Frozen Embryo Transfer: Tomorrow is the day!

Our frozen embryo transfer (FET) is tomorrow: February 12 at 12:00 PM MST! In this blog post, I describe what the last month of FET prep has been like…the meds…the symptoms…and my survival strategies. Send us all the love and positivity tomorrow at lunchtime!

The last time I wrote was January 13 – nearly one month ago. I was feeling pretty pessimistic about life at that time. I gave myself full permission to vent about my crummy luck with my medical diagnoses this past year. I felt like the upcoming embryo transfer was “doomed.” I did all that I could to focus on gratitude. 

During that last post, I also detailed my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) saga. As you remember, my TSH was 3.6, far too high for a transfer. It needed to be below 2.5 to move forward. Our February 12thtransfer date was contingent on my TSH trending downward (and hopefully to below 2.5). So, from January 3 to January 17, I diligently took my doubled dose of Synthroid (a manufactured form of thyroid hormone) every morning. On January 17, I went in for a blood draw. That afternoon, a nurse called to let me know my TSH had dropped to 1.7!  

We received a bright and sparkly green light for our February 12th transfer!

Thank you, almighty Universe!

So what came after that celebration?

Lupron.

On January 19, we started Lupron, an injected medication that essentially forces my body to not ovulate (temporary menopause?). We don’t want an egg descending into my uterus right when the doc’s about to plop in an embryo. Lupron tells my ovaries to chill out and take a month off. So, Cory gave me my first Lupron injection in the dressing room bathroom at the Center Stage Theater in Evergreen, CO on January 19. (That was quite the scene! Imagine two adults emerging from the backstage small bathroom carrying empty vials and remnants of used needles. Shady much?) I took my last Lurpon shot last night, February 10th! 

I am so grateful Lupron is done. First of all, I won’t have to deal with the pestering alarm (John Mayer’s “Who Says”) that consistently went off every night at 7:30 PM sharp. I really love(d) that song before it became forever linked to needles in my stomach and all the resulting Lupron symptoms. 

Speaking of Lupron symptoms…Lupron has been like an annoying rock in my shoe. Its impact is present and tangible, but it hasn’t been too terrible. I’ve had some headaches. Fatigue, of course. Hot flashes (sweater on, sweater off, sweater on, sweater off). 

Lupron was a major bee-yotch only once in the past month. Last Tuesday, I had the worst headache of my life thanks to this med. The two previous days, I had a constant, dull-ish headache, a 5/10. Nothing crippling, but not much fun either. I went to acupuncture Tuesday evening and felt much better after, headache dipping to a 2/10. Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up with the most intense headache of my life. I thought I was having a stroke and almost made Cory drive me to the ER. Pounding, gripping whole-head headache at a 9/10. I was nauseous. Moaning. Dying. And then with the minimal midnight reasoning skills I had, I figured it was probably a good idea to look for medicine (um, ya think?). I downed some Tylenol and felt better within an hour.

(Below is a picture of me getting an intralipid infusion, a “dietary supplement which is used for MS patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and also in my case, couples who are preparing to undergo infertility treatments such as IVF who have immune disorders. Its a highly calorific mixture of natural fats containing egg yolk and soya oil.” (Read more about this: here)

(Side note: I started writing this blog post about 4 days ago when I was still in the thick of Lupron. My thoughts were sluggish. I lacked creativity. Tonight, after being off of Lupron for only one day, the words flush out of my fingers forcefully and decidedly, like a well-powered toilet. You’re welcome for that visual.)  

So Lupron and all the menopause-esque symptoms.

What other meds have I taken to prep for this transfer?

A crap ton of estrogen.

Estrogen helps make my uterine lining nice and cozy for the embryo. I take one pill orally in the morning, half a pill vaginally at night (talk about a fun way to wind down…not!), and I place estrogen patches on my stomach every other day. For a few days there, I had four patches on my stomach at once! Holy estrogen. 

So how has estrogen made me feel?

Like a supple, fertile woman!

Mostly kidding…but kind of not.)

Estrogen has resulted in the most ridiculous (awesome?) fluid retention. One day, my calves retained so much water that I couldn’t even zip up my knee-high boots that I’ve had for six years. I take my socks off, and there’s a permanent Argyle imprint for hours (and my socks aren’t even Argyle print! J/K). My jeans hug my stomach a little more closely. And best (worst?) of all, my boobs(my mom hates that word)…my breastsare HUGE. Like a fertile momma tiger (uh, what? I think she’s gone off the deep end). But really – my boobs are huge and super tender. 

