Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Whole New Definition to Black Friday

My sister and I have done the Black Friday thing for years. It started about 10 years ago, I was driving to work one November morning and the radio personalities were talking about how the mall was going to open at 12:01am on Black Friday. I wanted in. My mom was never a big Black Friday person, she is more the kind of person that starts her Christmas shopping in October and is pretty much done by Thanksgiving. My sister and I decided to start our own tradition. Over the years, my sister has become more like my mom and starts Christmas shopping early. I like to be a little more traditional and do not start my Christmas shopping until Black Friday.

This year was different. We stopped going to the mall years ago, but we still liked to head out of the house by 5am and would get home around 9am with Christmas shopping more or less completed for the year. This year, I had my blood pregnancy test at 8:15 in the morning. My mom and my sister decided to change things up a bit, and have a late Black Friday. The logic was to keep me busy with retail therapy while waiting for the doctor called back. We got to the mall around 10am, and about 30 seconds after I stepped out of the car, my phone rang. 

The test was negative, we lost both embryos. 

Shopping to keep my mind off of things quickly turned into full scaled retail therapy. I focused on Christmas as a temporary escape from my heart breaking. I choked back the tears, called Tom, because he needed to know, and went about my day. I managed to keep myself occupied with family visits, shopping, and dinner out until almost midnight, by that point, Tom and I had the "what do we do now" conversation. We went to bed, and I thought all was going to be okay. 

Everything was okay, until about 5am Saturday morning when everything hit. I cried. I cried for my overwhelming sense of failure, for the loss of our embryos, for the loss of the idea of having an entire family born the same month. As much as I tried to remain cautious, I was still optimistic. I wanted this IVF cycle to work, we have been trying so hard. I cried because of the numbers of children that are neglected and seemingly unwanted in the world, but we cannot have a baby of our own. It was hard. Crazy hard. 

Where do we go from here? Tom and I are going to relax and enjoy the holidays. My mother-in-law is planning to drive to Maine from Kansas City, and we are going to host Christmas dinner for both families. I am going to spoil Tom with presents, smile, and enjoy the season. In January, we are going to start the entire process over again, with the IVF cycle occurring sometime in February. We are working to reduce/ remove all of the big stressers in our life. We are also going to be much more private about it, because I think I jinxed  myself by blogging about it. For whatever reason, this time was not our time. We will become parents, no matter what it takes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Embryo Transfer and the Emotional Rollercoaster

Our two perfect embryos
Our embryo transfer was on Wednesday, November 14. The procedure itself was very quick. We were told to arrive at 10am for a 10:30 procedure. They took us into the procedure room around 10:15, and Tom and I were on our way a little after 10:30. The nurses gave us a picture of the two embryos we had transferred. They are absolutely perfect. Our doctor told us we have the best case scenario for a successful IVF cycle. To further increase our chances, I had acupuncture therapy before and after the procedure.

Physical recovery following the embryo transfer was minor, at best. I was a little crampy. I was told to go home and relax. Emotionally, that is an entirely different story. Going into the embryo transfer, I expected to be really giddy and excited. In reality, the complete opposite is what happened. I have been dealing with infertility for several years at this point, and I felt exactly the same before the embryo transfer as I did after. There was no magic moment where I suddenly felt pregnant. I am trying to be optimistic, but at the same time, the concept of being pregnant is very surreal to me, and I do not want to get too excited just in case this cycle is not successful.

I started experiencing nausea and cramping Thursday night. In my head, I am interpreting this as morning sickness and using as an excuse to feel a little more optimistic. The reality is that morning sickness does not start for most women until the sixth week of pregnancy. I will be hitting week four on Friday, so I am more than a little early. The symptoms might be in my head, or, more likely, a side effect of the progesterone that I am on. I spoke to a nurse this morning, and she agreed with me that it is a little early to be experiencing morning sickness and my symptoms are likely a side effect of the progesterone. She also noted although it is not common, some women start experiencing morning sickness earlier than others. There is no way to be sure until my blood pregnancy test.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

Not everything around here has been about our future progeny, although that is the vast majority of discussion as of late. Life has also gone on. Our kitchen is well on its way towards being complete, and it is significantly more functional. I'll post an update on that later this week. It is amazing how once a kitchen becomes functional, it also suddenly becomes more useful.

