Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Family Tree

As promised, some photos from our weekend with Sean's parents!

We took mom and dad to Ruth's Chris (a fave of ours) to celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary! I am in awe of them and the 48 years they have shared. Their life together began 48 years ago when they left Belfast, N. Ireland and married in Birmingham, England - just the two of them and a witness. They had tea and scones for the "wedding lunch" and went to a "picture show" to celebrate. They created a little love nest in a one room apartment in England, before returning to Belfast to raise a family. It wasn't long before baby after baby filled their small home with love. 2 boys and 2 girls in the span of 8 years. To say that life in Belfast with 4 small children was difficult would be an understatement.

They were poor and had none of the modern amenities we have become so accustomed to today. They talk of burning the furniture to have a fire for the babies during one tough winter. The "troubles" and violence were ripping Northern I.reland apart throughout the 1960's and it was a dangerous time. Ultimately, the "troubles" drove the young family to make the difficult decision to sell their home, all of their possessions (little as they were), leave their family, friends and the only life they had ever known and seek Political Asylum in the States. They boarded a jet to To.ronto, Ontario on Thanksgiving Day 1973 with the clothes on their backs, $500 in their pockets and 4 weeping, scared children.

For a few years, they lived with Rita's sister, Mary, who had married a Protestant and fled Belfast years before. It was tight quarters for Sean's parents the 4 children, Aunt Mary & her two boys. They worked their asses off and were able to buy their own home in B.uffalo and live the "American Dream." Soon, Sean was born and life in the States continued to be good to them. They were homesick for many years, but eventually began to call this "home" and made it official by becoming US citizens in the late 1990's.

The years went by and today they have 5 children, 5 "children-in-law", 10 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. The life they have lived is awe inspiring to me and to think about where they started and the family they have today makes me very emotional. Their legacy is a tremendous one and I cannot wait to build onto that living legacy and add on to our family tree. It will be an honor to me to give them (and my parents) the gift on grandchildren and pass on the family name... It breaks my heart to even think that we may not ever have our own biological children to share in this wonderful tale of love...

I want to capture their stories and memories and be able to share them with our children and grandchildren and future generations. I think for their 50th Anniversary, we would like to catalogue their genealogy and also send them on the trip of a lifetime.

Speaking of trips of a lifetime, we tried to press them for ideas on where they might like to go if they had the opportunity to go anywhere in the world and the modesty of their answers truly speaks to the life they have lived and the simple things they value. Their responses: Niagara Falls (it's 15 minutes from their house and have been their many times), take Sean & I to Belfast (yes, take us on their 50th Anniversary trip! Sean has not been since he was 2), or maybe Vegas (they have also been there). As for a party, perhaps the party they never had all those years ago, "Nah! Just all of children and grandchildren together for a cookout in the yard..."

I feel lucky to have such wonderful in-laws. I love and admire them a great deal!

Anyway, we had a delightful time with them. We went boating and spent a day in St. Michael's, MD. We had cook outs and dinners out. The conversations were great and the stories of "old times" back in Ireland were even better. They are memories I know we will all cherish as the years go on. A few more pics of their visit:

It wasn't all sunshine and roses for the entire visit. When the infertility topic came up, they started in on the, "Maybe if you just relax...", "Look at your sister, she had IVF and then, BOOM - 2 miracle spontaneous pregnancies! She proved the doctors wrong..." Sean stopped that train dead in its tracks and tried to explain for the umpteenth time, that no amount of relaxing, adopting, vacationing, or ensuing pregnancies will make his sperm count miraculously reach "normal" levels and impregnate me. I was very proud of him! I wonder how long until we hear the, "Look at your sister speech" again!

Speaking of sperm, Sean's visit with his urologist was last week. Dr. J told us pretty bluntly that our chances of natural conception are pretty close to 0%. WOW! I had never heard it put quite so dismally before. It is what it is, I guess. He said Sean has the "perfect storm" of testicular issues (undescended teste at birth that is damaged, scar tissue from double hernia surgeries, & a varicocele - just to name a few)!

Dr. J feels he is a good candidate for the varicocele embolization. No miracles expected, but it will alleviate some of his discomfort and move us up to a whopping 3% chance of natural conception. WOO-HOO! Look out 'cause we'll be rollin' then!!!

We are going to proceed and his procedure is scheduled for August 20th, pending the results of his ultrasound. FWIW, Dr. J gave S.hady Grove a resounded YES and strongly encouraged us to make the switch official ASAP. The nurse practitioner who did my pap this week, also "seconded that emotion."

One last picture to close with. It tugs at my heart strings and makes me long for the day when this will be a reality...

