I am back with news of my BFP - this is a book-long post, literally, w/ everything ment.

I am back with news of my BFP - this is a book-long post, literally, w/ everything ment.

Joined: September 19th, 2010, 9:20 pm

March 14th, 2011, 9:33 pm #1

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
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gone_fshn
gone_fshn

March 14th, 2011, 9:46 pm #2

I knew it was you I am sooo happy for you and DH!!!!! Of course Dr. Check is the man!!!!
OK now I am actually going back to read this post all the way thru
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Sara H.
Sara H.

March 14th, 2011, 9:47 pm #3

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
I just read the first two lines and the line about 12 weeks!

YIPPEEE!!!!!!!!

SO VERY HAPPY FOR YOU!

YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I am shouting!

SO HAPPY!

Love and hugs!
Sara H.

PS- YIPPPPEEEE!

Off to read the rest!
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JulesM
JulesM

March 14th, 2011, 9:57 pm #4

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
This couldn't have happened to a more deserving person!!! Big huge congrats!!!
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Joined: February 16th, 2010, 2:25 am

March 14th, 2011, 10:04 pm #5

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
OMG!!! I can't express to you how very, very happy I am to read your testimony. Congratulations!! You have helped so many and I am so happy to see that you have gotten your BFP. I had a feeling!! I also had a feeling that you were watching over all of us. Dr. Check deserves more than a hug!! Doing what he did for you is what it is all about!! YEAH!!!
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Tanya
Tanya

March 14th, 2011, 10:17 pm #6

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
I have had the privilege to get to know you on a more personal level and I say this from the bottom of my heart, this could not have happened to a more deserving person. Your journey should be published, you have brought tears of happiness to my eyes. God bless to you, your husband, your sweet doggie and your baby!!!!
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Joined: February 6th, 2007, 12:57 am

March 14th, 2011, 10:19 pm #7

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
I posted on the other board, but had to say congrats here too!! I kinda had a feeling too because you got quiet....ususally when people get quiet, they are early in a pregnancy. So glad all is well!!! I'm thinking of going au natural or very low stim for another cycle....this just helps convince me more that doing lots of stims isn't always the answer!

xoxo, Tracy


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Amanda
Amanda

March 14th, 2011, 10:28 pm #8

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
Tears of joy are streaming down my face as I write this. Thank you for sharing your story. You have always been such an inspiration and I am just sooooo happy for you! Wishing you all the best for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Amanda
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Joined: September 29th, 2010, 9:51 pm

March 14th, 2011, 11:41 pm #9

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
I. Love. Your. Story! So beyond thrilled and your herstory on how you got here was an honor to read. I am on a "cycle" break from Dr. Check (I live in Phila) so I was like ehhh maybe I'll go back, maybe not. I am truly inspired now and do indeed know what he means by being patient and do you want to get pg NOW or can you just keep trying OE? Okay, kicked myself in the rear and am planning to go back to him at the end of this cycle and just keep trekking on!

ps you are truly a talented and gifted writer, I hope that is in the plan for you whatever the future holds!
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Jamie
Jamie

March 15th, 2011, 12:00 am #10

A funny thing happened on the way to thedonor egg clinic.

I got pregnant. Naturally. And I have one man to thank and a promise to keep. I have to kiss Dr. Checks feet.

Where do I begin? Sometimes it feels like this journey only just started. And other times it feels like a baby has eluded me for an eternity.

About a year ago, I found an old calendar from 2005, which had written, in large letters and red ink, GET PREGNANT THIS MONTH. Up until that point I thought of December 2008 as the beginning of this journey. But when I found that calendar I was reminded that the start of my TTC journey was in fact a few years before that.

Then this past Valentines Day, I meandered into the room that has always been designated as the baby room. Its a great little room right off our bedroom that gets tons of sunshine. The sunlight warmed the room and for few moments I couldnt help but indulge in the idea of how the nursery would be set up. The room has a cabinet with books and old magazines. Figuring that this hunk of furniture and its contents will eventually have to go! I started perusing through the magazines with the intent of throwing them out. I found a little stockpile with titles such as BabyTalk, American Baby and Healthy Pregnancy. And with dates as far back as Fall 2002. *Two thousand two.*

And then there was the closet. Over the years, the rooms closet had become the catch-all for the baby things I collected over the years. There were the infant-sized terry-cloth hotel slippers (mom and dad are big travelers and it seemed only appropriate that the baby have his own set of hotel slippers), the limited edition animal print onesie from the ASPCA (mom is an animal lover), the plush toy baseball mitt with a baby-sized baseball attached that when pulled played Take Me Out to the Ballpark (the baby is coming into a family built on baseball lovemom and dad have visited every major league ballpark!), and then there was the special gift for dad, a CD of lullaby renditions of U2 songs (dad is a huge U2 fan and I always imagined baby and daddy bonding over these special lullabies).

And then I remembered when I bought my car. It was important to me at the time to make sure that it came with the pre-installed side and rear window shades so that the baby-to-come would be protected from the sunlight during daytime car rides. I bought my car in June 2004.
Our memories fail us but our mementos dont betray the facts. Those recollections reminded me that while January 2005 was proclaimed as the month to get pregnant, its really been about 8 years since the seeds of baby hopes were planted.

The silver lining is that for the most part of those years I suffered from ignorant bliss. I was so sure that I would get pregnant easily, that when my OB/GYN advised me in 2005 that she was going to stop OB-ing, I quickly found another OB/GYN. I told her I wanted to start building a relationship right away with a new GYN that could also deliver my baby. I created a list of all the OB/GYNs that were affiliated with the 2 hospitals that I would consider delivering at and eventually decided on Dr. X. I then did the official Family Tour of the labor, delivery, recovery and NICU of both hospitals. I was the only non-pregnant attendee during the tours; the others looked at me weird. I didnt care because I was sure I was going to be pregnant. Soon. Youd all see. After all, out of any of my friends, I was the only one who knew the exact moment she ovulated. I had 28 day cycles and I got mittelschmerz, people! I was the only one who even knew what that word meant!

Time passed on, our lives expanded, career progressed. It was October 2007. I wasnt pregnant yet but I also wasnt wondering much about it either. Twenty-eight day cycles and ovulation pains on CD 14 fueled my ignorant bliss. Then one day my boss advised my team that with the New Year the group was being moved to a different subsidiary within the company. Everything was remaining the same, no physical location move; the move was largely an on paper move. Since the subsidiary we were moving to was based in another state, the medical plans available to us would be different but comparable with like coverage their words. Now, I didnt just learn to be a detailed person because of the lessons learned in the infertility battle Id later fight. Ive always been detail-oriented. Can you tell by all the detail Ive given you so far? Many around me think I should have been, or should still pursue, a career as a lawyer. I dont take words like comparable with a grain of salt; not when there are serious matters at stake. We had very little time to make a choice about new health plans in time for January 1 but I made sure to go over every benefit line by line. What I discovered was that my current plan offered FULL infertility benefits including medications and up to 4 IVFs, while NONE of the new plans offered ANY infertility benefits beyond an initial diagnostic work-up. Even by an idiots definition this is not comparable. At the time I had no idea that I would ever need to utilize an infertility benefit. But I also couldnt say with any certainty that I wouldnt ever need to utilize it. I pushed back real hard on this, even if only based on principle. I was working for the companys division whose core business was dispensing specialty medications, inclusive of infertility medications. I knew about Gonal F, Menopur, Lupron and every other infertility medication long before those product names would become part of my personal lexicon. And yet my own company did not cover access to these medications. My boss helped to fight the battle. But there was nothing that could be done. Id just turned 36; still young, right? I decided to just forget about it.