My latest creation occurred as a result of a popular cinnamon roll chain airing commercials. I absolutely love cinnamon rolls, but I try to avoid fast food and artificial preservatives as much as I can. In other words, I knew could make better.

I started out with the sticky bun recipe from the Hermes House Baking cookbook and then tweaked it a little to create cinnamon rolls. I have had this cookbook for years, and I love it. The recipes are easy, but seem a little fancier than your run-of-the-mill baking cookbook. You should check it out. Anyways, without further ado:


2/3 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast (I used 2 1/4 teaspoons of bread machine yeast)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups of flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut up into pieces
2 eggs, slightly beaten

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water


1. Warm the milk to lukewarm, combine with yeast and sugar and let sit until frothy, about fifteen minutes.

2. Combine the flour and salt, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender to the consistency of sand.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour, add the eggs and dump in the yeast mixture.

4. With a wooden spoon, fold the liquid into the dry ingredients until you have a rough dough.

5. Dump the dough onto a floured surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

6. Place the dough in a mixing bowl that is sprayed with cooking spray, cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise for two hours, or until doubled in size. I "cheat" by heating my oven to 200 degrees, I turn the oven off when I start kneading. By the time the dough is ready to start rising, the oven is the perfect temperature to serve as a bread proofer. I used to have a hard time getting bread to rise evenly, but this technique works every time!

7. Punch the air out of the dough. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle. I'll be honest, I just sort of pat it flat, the dough is very elastic at this point so rolling pins prove to be more of a pain than an asset.

8. Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling, spread evenly over the dough.

9. Roll into a tight bread log. Slice into 1 inch slices. Place each slice on a greased cookie sheet. If any of the cinnamon filling falls out during the cutting/transferring to the pan, just spread it on top of the cinnamon buns.

10. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.

11. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

12. While the cinnamon rolls are baking, combine the topping ingredients into a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until boiling. Allow to boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until the mixture forms a thick syrup. It should coat the back of the spoon. Set the syrup aside to allow to cool/set up while the cinnamon rolls finish baking. By now, your house should smell amazing.

13. Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven, they should be golden brown. Top each cinnamon roll with a healthy spoonful or two of the cinnamon caramel topping. I made twelve cinnamon rolls and divided the topping evenly.

As you can probably tell, these babies are very sticky, I recommend a plate and fork. Sit back, enjoy, and revel in the fact that you made something yummy AND you can name every ingredient in it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post Egg Retrieval Update

Source Human embryos, not ours
On Friday I had my egg retrieval surgery. It was very quick, the prep actually took the longest part. I got to my doctor's office at 8am on Friday, they took me out back and had me change into a gown while Tom produces his, ahem, contribution. I got hooked up to an IV, and the nurse went over a pile of paperwork. Tom joined me as the nurse was finished up paperwork and the anesthesiologist came in. I was asked to pee, and then they walked me into the OR. I was positioned on the table, and the next thing I knew I was waking up and the procedure was done. All in all, the doctor was able to retrieve 13 eggs. Our goal was 10-12, so I did good. The procedure itself took about 15 minutes. Once I woke up, they wheeled me back to a recovery area. I dozed a little more, and then they gave me cookies and ginger ale. The nurse retrieved Tom, and as soon as I was able to pee again I was allowed to get dressed and go home.

The rest of Friday was spent laying on the couch with a heating pad and taking Tylenol every 4 hours. All of the surgical literature says to expect menstrual-like cramping after egg retrieval. Menstrual cramps don't make me cry, so yeah, it hurt. I was fortunate in that I did not experience any nausea, and as long as I stayed put with my heating pad, I was good. I actually went to work on Saturday, although I did use a second chair to keep my feet up. Today I feel fine, occasional mild cramping, but aside from that I would say I am back to normal.

We found out on Saturday that of the 13 eggs retrieved, 12 fertilized. You can probably guess that this is really good, Tom and I were giddy. Today we found out that our little embryos are healthy enough to stay in the incubator until day 5, which is also known as the blastocyst stage. Tom and I are very fortunate in that we have insurance coverage for IVF, but it only gives us 3 lifetime cycles. I wanted to give this cycle every possible chance so that we can save our other two cycles for siblings. Scientific research indicates that embryos transferred on day 5 have a higher chance of implanting, which ultimately results in pregnancy. Our doctor explained it by saying the longer the embryos are able to incubate, the better able the embryologist is able to choose the healthiest embryos to transfer. Healthy embryos make healthy babies.