Sean and his best friend's new daughter, Madilyn Rosebud. 4 weeks old and already a heart breaker...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

All Aboard!!

My break from all things IF/IVF related is officially over! After consulting the boards, family and friends regarding whether or not to seek a 2nd opinion from an RE, we decided to heed your advice and do just that & now I am back on the IVF train.

Yesterday morning we had a 2nd opinion consult at S.hady G.rove in Annapolis. I was walking in there thinking my mind was already made up, I was sticking with my current clinic and just humoring myself by "doing the right thing." At first, I was uncomfortable and the clinic seemed big and loud and impersonal. I was sitting there smugly -already dismissing them, ready to go back to my normal clinic; however once we met with Dr. M. my whole impression changed and now I am as confused as ever...

Dr. M hadn't had much time to examine my records, but at first glance he felt that we have received good care and had two good cycles so far. Then he said, "So, what can I help you with?" and I am thinking, "Great we are totally wasting every one's time." I told him that although we have been happy with our care so far, at the end of the day, we still are not pregnant and do not want to leave any stone unturned on our IVF journey.

He told me at the bare minimum he would like to repeat my HSG since it has been over 2 years since my first and he wants his own b/w panel. Then, he looked over my charts a bit more and said that there are a few changes he would make right off the bat:

1st- no more 3 day transfers. Blast transfers only - his lab does not work with with 3 days at all, ever.

2nd- Assisted Hatching- he said it can't hurt, definitely might help implantation along.

3rd - No more Lupron for me! His thoughts were that for my age and CD3 b/w, I should be producing more eggs - closer to the 12-15 range not the 8-10 that I have been producing. So instead of long Lupron, he wants to use Ganirelix. His explanation was that both Lupron and Ganirelix do essentially the same thing - which is suppress ovulation. The analogy he used was if you want to turn out a light, Lupron is the equivalent of throwing a sheet over the lamp day after day after day until you have finally blocked all the light. Ganirelix pulls the plug out of the wall! He went on to say that taking Lupron out of my cycle will allow for a "cleaner, less medicated cycle,"hopefully resulting in more eggs.

We talked some more and I asked him some questions that have been sticking in my craw about my previous cycles. I asked him about my E2 dropping off after ER and needing the HCG booster shots. He was flabbergasted and said he respectively disagrees with that plan and disagrees strongly at that. He explained that E2 should drop off after ER (I'll leave the explanation at that) & he thinks the HCG boosters are unnecessary. He does not even check E2 after transfer. He feels the only hormone that is important after ET is progesterone and he believes it should be given by PIO because that is the best way to control delivery and absorption. I know this is hotly debated in the IF community and it really doesn't matter to me. We have done suppositories the last 2 cycles with no success, so I am fine with trying PIO this go 'round.

I also asked him whether or not he uses prednisone and he said he does not. He said he conducted a study a few years ago using prednisone and he does not see the benefit of using it. He explained that the immune system is a very delicate thing and he does not like to mess with it unnecessarily.

I asked about my weight as well and Dr. P's recommendation to lose 5-10% of my body weight before cycling again to rule out weight as a factor and Dr. M said he once again respectively disagreed. He said I fall into the "So what" category and doesn't feel it is in anyway impacting implantation. His advice was to do whatever makes me feel good and of course any weight loss would have a positive effect on a potential pregnancy.

We chatted some more about life in general and Sean's varicocele and discussed his treatment at Hopkins. Dr. M said Hopkins' Urology is the best in the nation and if Sean wants to pursue a repair, he is in great hands. He also gave him some samples of a new vitamin called Conception XR - he said it falls into the "Can't hurt, might help" category. No herbs, just vitamins and minerals. We'll try it. Sean goes to Hopkins on Monday to have a pre-op visit for his varicocele embolization.

Dr. M had us meet his nurse coordinator, lay out a preliminary treatment calendar, discuss meds, meet with billing etc...

All in all, it was a great visit. We feel like we learned a great deal and walked away feeling like we have a lot to think about. Our first impressions of the clinic were totally changed in the 2 hours that we were there and we walked away feeling very positive about things.

Sean is leaning strongly towards switching clinics. I am willing to let Dr. M repeat the b/w and HSG and have follow-up appt. It is looking like I will have CD 3 b/w and HSG in the next 2 weeks and possibly cycling in late August or September...

So, that is where we are with things. I would love to hear any feedback you have for me!

In other news we had a great visit with Sean's parents over the weekend. I will post some pics later this week!

*****FYI****** success rates for clinics are similar. S.hady Grove (approx) 44%, F.ertility Center of M.aryland (approx) 41%......