic and got a few positive pregnancy tests starting six days after transfer. A little darker on day 7. I never got to test on day 8 — the hospital took over at that point.

A week after my embryo transfer, and 16 days after my first hospital stay, my body exploded from the inside, and I genuinely believed I was dying.

Dying in the car on the way to the emergency room. Almost fainting from pain, until someone caught me in a wheelchair (so cliché!).

Dying in the emergency room, when there were no beds and I willingly, joyfully laid down on the waiting room floor, and enthusiastically emptied my stomach into charming little plastic bins.

Dying in a small room, begging for drugs, or for someone to just Looney Toons-style knock my ass out with a frying pan to the head. Anything.

“It’s pancreatitis!” I shouted at everyone. “I need an IV! And morphine! And another CT scan! And I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant!”

They all agreed, and they tried to help me. They did help me, but nothing was helping.

I just kept comparing it to last time. Last time, I felt better by now. Last time morphine worked quickly and consistently.

This time the pain was 1,000 times worse, and nothing was managing it for the first four days. The first moment of relief I felt was several days later — After feeling like something exploded in my chest, when I couldn’t breathe, screaming at Mike that I love him, make sure Gus knows how much I love him if something happens to me, while a rapid response team doubled my meds and rushed me sobbing to a CT scan.

So, what happened?

Apparently labs came back after the first hospitalization, that showed I had elevated triglycerides. This means nothing to me, but a doctor assures me they shouldn’t be higher than 200, and mine were more than 800. That was what they were when I left the hospital the first time, but since I’d been discharged already, no one gave us the results. (I have strong opinions about this as a policy)

Do you know what can make triglycerides really high?

Estrogen.

Guess what I was taking a crapload of, for even longer than originally planned?

Want to guess what my triglycerides were when they tested them the day I went back to the ER?

More than 5,000.

Also, I was pregnant.

But you can’t take estrogen and lower triglycerides at the same time, so all my meds stopped immediately. I was also insanely dehydrated, and wasn’t allowed to eat or drink for 90 hours, so none of us were surprised when on top of everything else I started bleeding.

What happens now?

Literally right this second all I can do is sip clear fluids, and eat a few teaspoons of food a day and hope it stays in my body and that they didn’t send me home too early.

I feel horrendous, and am trying to remind myself that recovery is going to be more severe, because this time my illness was much more so as well.

I’ve been advised by multiple doctors that I should never, ever, undergo another round of fertility treatment again. That if I take any estrogen therapies in the future, it could kill me.

And so just like that, I’ll never get pregnant again. I’ll never give birth to my own child again. And, maybe it’s because I don’t have a say in the matter, but it’s a bit of a relief to step away from all the needles, and the anxiety and the worry and the fear that comes along with trying again.

I have seven healthy embryos left. Maybe someone will show up at my door and offer to grow one of them for me (I’ll name them after you!). Maybe I’ll win the lottery, and I can pay for a gestational carrier. Maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll do all those things.

Mike and his parents, and his cousin, and my parents have been so amazing, taking care of Gus and of me. I’ve gotten so many texts and calls and emails, and I literally can’t talk about it without getting winded — I’m not ignoring you, I literally can’t talk, or stop crying, but thank you, and I love you all.

I’ve been home for a day, and we’re all settling into our new temporary normal. I can’t wait to feel normal again. I miss normal.

Mike told me tonight, after the 15th time I was crying on his shoulder, to think about karma. I asked him if I was being punished, and he told me that something wonderful would happen soon.

Maybe he was talking about the painkillers? Only time will tell I guess.

PGS Results

We had 10 remaining embryos on ice, and after our last loss, we decided to have them all PGS tested.*

Before our embryos could be tested, they’d need to be thawed, biopsied, and re-frozen. We also needed to participate in a consultation with the lab that would be doing the testing.