October 2008 came and went and I turned 37. By that point some nagging feelings started creeping up. A close friend had gone through her own infertility journey and I started wondering if I should go talk to my doctor. I scheduled a visit with the OB/GYN, who referred me to a well-known area clinic, RMA of NJ.

That December 2008 is when the official TTC journey began and ignorant bliss was obliterated. As part of the work up, a CCCT test was completed. I blew a 7 on CD3 and a 10 on CD10. I was advised that the results indicated that I had borderline high FSH and my chances for pregnancy required IVF. What?! I was so certain that everything was going to be no big deal that I never even bothered having my husband go to the consultation and follow-up with me. I thought it would be like a super-sized Pap smear visit; not that Id be told I needed IVF. This was nuts! And oh yeah, I was in a job that forced me into a plan that didnt offer infertility benefits! Angry, livid, homicidalthose are just a few of the words that describe how I felt. About the only good news was that the HSG that I had completed in between the CCCT showed my tubes were open. But that came at a hell of a price! It was the most painful procedure I have ever endured while fully awake. I was cursing and ranting like a crazed Charlie Sheen. The only positive thing I recall was the assisting tech telling me that so many women get pregnant after having an HSG.

Maybe it was the upsetting diagnosis or the memories of that God-awful HSG, but the fire was lit under my butt. I was PISSED and I wasnt going to take this BULLSHIT about the insurance from my employer. I consulted an employment attorney. I could make a case but it would require a full-out battle paid for on my own dime. Instead, I filed an official grievance (my first time ever in my entire career) and wrote a professional but scathing letter to the highest person in HR, the SVP who reports to the CEO. I demanded to be moved positions. My plan was to wait to start treatment until I moved back to the parent company and had my old health plan restored; this way I would avoid having to pay OOP for any treatments, whatever those might be. I was a stellar employee so I knew I had some leeway in my demands. By Christmas, HR responded that they would assist me in moving back to the parent company.

In the meantime, the holidays came and went. But the one thing that never came was my period. I was crampy and just felt like AF was coming. On CD 28 DH and I were out mattress shopping and in the middle of talking to a salesperson I made my husband drop everything and leave immediately. I knew I had to run home because Id just felt my period gush. When we arrived homenothing. Underwear were totally clear and dry. A week went by with no period and I finally decided to call the REs office and left a message along the lines of hey, not sure whats going on with that Clomid you gave me or if its something else with the tests but I havent gotten my periodand my period is NEVER late. The nurse called back and said Well you did ovulate. So come in for b/w for a pregnancy test. Huh? A pregnancy test? NO WAY! Im not pregnant. Im just late and I want to know why. I called my OB/GYN instead and they had me come in that same day.

On January 13, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. I had done an HPT which showed a faint line. Later that afternoon, the doctor confirmed via urine test in the office and drew blood to confirm via an official beta. He also did an u/s and said he saw fluid; he said he saw what he would expect to see at that point, whatever that was. I remember going into his office after the u/s and him asking, rhetorically I guess, I dont know if those guys want me to put you on progesterone support. If he didnt know, I knew less. I didnt even know what progesterone support meant. It had been about a month since I started the RE work-up process and with the holidays, I hadnt gotten around to going into research mode. My OB sent me on my merry way with instructions to come back in a week and that in a few days they would call me with the official b/w results. A couple of days later, I got the call that b/w confirmed I was pregnant for sure. Still a brand-spanking newbie at this I never even asked what my beta was, what my P4 or E2 levels were. The days that followed were consumed with moments of OMG! this and OMG! that. Back to ignorant bliss but this time for another reason altogether. We have to buy a stroller, we have to get a baby room going, and oh waitthe baby will be born in September!! FANTASTIC, that means he makes the age cut-off for kindergarten!! This is just too amazing! I didnt even care if I transferred positions!

Sunday, January 18th was a cold day. I didnt leave the house at all. I let the dog out in the yard instead of walking her. During one of those moments in the afternoon, I heard some rustling in the shrubs in our front lawn. I peered out over the gate and I saw the strangest bird. WHAT WAS THAT? It wasnt a Canadian goose or some large duck. It was weird, sort of big and kind of gangly. I figured it had made its way onto our lawn from the river thats about a ½ mile away and that it would make its way back soon enough. But as the evening progressed the bird was still there. We had dinner, watched TV, prepared for bed. It had started snowing and the ground had a light coating; and the bird was still there. I went up to bed and lay there for a few minutes. There was no way I could go to sleep with this bird there and with it snowing too. I got out of bed and called the cops. They thought I was whacked out for worrying about some bird but I begged them to do something. They called the county animal control. To my surprise the animal control officer showed up within the hour. He was fully equipped, and with a headlamp on his forehead to guide his way in the snowy darkness, he was able to capture the bird painlessly and quickly. After examining the bird for a bit and looking it up in his handy pocket bird book he told me it was a Great Blue Heron. He said they are not normally around these parts, especially at that time of year; the little guy had lost his way and somehow made his way to our front yard. We said our goodnights; I was so grateful that the little guy could be saved. Reassured that all would be well, I crawled back into bed. As I lay in bed I felt my breasts, as I had been obsessively doing for the past week. Hmmm, they no longer hurt. Grab, pinch, prod. Totally fine. I went to bed that night knowing that something was seriously wrong. Sudden loss of symptoms kept replaying in my head.

The next day I started bleeding. I called the OB/GYN and got an appt. for the following afternoon, which coincided with Obamas inauguration. That Monday was worrisome but all I could do was wait; the OBs office had advised that bleeding could sometimes happen in early pregnancy. I went to work the following day and as Inauguration time was nearing, many of us gathered in the cafeteria to watch the historic moment on the large screen. And then it came. This time it was truly unmistakable feeling of clots and profuse blood and wetness. I swore I was bleeding right through my pad and pants. I abruptly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. It was a bloody mess. Here I was frantic about what was happening to me and frantic because I didnt want to miss the historic moment. The very historic moment that I had planned on witnessing so that I could one day recount it to my child. And in one fleeting moment, right there, it was all gone. I cleaned up, composed myself and made my way back, and got to see President Obama walk out and take his oath. Later that afternoon, my OBG/GYN did the u/s and said something like Sorry, theres nothing there. After he left, the nurse offered her sympathies. Somehow I felt OK. Upset but OK. I wondered about the Great Blue Heron. Had he lost his way and landed on my lawn as a message of how my baby was about to lose his/her way? Do storks come with messages of happy births and Great Blue Herons come bearing messages of sad baby news? What I do know is that I was happy that at least I saved the Great Blue Heron. One life was gone but another precious being lived on.