What this all boils down to is that on Wednesday I will have two embryos transferred back into me.  In other words, I will be pregnant with twins (until proven otherwise) in three days. Tom and I have been trying to start a family for three years, we knew it was going to be a difficult battle, but now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our friends and family have been so supportive throughout this IVF cycle, everyone is praying for us. Tom and I have this gut feeling that we are going to have twins next August. I am dreading the two week wait until we find out if everything is successful. Our nurse on Friday told me that the stars all seem to be aligned this time, my egg retrieval was nine months from Tom's birthday, and the transfer will be nine months from my birthday. I should also throw in there that 13 is our lucky number. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trigger Happy

My last ultrasound was on Tuesday morning, at which time I had 15 follicles. The doctor called and decided to have me do my last round of shots last night, and scheduled me for my egg retrieval surgery on Friday! I took my trigger shot tonight at 9pm, which will get all my little follicles ready for Friday. It also means that I am officially done giving myself injections. Our little embryos will be conceived on Friday, which happens to be nine months from Thom's birthday. They will be transferred back into me next Wednesday, which is exactly nine months from my birthday. With luck and prayers, we should be pregnant by the middle of next week!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ultrasound #3

In addition to injections every night, I also have the pleasure of almost daily ultrasounds and bloodwork. Actually, as of today, I'm up to daily ultrasounds as my next one is scheduled for tomorrow. For those of you that have not experienced IVF, the stimulation phase is a time in which fertility medications are administered via injection with the goal of creating follicles, which are little pouches of fluid that contain an egg. Each woman is different, the ideal situation is to create 20 follicles prior to egg retrieval. My ovaries have been rated as fair, and my doctor has given us the goal of 12 follicles prior to egg retrieval. In order for a follicle to be counted, it needs to measure 12mm in any direction. As of this morning, I am up to 6 measurable follicles, with a another half dozen or so that are between 11.5mm and 12mm, which will likely be countable tomorrow when I have my next ultrasound, followed by an acupuncture session, thank goodness. When the nurse called me today to give me my medication instructions, she told me that egg retrieval could occur as early as Wednesday but will likely occur on Thursday or Friday.

I am definitely looking forward to egg retrieval, not only because it means another step forward in our journey to become pregnant, but also because I'm not going to lie, it is really uncomfortable to have swollen ovaries. The average woman ovulates one, maybe two follicles in a cycle. I have about a dozen on each side. I'm crampy, and the heating pad and tylenol are not helping at all. I keep telling myself that the cramps are a good sign because it means that follicles are growing, but it is still very uncomfortable.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halfway Through

In addition to last night being Halloween, it was also the halfway point of my fertility injections. The needles are starting to sting a little more and my tummy is very tender. I have more or less been living off of Tylenol and my heating pad for the last couple of days. I had my first ultrasound on Tuesday, and everything is looking good, the shots are definitely doing their job. Tonight I get to add a third medication to the mix. Fortunately, the nurse told me I could mix it with my other medication so I still only need to give myself two shots.

I also had a reality check this week. I looked at my calender and did some math out, if everything continues to go according to schedule, I will be having surgery next week for my egg retrieval. Five days after that, the embryos will be transferred back into me. In other words, in about two weeks, I am likely going to be pregnant. This process has definitely flown by. The cramps from the shots suck, there is no denying it, but at the same time, it is only for twelve days, and before I know it, I will be finally experiencing pregnancy.

One of my friends on Facebook connected me with one of her friends that had recently gone through IVF. It was really nice to be able to talk to someone on the other side. She happen to have the same doctor that Tom and I do, and was put on the same medication regimen. She now has two beautiful twin boys. She describes infertility as something she would not wish upon her worst enemy, but at the same time, she appreciates the inner strength it forced her to discover. They say that God does not throw anything at you that you cannot handle.

If all goes as planned, Tom and I find out if our IVF cycle was successful on Thanksgiving. My new friend told me that the two weeks between embryo transfer and the pregnancy test will be the longest two weeks of your life, but if you meditate, you will know. My response is that I will be doing a lot of self-reflection and meditation, and I hope to have something very special to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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