Now let’s talk about progesterone in oil (PIO),

an intramuscular shot I started about five days ago. Progesterone is a hormone necessary to prep the uterine lining (it’s all about the uterine lining this season! Uterine linings are so hot right now. You see them on every runway!). It also helps maintain an early pregnancy. So, progesterone in oil is injected into my hip/butt muscle every morning. (You heard me right. Progesterone in oil. OIL. Oilinjected into my gluteus medius. Before this experience, I would have thought that it would be important to avoid injecting OIL into one’s body, am I right?) 

Crazy Cory and the intramuscular needle from hell!

Crazy Cory and the intramuscular needle from hell!

So every morning, I start by heating the injection site with a heating pad for about 10 minutes while Cory preps the injection and attaches the nearly 19-inch needle. (There’s got to be a sexual innuendo somewhere in this. Help a girl out.) He carefully (and quite expertly) injects the medicine into my muscle. After the injection, we spend the next 10 minutes applying heat while simultaneously massaging the site to help spread the oil into the muscle to avoid knots and reduce tenderness. This whole progesterone deal adds about 30 minutes to our already rushed morning routine – but I kind of like it. It forces us to slow down. To connect. To check in. We usually spend our 10-minute-massage time watching Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos or listening to my Harry Potter audio book. 

Cory massaging my injection site. First layer: heating pad. Second layer: fancy massager.

Cory massaging my injection site. First layer: heating pad. Second layer: fancy massager.

Out of all my medications, I’d like to proclaim that I’ve enjoyed progesterone in oil shots the best. Because of the quiet stillness that surrounds them. So if you’re going through infertility treatments, don’t worry about the dreaded progesterone in oil shots. You’ll find your routine, and maybe you’ll even stumble upon some great YouTube videos in the process (make sure to send them to me!).

And then there’s the Medrol.

Wait – I may need to edit my most-favorite-medicine choice. I’m also taking Medrol, a low-dose steroid that started four days ago to suppress my autoimmune system from interfering with embryo implantation.  This steroid has ROCKED because it has also reduced my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. I can twist to clean my backside after using the restroom with no pain! I can easily bend down to clean the glass in our shower! Getting in and out of my car is effortless. My feet, hands, and neck don’t ache as terribly when I wake up in the morning. And I have amazing amounts of energy (roid raging!). It’s been AWESOME!

The downside to this steroid: insomnia. Last night I was up for at least two hours, thoughts spinning, shaming myself for being so anxious until I realized that it was probably just the steroid hamsters running laps around my sleepy mind.

What has helped me survive?

-Laughing. At myself. At the absurdity of the experience. “It’s just a really weird brain frog.” This is what I actually said to Cory tonight at dinner after struggling for five minutes to think of a specific word. (I used all my aphasia strategies, but nothing worked!) So there I am struggling to think of a word, and then pops out brain FROG to describe my brain FOG. We spent the next few minutes chuckling as we imagined all of the frogs jumping around my brain, grabbing words with their long tongues and swallowing them up before I could get a hold of them, while other frogs squished my brain in their little sticky froggy hands. Brain frog. Yep. That feels spot on.  And once I told my mom that the doc requires two days of modified “best red” instead of “bed rest.” Silly brain.

-Marie-Kondo-ing (that’s now a verb, I decided) my clothes a few weeks ago was really stress-relieving. Sparked a lot of joy!

-Going to bed early has felt really helpful too. I’m in bed most nights by 8:30 PM, lights out around 9.

-Entertaining TV has always been a good distraction too. This last month, Cory and I have been really into “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” on Netflix. I’ve really loved “Dietland” on AMC (I watch it on Hulu). “Dietland is part beauty-industry satire, part vigilante-justice thriller, part murder mystery, and part body-positive manifesto.” You should definitely check out both of those shows!

-Oh! And walking! I’ve been walking so much. Slowly and relaxed. Usually on the treadmill while watching “Dietland.”

-Listening to my Harry Potter audio book on the Libby app (an app that let’s you easily borrow and listen to audio books from your local public library. Really cool!).

-Distracting myself from all things IVF by getting mad at diet culture. Listening to the Food Psych podcast. Listening to this Ted Talk by the amazing Virgie Tovar.

-ACUPUNCTURE (see pics below)! I have lived and breathed acupuncture this past month. I go twice a week to practice that specializes in fertility and women’s health. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in this whole process! If you want to know more about my experiences with acupuncture, email me!

 -My family and friends. Everyone has loved on me so much this past month. It helped that my birthday was February 1st, so I received a lot of special attention that weekend!

Happy birthday decorations looking into dining.jpg

Real-time announcement: Cory just got home from his counseling internship! I’m going to go spend the rest of the evening with him as we prepare joyfully for our exciting day tomorrow!

Much love to you all! Thank you for your incredible support throughout this process. I can’t believe I’ve been detailing our infertility story on this soul-filling blog for over seven months now!

Peace, love, and (sparkly) unicorn farts! xoxo

-Kristen

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