This all translated to needing to make sure that my position transfer took place and quick so that I could get the infertility benefits back. But quick took 7 very long months! The company was in a freeze so the positions were scarce. While I waited for an opening at work, my husband and I continued trying naturally on our own. He was always so sure that it was just a matter of us having even MORE sex. And now I had time to research what this high FSH diagnosis meant and figure out next steps. By July of 2009 a position came up that was a match with my background, and I finally transferred out. What I didnt realize was that I was just stepping into another nightmare in more ways than one.

When it was time to resume the pursuit, I had decided to see a new RE partly because the RE from the prior clinic had moved to Tennessee and partly because the new RE came highly recommended from a co-worker. And the new REs location, just a few miles from my house, could not be beat. I met with the new RE within a couple of days of my new benefits becoming active so I was happy that no time was being wasted. I quickly came to find out that this wasnt going to all happen as quickly as I planned out in my head. I envisioned IVF, pregnancy and baby registry by years end. My RE had visions of laparoscopy first. Surgery? Seriously?! Apparently, my first RE had detected an endometrioma on my right ovary but failed to mention to me directly. My new RE noticed the notation in the chart notes, and confirmed it via u/s. He felt that it was best to start off with a clean slate and remove all the endometriosis he suspected I had, including the endometrioma. I went back to my OB/GYN for his opinion of proceeding with the surgery. My OB/GYN apparently had noticed the endometrioma too during the early pregnancy u/s hed done on me. He agreed that I should have the surgery if I was pursuing IVF. I trusted his judgment, and so by default I ended up trusting my new REs recommendation. Id also done some reading and had come to the conclusion that a clean slate might be beneficial. The surgery was scheduled for August.

Surgery day yielded a few nuggets of info that had nothing to do with my condition. I quickly realized that I was working for an unreasonable woman. She had me working on stupidity (no other way to put it!) up until about 30 minutes before my scheduled surgery reporting time. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come with this job. The surgery itself revealed I had moderate endometriosis, which was removed along with the endometrioma on my right ovary. Because of recovery from the surgery, it would be September before I could cycle but as it turned out my period was going to overlap with my planned vacation. So we were delayed until October. In the meantime, while we were on vacation, we did a non-monitored TI cycle with Clomid (our choice) which was BFN.

Regardless, we were excited for the IVF GO Visit with the RE in late October. It was a go and I started BCP in preparation for IVF cycle #1. My FSH came in at 11.3 on CD 2 and on November 14, 2009, I started the MDL protocol with medium high stims. The follicles progressed slowly and IVF cycle #1 was a bust due to poor response, (I made one follicle), and it was converted to IUI. That was my first official ART BFN. We started IVF cycle #2 right away and this time did not prime with BCP and instead switched to antagonist with medium high stims. IVF cycle #2 was a bust, again, due to poor response and it was converted to IUI. Another BFN. It was only 2 cycles but I was losing patience. It was time to take a moment to breathe and consult a new expert. My research had already revealed Cornell and Cooper as the experts to consult with but I wanted to hear it first-hand from the New High FSH board. I did an anonymous posting along the lines of if money were no object where would you go and Dr. Davis seemed to be one of the top responses. You have to start somewhere and I decided to go to Cornell. Cornells location worked well enough since I am just over the NJ border, and even better, they were a participating provider in my health plan. I met with Dr. Davis on March 11 and he agreed with the high FSH diagnosis and prognosis Id already received from my former RE. Turns out that my former RE did his RE fellowship at Cornell and so Dr. Davis knew him well. Dr. Davis recommended IVF with high stims using EPP beforehand. By March 24 I started IVF cycle #3 using the EPP protocol followed by antagonist/high stims. I made 3 follies with 2 eggs retrieved, fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 2 mediocre embies transferred. Ugly embies or not, I was THRILLED to have made it that far for the first time! But, 2 weeks laterBFN.

Along the way through these first few cycles, we felt we needed to look at the full picture and figure out if something else could be contributing to a poor environment for success. For one thing, my stress levels were off the charts. My new manager was a despicable woman, who made her job her life and expected everyone else around her to do the same. Going into the position I knew there would be challenges because all 4 of my predecessors had lasted one year or less in the role. But this was nuts. I worked ridiculously long hours. I came home grouchy and miserable and late, rushing to have to do injections. I wasnt eating well in the evenings because I was coming home so late. DH couldnt stand my attitude, which really was not influenced by the medications, but by the witch I was dealing with at work. And her stupid comments about my condition (which I never revealed to her) and frequent morning appointments were certainly grounds for me to take her to HR. I didnt bother because I had more important things to worry about. Besides, I had known better and had protected myself by filing for intermittent FMLA as soon as I started my first cycle. With that in place she couldnt punish me for coming in late or missing a couple of hours of work. I started with her in July of 2009 and by that Fall I knew that the situation was unbearable and not sustainable long-term, regardless of what my family planning objectives were. Being the planner that I am, I had started the stay-at-home mom savings fund a couple of years earlier. That fund was now going to become the leave-work-to-become-a-mommy fund. My husband and I both felt that no 6 figure job was worth the misery that I was under. I mapped out a new, more aggressive savings plan, figured out stock and options vesting and bonus payout. I calculated a resignation date and with the full support of my husband, my last day was April 9.

Ironically, the process to get back my infertility benefits had eventually cost me my job altogether. All of my colleagues, even my boss and HR, were SHOCKED that I would resign, with no other job opportunity lined up, and especially in this economy. Everyone, except my boss of course, would comment Things must be really bad to leave like that! By and large I left it to them to figure it out. But yes, I was willing to shelve my career and become unemployed if it meant regaining my mental health. HR intervened right away and offered to place me elsewhere; other managers reached out to me to discuss opportunities. I just couldnt bear the thought of dealing with that beast during a transition. Not for one more day than necessary. So I left my career and paycheck and immediately took on an expense of $1,063.27 per month so that I could continue my insurance through COBRA and maintain access to the infertility benefits. Thankfully, my good reputation paid off and before my last day I had already secured a consultant assignment that would begin in May and end in October. The pay was fantastic and before I committed to the assignment I had a very candid and open conversation with the hiring manager about what I could commit to in terms of time. Hes a family man and knows the true meaning of work/life balance and so he was agreeable. It was a dream assignment!

With some renewed energy, we underwent IVF cycle #4 with Dr. Davis. We still did EPP but this time switched to Lupron paired up with the high stims. It quickly became evident that the cycle was a bust due to poor response (again, again, again!) and it was converted to IUI. The resulting BFN came as no surprise. Once again, I felt it was time to consult a new expert.

I secured an appointment with Dr. Check that coincided with the end of IVF cycle #4. Dr. Checks determination was that I did not need IVF and that all the protocols I used up until that point were wrong for me. He said I would be pregnant naturally in 6 months if I agreed to monitoring. My husband and I laughed. We were rather incredulous and somewhat jaded at that point. But it didnt matter if Check thought we could get pregnant naturally. I had found out that my former employer was discontinuing the infertility benefits altogether, across all medical plans, all subsidiaries by the end of the year. So if I wanted to take advantage of the benefit Id need to do so in the next 6 months. After all I had endured to secure the benefits, I was not about to leave them on the table unused. Besides, I wanted to get this baby thing going FAST! Dr. Check understood my predicament and agreed to proceed with IVF right away since my visit with him coincided with my CD 2. His parting words to me on the day of my first visit were dont be surprised if you make more eggs this way.