We were told since we (me, really) were both 31 when our embryos were made, we could expect around 60% of them to be normal, and the rest, obviously, abnormal. I knew that all my embryos had made it to Day 5 before they were frozen, but I’d never known what they were graded.

They were ALL 5AA.

If you’re blessed in the fertility department — this is practically unheard of. If you’re currently undergoing IVF — I don’t need to tell you how amazing that is.

So, two weeks ago, all ten were thawed and biopsied. Nine out of the 10 survived the process and were re-frozen.

Yesterday we got the call from my nurse, and EIGHT of the nine are chromosomally normal!

I know that a PGS diagnosis of “normal” is no guarantee, but I’m very optimistic about moving forward with a frozen cycle this fall. I also can’t help but wonder if we really DID hit the 60% mark:

1st transfer — Chemical Pregnancy, one embryo
2nd transfer — early loss, one embryo
3rd transfer — healthy baby, two embryos
4th transfer — early loss, one embryo

So we’ve used 5 of the original 15. Assuming the ones we lost or didn’t take were abnormal, plus the test results we have now, that means 9/15 (60%) were/are normal.

We’re on schedule to try again in October. Now if only I could stop eating and drinking like I’m still on vacation. 

*Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is a powerful genetic test that may be performed on embryos during IVF treatment to screen for numerical chromosomal abnormalities. PGS is performed on a small embryo biopsy prior to transfer and identifies which embryos are chromosomally normal.

Next Steps

After our last (failed) IVF attempt, we’ve been talking about what our next steps are.

I’m definitely planning to try again, but the more I think about it, the more I’d like to take a few months off before starting again.

For starters, we’ve decided to have our remaining embryos genetically tested. While it doesn’t guarantee success, it certainly increases our odds (and the odds have not been in my favor). And despite the extra cost, the price is significantly less than it was four years ago when we started this process, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Then we have our annual family vacation coming up, and I would love to run, and jump and play in the ocean with Gus. I’d also like to take him on rides, and to splash parks, and eat (and drink) at all my favorite restaurants and bars.

After that, we have a destination wedding coming up in September, and making either 1) a long car ride, or 2) a plane ride with a toddler while pregnant and taking blood thinners was not something I was looking forward to. Now I just have to deal with the joys of toddler traveling, and I can drink away my feelings if that’s what it comes down to.

After THAT, my oldest, and dearest friend is getting married in the spring, and her bachelorette party is possibly happening in Vegas, in the fall, and now I can go and not be the sober party mom, and instead I’ll be the least drunk party mom. (Once the party mom, always the party mom.)

I don’t actually drink that much — despite my last three points being mostly alcohol related — I swear.

Our new house is pretty great, on the inside. But the outside? Needs some work. Like chopping down trees, and clearing overgrowth, and horrible gross outdoorsy-type work. Work I despise, but would like to do as cheaply as possible, and that means getting out there and doing most of it ourselves. I can’t really whack things with an axe on my best day, let alone when I’m super high-risk and pregnant.

And can we talk about Zika for a minute? Because it scares the bejesus out of me. I live in an area they’ve classified as low-risk, but those little bloodsuckers are nearby, and guess who has two thumbs and a giant reservoir in her back yard? This girl. So I’m ok with waiting for mosquito season to end.

And, maybe most importantly, I’m excited to spend a little more time with Gus —  just us. We’ve got a lot of things on the horizon for our little man in the next few months, and I had a lot of anxiety about how a new baby would change things for him.

We just started potty training. He’s starting preschool at the end of August. He’ll be a threenager, and probably transitioning to a big-boy bed in the fall. That’s not so much for you and me, but it’s a lot in a few months when you’re under the age of three. Add all that together, I’m ok with waiting a few more months.

Physically, waiting gives me more time to keep getting healthy. Selfishly, it lets me go on vacation and drink. Financially, it lets us save for the next cycle. And mentally, it’ll be nice to take a break from needles, and medicine reminders, and worrying about all the what ifs.