I was looking forward to start right away but was concerned that the Climara patches Id used in the luteal phase of my just-finished IVF cycle, would suppress me for the upcoming Cooper cycle. Turns out that it did not influence my FSH at all because CD 2 showed an FSH of 11. On June 25 I started IVF cycle #5 with low stims and went on to make 6 follicles with 5 eggs retrieved!! All fertilized naturally. One was multi-nucleated, another arrested at 3 cells, but 3 made it and were transferred. I went for the 6DPO monitoring and everything, E2, P4, lining, was perfect. As the days went on I started feeling like I do when my period is coming. Something just bugged me about the whole thing and under my own direction and armed with an old order for b/w, I went to my local RE for a blood draw at 10DPO. Cooper had received the results and right away called me to ask why I had gone for b/w. I told them whythat I felt like I was getting my period. Turned out that I was right, my results showed that my E2 was 30.2 and my P4 8.21. Obviously not good if you want to be pregnant but perfect it youre expecting a period. They put me on Estrace right away and added in Prometrium to the Endometrin I was already taking. Its hardly possible to rescue a dying corpus luteum but I played along anyway. At 14DPO I went in for my beta. I was convinced I was not pregnant and that my period would be here any minute, and so I hadnt taken that mornings meds. Cooper called later that afternoon. I had a BFP. OMG! WHAT?! A BFP?! Im pregnant?? Turns out that yes, I was at least a little pregnant. My beta came back at 20. My husband and I were in pure disbelief that this little quirky doctor, who cracked off-color jokes and didnt even possess 20th century technology in his office, got us pregnant. *On the first try.* Sadly, the joy was short-lived. The following beta decreased to 8.86. We had a chemical. But WOW. I got pregnant!! What to do next??

For various reasons that had nothing to do with Cooper, DH and I decided to go back to Dr. Davis. If I could convince Dr. Davis to replicate my Cooper protocol, we could also take advantage of Cornells endometrial co-culture process. We figured wed exhaust the insurance dollars on the expensive clinic since we could afford Cooper OOP if need be. And co-culture seemed about the only other technology left to explore. I set up a phone consult with Dr. Davis and gave him the recent update. He was not agreeable to replicating the Cooper protocol (and pointed out negatives with it) but was willing to do a different protocol that was lower stim than the original protocols he had prescribed. I agreed to the protocol and wanted to start right away in spite of the recent chemical BFP. We had to forgo the endometrial co-culture for the upcoming cycle since you have to sit out a month for that process. By July 27 I started IVF cycle #6. We had agreed that EPP suppressed me too much so we skipped that. Dr. Davis felt since my FSH was never too out of control (I once clocked in at 25 but other than that one time I usually came in at 14 and under) that we could chance it. He let me know that as long as my FSH came in at 12 or under hed cycle me. But he also let me know that if it clocked in at 12-point-something he wouldnt boot me. Turns out my CD2 FSH was 12.8! Just made it by a hair! The new protocol called for starting off with Clomid, and then starting injectibles on CD5. I was determined to have the cycle be as successful as my Cooper cycle, so I adjusted the meds on my own as the cycle progressed. I made 6 follies with 4 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized with ICSI, no AH, and 3 ugly embies transferred. Another BFN.

No worries, I thought, we still have co-culture in our back pockets. But it felt like it was time for a break and so we went on vacation for a few days to sunny Jamaica. What a relief it was to be away! The endometrial biopsy for co-culture was scheduled for when I returned. It was completed fairly painlessly and shortly thereafter we were on our way to IVF cycle #7. Dr. Davis prescribed the same protocol as IVF cycle #6 and this time I followed it to a T without making any self-prescribed adjustments. But this time my follie production was much less. I had one lead and 2 other follies limping along. What happened? Dr. Davis cancelled the cycle and converted to IUI. Of course, another BFN.

By now it was the middle of October, I was turning 39 and the December 31 insurance deadline was starting to tick loudly. I had one more insurance-eligible retrieval available and I needed to make sure that I got it in before the end of the year! We got right back on the horse again with Dr. Davis for IVF cycle #8. To increase my chances I willingly and voluntarily requested to have an HSG done that cycle. Had I lost my mind?! Yes. But I was desperate to catch lightning in a bottle. I figured that the first time I got pregnant, I had also had an HSG done. So maybe that was part of the success formula for me. Like a captured solider I bravely went into that torture chamber. Torture complete (and no new revelations via the HSG), I continued to stim. With only one lonesome follicle in play I made the decision to cancel the cycle. I knew Dr. Davis would cancel me, but I couldnt bear to hear it so I let myself be the first to blink. I was back to living up to the poor responder label. At my final review call with Dr. Davis, he told me I had done every possible protocol, and although he was willing to cycle me again, he estimated my chances of success with IVF at less than 10%. After 5 cycles, tinkering with different protocols, I felt Id had enough and I decided to leave Cornell, and leave co-culture on the table, and move back to Cooper.

It was now mid-November and I only had 2 periods left that would hit before December 31. I thought about taking a month off and saving the last IVF cycle for the last period of the year. But I thought better about it and realized that I couldnt take a chance that my FSH wouldnt cooperate on CD 2. Besides, my husband would be so busy at years end with the holidays that it would just add undue stress trying to squeeze in an ER and ET. I decided to go for it right away with the next period. If my CD 2 was elevated at least I had one more period to gamble with. IVF cycle #9 was underway on November 18 with a great FSH (7.8 all on its own) but a dismal, barely non-existent AFC. Although Cooper is in NJ, I still cycled as OOT with them because they were 1.5 hours away. From the first time that I cycled with Cooper I used my local RE clinic for the monitoring. I had even used them for some monitoring when I couldnt make it into Cornell. It generally went well, but on this last cycle it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One day one RE would see 2 follies, another day another RE would see 4 follies, another day 3. In the end, back at Cooper, 4 eggs were retrieved, 3 fertilized naturally, 1 was immature, did AH, and 3 really ugly embies were transferred. One was a 3 cell and it was only put back in because why not? At least it was still alive. But the embryologist reminded us that no ones ever gotten pregnant from a 3 cell. The other 2 were a 4 cell and an 11 cell.

I had been away in Europe on vacation for the 2 week wait of that last IVF cycle. My official beta was scheduled at 15DPO, which was the day I returned back, but I arrived too late in the day to go in for beta. It didnt matter; I had taken two FRER HPTs and confirmed what I knew. BFN. I decided to just wait until my period arrived to go in for the full b/w panel, which included beta. The day of my transfer I had set-up a callback with Dr. Check to discuss the cycle results. If the cycle turned out to be BFP I could always cancel the call, but if it was BFN then it was to my advantage to be able to talk to him as soon as the cycle ended. It turned out to be a good move given that the cycle was BFN. On December 16 I had my follow up conversation with Dr. Check. We reviewed the cycle. He agreed the embies were of poor quality but he still thought I had a good chance at OE pregnancy. I talked DE with him and moving on. He pushed back to me the question. Do you want a baby right now? He said if a baby RIGHT NOW is what I wanted, then donor egg was a better option. But if I could be patient and was willing to give myself some time, because I was still young, then he recommended we keep trying naturally with OE. The end result of the conversation was that while we figured out what we were going to do, hed want me to go in for a post-coital test. I told him I was going to get my period any minute and that given that I was very regular with my ovulating I knew that I would ovulate by December 30. He gave the nurse the instructions for setting me up for a post-coital test for Thursday, December 30, told me that if I felt like I may be ovulating sooner to be sure to call to move up the test date, and then he transferred me to the nurse for final details. She reviewed the post-coital process with me and then gave me the Robitussin / Mucinex instructions.

The next day was Friday and my period arrived with a vengeance. The cramps were so bad and the bleeding so heavy that if I hadnt seen the two BFNs at 14DPO with my very own eyes, I would have thought I was having a miscarriage. The cramps were harsh and piercing and continuous, and at some points I considered going to the ER. The following day I awoke feeling only slightly better, and despite looking pale and feeling weak and wanting to just remain in bed, I dragged myself in for CD2 monitoring at my local RE so they could send the results to Cooper. More so than the CD2 b/w, I needed to make sure that Cooper got the official beta results so that we could close the prior IVF cycle. After the monitoring, on the way out, I decided to ask the receptionist if my old RE at the clinic had any openings before year-end because I wanted to discuss DE. Sometime between my return from Europe on December 15 and that Saturday morning of December 18, we had decided to explore/move on to donor egg. And I wanted to at least get a first conversation going with an RE on the topic. As it turned out, there was an opening that very Monday coming! GREAT! I was so excited.

Later that day Cooper called with the CD2 results of my last period of the year: E2 less than 20, FSH 12.1, LH 4.6, P4 0.8, beta negative. We recapped next steps for post-coital test and that was it.

On Monday, I met with the local RE and we recapped the past year. He knew that I had moved on to Cornell after the 2 cycles at his clinic, and that I had also cycled with Cooper. He knew all this because hed been my monitoring RE on occasion when I was cycling with both Cooper and Cornell. We joked that I was doing the clinic rounds up and down the East coast. A few times I felt like there was this giant elephant in the room with a sign around its neck that read I told you so. After all, my RE had talked about DE since the very first consultation I had with him (of course, I had nixed the idea). And here I was 1 ½ years later asking about donor egg. But none of that mattered. We were just looking to move on. I told him I was going to do a post-coital test with Cooper because Dr. Check felt it was important if we were going to continue trying naturally even if moving on to DE. My RE felt it wasnt necessary but offered to do the test for me for convenience. I dont recall if I declined his offer out loud, or just thought it in my head, but I knew I was going to get it done by Cooper. But what I did want was for him to write up everything I needed in preparation for a DE cycle and figure out what could be done within the next 11 days before my infertility benefits expired. First up was a SIS, then meeting with clinics DE nurse and then there were a bunch of b/w tests for my husband and me to get done. We had to cram this in and fast! The SIS gets done between CD6 and CD10. Since I was on CD4, I could schedule the SIS right away. And luck struck again! There was an opening the morning of my CD6!! Another win!! Wow things are just really falling into place with this DE stuff! The SIS was fine and I had the all clear. I met with the DE nurse and she reviewed the process and she ran the necessary bloods for me in addition to some add-ons I requested like NK cell assay and karyotyping. She drew up the orders for my husband and included a bunch of tests for him to get done so that we wouldnt need to run them on the donor and thereby saving us some money. And speaking of money I also met with the clinics billing manager and reviewed all the costs associated with DE. OUCH! $25k - $30k seemed like the figure to work with.

Of course, I was doing all of this to get as much as possible covered by insurance before years end, but I also wanted to meet with other clinics too. I called another well-known clinic in the area and, AGAIN, I got lucky and secured a consultation for Tuesday, December 28. I had made a 3rd appointment with another highly regarded clinic for DE, but unfortunately, that appointment would have to wait until later in January. No problem. I had plenty to digest in the meantime.

That Monday I realized that December 30, O day, was coming around and as far as I knew I was on track for my post-coital test to be run that day. But since I didnt trust OPKs and I wasnt getting any EWCM signs, I decided I would go in to my local RE for b/w the following morning. Like good students, my husband and I practiced the baby dance that evening to get a jump start. In the morning I went for b/w and then on to my 2nd DE consult appointment right after.

In advance of the appointment, I had completed the clinics paperwork plus I had provided my own summary document that indicated all the activities broken down by cycle, across all 9 cycles. When I walked in to the REs office, she looked at me with an exhausted look of holy crap! As in, well youve certainly done plenty! But in this journey, no matter how much youve been beaten down, theres always a part of you that remains wistful (even if secretly) that maybe, just maybe, someone has the magic formula. I told the RE that while I was there to discuss DE, I was curious to know if she saw anything in my history that could be a clue or if she had any ideas on trying something different. Sadly, the answer was no. She actually recommended that if I didnt do DE, that I just stick to trying naturally. I asked if I should do monitoring and/or luteal phase support while I try naturally and she didnt think I should. She thought I should just stop thinking about it (suggested a vacation) and let things be. Not horrible advice, I guess, given that across 9 cycles all Id experienced was one chemical. Although, if a glorious honeymoon in Bora Bora hadnt sealed the deal, I didnt think a weekend getaway in the mountains was going to be the trick either. The rest of the consultation went well as we discussed the DE process and the clinics options for donors. As part of the consultation the RE wanted to do an u/s. As soon as she was in there I saw the follie. WOW its moving along! And look, I see the triple stripe pattern! The RE was amused by how well I could read the u/s images. She confirmed that I had a 20 MM follie on the right ovary and the lining was 9 MM and tri-laminar. After finishing with the RE, I moved on to meet with the nurse so I could provide copies of all the tests my husband and I had done so far, so that we could list out what was missing and I could get before years end. As it turned out there were several blood tests that my husband and I needed to get done which were required by this clinic. Since I still wasnt sure which clinic I was going to go with, I wanted to make sure we did all the tests. I left that day with my lab orders and told them that Id call them after the New Year.

Later that day, I got a call from Cooper. They had received my b/w from earlier in the morning. My E2 was juicy (of course my word) and my LH had taken off. My post-coital needed to be moved up by a day, otherwise there was risk Id ovulate beforehand and miss the window for the test. %$#@, thank God I decided to go in for b/w that morning. Despite the fact that Id been using Mucinex for 4 days, I wasnt getting any of the EWCM that I normally get so I really just couldnt go by that. I was afraid I had maybe botched things when I mistakenly took Robitussin DM for a few days before realizing that it should have been plain Robitussin. When I realized the mistake, I switched to plain Mucinex; maybe it was too late? No matter, because now I had the b/w to confirm what the u/s showeda mature follie was about to burst. Cooper advised that I BD that evening and then go in the morning for the test. That morning, Wednesday, December 29, I went to Cooper and had b/w drawn when I arrived. I then had an u/s done and it confirmed that the follie was still there and measured at 20.6 MM. Next I moved on to the exam room so the nurse could swab my cervix for the post-coital sample. While she was doing this I was telling her I was concerned because I didnt have EWCM, in fact, not much CM at all this cycle. She said I shouldnt worry because we could always do an IUI. I laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Not possible. With New Years Eve right around the corner, my husband was strapped to the business. Barring a life or death situation (literally), it just was not possible for him to step away from the business for a 3 hour r/t drive to Marlton.

I knew I would get to see the results of the post-coital at some point but I hadnt realized that the results of the post-coital would be available immediately right then and there. After I got dressed, I went to the microscope room where the nurse was studying my sample. She was mumbling something about how she couldnt count them there were just too many. Huh? OMG, what does that mean? Oh no, theres a problem. But why should I be surprised. It doesnt matter anyway, this was a technicality. We were moving on to DE. In between the flying thoughts in my head that were occurring in millisecond bytes, I came to understand from the nurse that this was, in fact, a GREAT result. She was saying that normally you expect to see 3-5 sperm in the field of view, but in my case, there were just too many sperm to even count them. She let me look at the sample under the microscope. I could see what she meant. Look at all those sperm!!! My God, not only were there sooo many of them, they were moving sooo fast! You couldnt even follow a single one. As soon as your eye zeroed in on one, he was off and gone. It was obvious they were happy in my cervical mucus! She asked, Do you always ovulate like this?! I said Actually, no. I normally ovulate BETTER than this! This was a dry month as far as CM! I told her this was great news although we had decided to move on to DE. She looked at my file. Despite having only done 2 cycles at Cooper it was pretty thick with a bunch of color-coded folders. Confused, she asked me why I was doing DE, in fact, why was I even doing IVF? I explained to her that after our first consultation, Dr. Check had wanted us to try naturally but that given my insurance situation and desire for a baby soon, we wanted to continue with IVF. And I felt that it was a good thing because I got to see what my eggs were producingreally ugly embies. She looked at my file again. She said, not really, you had that one 6-cell embie that was pretty decent. I pointed out that cycle ended in a chemical. So even if the embie looked decent, it still wasnt a good embie. She pointed out my age, 39. She said I was still young. We bantered back and forth and she was really sweet. She said she wasnt trying to change my mind about DE but at the same time she didnt think it was impossible for me to get pregnant with my own eggs. She then started talking to me about doing a trigger shot and P4 support for this cycle. I was confused. I told her I was only there for the post-coital test and thats it. I told her I wasnt monitoring or anything this cycle. She looked at me like ummm, yes you are. She looked at my file again and saw my prior P4 support history. Endometrin, Prometrium and PIO had all been used in some combination across the 2 prior cycles. I had also used Estrace and Climara patches given low E2 history in the luteal phase. She said she was going to talk to Dr. Check to see if he wanted to remain with the same or switch it up for this cycle. I took a picture with my cell phone of the monitor that was reflecting the sample under the microscope. I also took a short video. In the video you hear the nurse saying that is an excellent post-coital test. I was sad to leave those little sperm behind. They looked so excited and wild, like they were hunting for something.

I left Cooper confused. In the days prior I had been so eager to move on to DE. I had even told friends (close and not-so-close) as I bumped into them or the topic came up, that we were moving on. Now, after the post-coital test a feeling of hesitation started creeping up. But I swatted those second guessing gnats away. I had to realize that if I hadnt gotten pregnant in all the years prior to seeing the first RE, or in the non-cycling months since then, that the chances of us getting pregnant naturally going forward were just miniscule. But wait, there was that one time I did get pregnant naturallythe month I did the CCCT and the HSG. Yeah, well that ended in early miscarriage. And lets not forget all those ugly embies I made. Whatever, I just needed to move on and not get suckered in again. It was December 29 and my husband still needed to get his remaining DE b/w in before years end.

Later that day, the nurse whod done my post-coital called with my b/w results and my instructions. The b/w showed I was in the process of ovulating. I needed to trigger IMMEDIATELY, have relations that night and the following day (Thursday) and go back for u/s on Friday to confirm the follicle released. She had also talked to Dr. Check and he wanted to scrap my prior luteal phase support altogether. For this cycle, he was prescribing Crinone in the morning and 200 mg vaginal progesterone suppository at night. Nothing else. I wanted to protest and ask about doing some E2 support but I abandoned the idea. Let things be. The instructions were all fine and dandy except for one thing. Across all cycles, I had done all of my injections with the exception of the trigger shots and the PIO. Those meds required syringes with LONG NEEDLES! And in the butt, where I had a hard time getting a good angle. My husband had always had the honor of doing the butt shots and he had done a good job. But now, with him imprisoned at work and not a single person around that I could count on to do this trigger shot RIGHT NOW, I had to bite the bullet. I got the syringe prepared and without even thinking about it, bam! In and out and pain-free. If Id had a Staples easy button Id have pressed it.

When my husband came home that night we did the baby dance while my mittelschmerz was peaking. The next day was Thursday, and my husband had a long day at work and I too was just exhausted. We were going to do the deed but all I recall was me saying something along the lines of I just cant and I fell asleep. I got up bright and early on Friday, New Years Eve, the last day of infertility coverage, and drove down to Cooper. The u/s showed that the follicle had released since Wednesdays u/s. Technically, I didnt need to do b/w if the u/s confirmed a released follie, but I couldnt help myself. I was going squeeze every last insurance dollar that I could! I got b/w done and then left. Later that day, one of the nurses called with my results and instructions. The b/w confirmed what the u/s showed: ovulation. She speculated that I had ovulated some time Thursday. I told her that Id only had relations on Monday (of my own accord), Tuesday (because next day was post-coital) and Wednesday (per that days instructions). Although I was supposed to BD, I had skipped Thursday. She said to still have relations that day, right away, because there was still a slight chance the egg was around. I laughed, because again, right away would mean HOURS away since my husband was at work. The soonest I expected him at home was 7pm. And hed need some time to decompress before we could get busy. The rest of my instructions were to start the P4 support the next day and return for b/w and u/s later in the week and beta on Friday, January 14. As it turned out, it was 9pm when I finally had relations that evening on New Years Eve. If there was any chance of getting the egg we would have to rely on the swimmers from earlier in the week.

On January 4 I had a follow-up phone consult with Dr. Check. I had set up this call in advance to discuss the results of the post-coital, as well as Coopers DE program. Prior to the call, Id had a phone consult with one of Coopers DE coordinators and we discussed their program and process extensively. After having met with the other 2 clinics and now having had the phone consult with Cooper DE, I was leaning towards doing DE with Cooper. I did have some concerns and I wanted to discuss those with Dr. Check directly. But first we discussed the results of the post-coital and one thing he honed on was that I had released the follie. I said, of course I releasedI had triggered. He said that the purpose of me triggering that cycle was to make sure that I did in fact release the egg, because there are women who actually dont release, even with a trigger. So he was pleased with my results. Again, while he was supportive of my decision to move on to DE, he was still confident that I had a good chance of being pregnant in 6 months with OE. He also said I had a very good chance of getting pregnant this month. How much of a good chance? I asked. After rambling some quick calculations and stats that accounted for my age and whatever else, he said 18%. That was a hell of a lot better for a natural cycle than the less than 10% chance with IVF that Dr. Davis had given me. I told Dr. Check that if I got pregnant this cycle, I would kiss his feet. He said a hug would do just fine.

I cant recall why, but I didnt make the luteal phase testing on the scheduled day, whatever day that was. For anyone living in the Northeast this winter, you know how brutal it was from the end of December all the way through the end of January. Every week, sometimes twice per week, we were getting pounded with snow. It was probably for this reason I didnt make the monitoring on the scheduled day. But I did go for b/w on January 8 at 9DPO. Something about the results, E2 222 & P4 19.5, made me feel good. Historically, at 9DPO my E2/P4 starts to decline rapidly, signaling that my period is on the horizon. But these numbers made me feel good. Of course, without having prior b/w to compare to, it was hard to say if the numbers were holding steady, rising or on a decline. But something about the numbers struck me (and the Cooper nurse agreed) as solid numbers. Whatever, though. I needed to keep a level head and besides all that was going on with DE, my husband and I had lots going on with some personal projects and our upcoming travel plans that there really just wasnt any time to think too much, if at all, about this cycle. In fact, I was enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not being tied to an IVF cycle. I was enjoying my beers and my glasses of wine and salt-rimmed margaritas. And I never thought twice about picking up the shovel during one particular snowstorm that hit during the day while my husband was at work and I had to clear some snow on my own. Other than having to insert the P4 support every day, I was just living normally without the constraints of an IVF cycle. Instead, we had DE on the brain. A couple of evenings, we logged on to a South African clinics website to check out their egg donors. It was exciting to look at profiles and pictures and wonder who would take my place in the making of this baby. We had one more clinic to meet with later on in the month before we would decide definitively on what clinic we would be using.

But as much as I was moving forward, there were times where I had my moments of breakdown. A few months back I had ordered a rosary from a church in NYC. The rosary was specifically for praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of womens infertility. Id come to learn that St. Anne suffered for many years wanting a child but never having it come to fruition. One day she was finally blessed with a baby. That child was the Virgin Mary, who, as we know, went on to bear Jesus Christ. I am Catholic but certainly would not consider myself religious. I never knew this story and it intrigued me and I couldnt wait to receive my rosary. It took a while for me to receive it, and when I finally got it in late December, I anxiously opened the padded envelope with a scissor. But somehow I had inadvertently cut a rosary link when I was cutting the envelope and the rosary broke apart. I was devastated, interpreting the situation as a bad omen. My husband assured me not to worry and that he would take care of it. How?! I cried. Itll never be the same! There was another particularly painful episode that I knowingly brought upon myself. We had gone out to dinner and afterwards we decided to go to Barnes & Noble. I made my way to the childrens area and looked for a book I had discovered a while ago. Its God Gave Us You and its the story of a mama bear tucking in her little cub while telling her where she came from. Its a sweet and tender story and it always made me cry. This time was no different. I had my husband read it and as I turned the pages the tears just streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed. With a broken womb and a broken rosary, would I ever have a baby? A few days later my husband came home from work with a little gift. Hed gotten the rosary repaired! The jeweler put it back together perfectly! I was thrilled.

One day on the way back from errands I decided to stop in the local CVS. I wanted to buy some HPTs to keep handy while we tried naturally. I found a great deal on e.p.t and bought 2 packages. Later in the week, my husband and I decided to go away to our weekend house. I realized that I would be away for my beta but I didnt care. I was looking forward to going away. I decided to take one of the HPTs with me instead. We arrived at the weekend house on Wednesday and had a cozy night in. The next morning we woke up and hung out in bed with our dog, watching the morning news. We were hungry and so we started getting ready to go out for breakfast. My husband went to the bathroom downstairs and I went to the bathroom upstairs. I peed on a stick, capped it and then went down to let the dog out. I let the dog back in and a few minutes later I remembered about the stick hard to believe that I had actually forgotten about it!

I went upstairs and there it was. There it was.

I saw it with my very own eyes. Or rather saw them. Two lines in a cross-hair pattern. Staring back at me. And for the first time I didnt have to turn the stick 500 different angles and under 1,000 different light sources wondering is that a 2nd line?

I ran downstairs, stick in hand, and kissed the dog and told her the news. She was the first one to know! My husband was still in the bathroom. I paced back and forth and silently thanked God, the gods, Dr. Check, my deceased dogs, any higher being or power that played a role in making this baby. And my husband was STILL in the damn bathroom! What are you doing in there?! I asked, trying not to sound like an angry and impatient woman and possibly spark a tiff. Getting ready! Brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed. UGGHHHH could you take ANY longer???!!! I paced some more and kissed the dog some more. And then he came out. I showed him the stick and asked what he saw. Two lines? YES!!! Two %$#@ lines in the shape of a plus sign, meaning POSITIVE!!!!! Im pregnant! That was it I said it out loud. I was pregnant. It was Thursday, January 13. It was exactly 2 years to the day since I got my very first pregnancy news. I just hoped that there wouldnt be any wayward Great Blue Herons this time around.

I called Cooper and they asked that I get b/w the next day. Luckily there was a lab nearby that I could go to; Cooper faxed over the orders. I went in early Friday and reminded the lab that the orders were STAT. I called Cooper and left the callback request. By 3:30 pm Cooper called me to advise that they still hadnt received the results. Just the stress that I needed!! I called Quest and they said the results werent available just yet and that technically they had until 7pm. I went nuts; 7pm was too late! The doctors office would be closed by then. I needed my results NOW. My pleas didnt fall on deaf ears; the representative said they would be ready within the hour. I called back the Cooper nurses to give them the heads up and by 4:30 it was official. The nurse gave me the results: E2 305, P4 39.7, beta 108. I exclaimed Those are great numbers!! She laughed, Judging by your reaction, obviously you dont need me to explain these numbers to you. No, I dont need any explanations!!! I know what every hormone and number means for me. I needed to go back for the next beta check on Monday. The beta more than doubled and the healthy E2 that previously eluded me was behaving the way it should: E2 434, P4 40.6, beta 942. This was officially a strong BFP.

After several more beta, E2 and P4 checks, I finally went to a local radiology group for u/s at 22DPO, and we saw a gestational sac and beginning of a yolk sac. At 25DPO we saw the beginnings of a fetal pole. Because I was going on vacation overseas, the Cooper nurse wanted me to see my OB/GYN right away for my first pre-natal visit. I still remained under Coopers care but at 28DPO I went to my OB/GYN. We saw the heartbeat and I was measured at 5 weeks and 6 days (+/- 2 days) with a due date of September 23, 2011. No words can explain the feeling at the sight of that flickering on the screen.

After some competency concerns I had with the local radiology group, I decided it was best that Cooper do my u/s monitoring going forward. At 32DPO, right before I was leaving for vacation, I went in to Cooper for my first u/s there. The nurse could not have been any sweeter. She hugged me, congratulated me and even told me I looked cute! We saw a 7MM embie with a heart rate of 120 BPM. I hadnt had any spotting whatsoever and the nurse wanted to keep it that way most especially because I was going away overseas. So she started me on 200 mg of Prometrium in addition to the progesterone I was already taking. She also gave me a copy of labwork showing my blood type in case there was any emergency.

Two days later I left for vacation, hoping that everything would go well and without incident. It did. The day after I returned it was 43DPO and I went to my OB/GYN for an u/s and everything was perfect. The u/s showed a 16.8 mm embie with a heartbeat at 158 BPM and I was dated as 8W1D. At 49DPO I went to Cooper for u/s and there he was. An adorable tiny form, on his back, with tiny buds on the side as if he was praying. The h/b was no longer a bright flicker now that he had filled out more. Instead, now you saw the chest expanding and contracting in the area where the heart was. And he wiggled. I saw my husband smile for the first time a smile of excitement; his expression was more relaxed. We had made it to 9 weeks.

Before we left, I asked the pregnancy nurse if she could locate the nurse that had done my post-coital test because I wanted to thank her. When she came over I reminded her who I washow it was the end of the year and I had gone in for my post-coital and she had declared that it was an excellent result. She remembered and she hugged me and congratulated my husband and me. I couldnt help but get emotional. I told her I was in disbelief because Dr. Check had insisted I could get pregnant naturally and she had too, but I had my doubts. With their help on that cycle, I overcame what I had been led to believe was the impossible. She told me I should write Dr. Check a letter because he would be interested to look at my case. I told her my husband and I had plans to make an appointment to thank him in person once we got a bit further along after the NT scan, and that I just may have to kiss his feet, like I told him I would if he got me pregnant this cycle.

On my last u/s visit to Cooper, I happened to bump into Dr. Check in the hallway. I thought about waiting to talk to him as I had planned, but I couldnt resist the urge and asked if I could have 5 minutes of his time. He agreed and we went into the microscope room, the same room where Id seen my post-coital results. Being respectful of his time (he was on his way to see a patient), I gave him the quick recap on who I was and why I was there. I was now 10 weeks, 6 days. Pregnant naturally. And I wanted to thank him. I reminded him that he was the only doctor who ever believed I could get pregnant naturally. Hes a funny man, that Dr. Check. Not just in a humorous way, but in a perplexing way too. He coyly said I remember about your husbands sperm. And then made one of his off-color jokes that you cant resist but laugh at. But the perplexing part was his humbleness. I felt like shaking him and yelling YOU DID IT! but he just shuffled around and congratulated me quietly. Something so monumental to me, was all just so normal to him.

As you can see, I had a very strong need to tell my story, the story behind how I became Mrs. A. I needed the therapeutic process of reviewing my journey and all that Id been through. And as much details as I have provided its still not even the full story. The experiences of everything from alternative medicine, to supplements to spiritual cleansings and whatever elseall that extra stuff hasnt even been included. Or the effects this journey has on a marriage, relationships, friendships. Or the effects its had on me; from physical effects such as veins that are scarred from countless blood draws to cycling weight that never went away to emotional scars of going from being career-focused and goal-oriented, to being unemployed, stripped of my identity and labeled an infertile poor responder with barely any hope of ever having my own DNA child. I am still trying to figure it all out.

I also had some serious hesitations about posting my success. Having been on the other side, just only a couple of months ago, I know what its like to hear a success story and compare yourself and second guess and wonder maybe I can replicate the same success. Only to be disappointed when the result doesnt live up to the expectation. And it certainly doesnt get lost on me the fact that I have become one of those irritating stories that illicit comments such as just adopt and youll get pregnant. Or in my case, just move on to DE and youll get pregnant. But while I know I risk being considered an irritating story, I decided to still post my story because I do share in this unique sisterhood of high FSH infertility. I know the feeling of being in that bottomless pit trying to crawl your way out. Some of us make it and some of us dont. I still havent gotten all the way out yet. And whether I make it all the way out or not, I want to pass on my experience because the cliché is steeped in truth, if just one person can benefit, then it was all worth it.

I am now 12 weeks and 4 days with an adjusted due date of September 22, 2011, a full month before my 40th birthday. I dont know where this journey ends so I dont know where I am in my journey. Am I still smack in the middle, or close to the end? Will this pregnancy continue? Will it result in a healthy live birth? Only the higher powers know. What I do know is that a very smart and caring doctor believed in me and my ability to conceive. The only doctor who ever told me that I could get pregnant naturally. The only doctor who saw my husbands semen analysis and felt that it could overcome any egg quality deficiencies I may have, if they even existed. Quite frankly, the ONLY doctor who could get me pregnant whether with IVF or naturally. Many will say it was just a matter of luck and not RE intervention. No doubt there was an element of luck, some aligned stars and possibly other contributing factors as well. I had been taking 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day, religiously, since the start of my last IVF cycle. My husband and I both took multiple B12 shots in the weeks before I ovulated. I had also been praying every night to St. Anne with my perfectly repaired rosary, and had my name and intention added to the weekly St. Anne devotional prayer at the church. I gave myself some much-needed mental relief by re-setting my TTC course and moving on to DE. I got a deep-tissue massage a couple of days after ovulation. And lets not forget that I also had an HSG two months prior to conceiving and a SIS a week before ovulating. About the only thing I was missing was a swim in the fertile waters in Australia that got Nicole Kidman pregnant! But all those things took place without a control; too many variables in an uncontrolled setting. Nevertheless, it was this cycle that Dr. Check wiped the board clean and gave me a completely different protocol: Mucinex, TI, trigger shot and totally revamped P4 support. Regardless, what cant be denied, without a shadow of a doubt, are my success stats. I was 0 for 2 at my local clinic. I was 0 for 5 at Cornell with Dr. Davis. I was 2 for 3 with Dr. Check. He got me pregnant on my first IVF cycle with him and he got me pregnant on my first natural cycle with him. In 3 tries under his care, he accomplished what others could not do in 7 attempts.

I hope everyone can respect and understand when I say that after going through my journey, Ive learned there is no doctor like Dr. Check (and no staff like his nurses at Cooper). In everyday life, I often quote my high school Italian teacher; apparently there is an old Italian saying that translates to the slower you go, the faster you get there. I realize now that, in his own way, that was the message that Dr. Check was delivering to me. But in my desperation to not be 39 and TTC, fueled by the your only shot with OE is IVF prognoses Id received, I chose the fast road. And as it turned out, a road that went nowhere. If only I had seen Dr. Check from that very first time back in December 2008, maybe my life would be very different right now, filled with a toddler running around. But I accept the journey I underwent. In due time I am sure I will find the greater meaning in it all.

Dr. Check cant help everyone, and hes certainly not God. But he wont give up on you so long as you dont give up on yourself. And if he doesnt succeed, it wasnt for lack of trying with the best intentions that have nothing to do with stats or money or recognition. Ive never met a doctor like him, and I pray the day will come when my little one gets to meet the man who helped bring him into the world.


P.S. In case youre wondering, I didnt kiss Dr. Checks feet the day I thanked him. He didnt remember my promise, and I forgot to mention.

*Unpublished work ©2011 Mrs. A*
Now see, I TOLD you that being 39 and TTC was sometimes the magic combo!

Huge congratulations!
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