Monday, December 15, 2014

Miscarriage...Again

I miscarried over the weekend. We've determined that I can't ever go through this again so this is the end of our Embryo Adoption journey. That's all we know now. Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rescinding

We've all heard of false positives and false negatives when it comes to pregnancy tests, but I have just experienced a

FALSE MISCARRIAGE!

I am so thankful for the God-given gift of maternal instinct, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit that encouraged me to hold out hope, keep taking my medicines, and ask for another test. The repeat test showed that my levels have now *multiplied exactly as they were supposed to* and, from everything we can know right now through lab work, the baby is JUST FINE. We're not sure what I experienced over the weekend or why the levels did what they did and there are some abnormal markers that they really would like to see improve, so we can still really use your fervent prayers, but hope is not lost, and baby is still here and growing!

I am so frustrated that my hand prevents me from typing everything that has happened in the last few weeks (I do my updates on my phone) so I am seriously considering vlogging it because there is so much glory and miracle to tell of!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beta drop

My beta in Monday was 29. I got word today that it was 27 on Wednesday. Morning sickness set in last night (Thursday). Doctor said to expect a miscarriage this weekend. We are praying for a miracle. Doctor said there isn't any hope but said I could continue my meds and test again on Monday if I want. I know a miracle can defy every impossibility. Would you pray that God spares this little one's life?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Checking In

Hi All,
I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving! We did, but then


It's my dominant hand so I am super restricted in my activity and can't type easily. Texting is a little easier because I can access the whole keyboard with one hand. But, needless to say, that's why I haven't posted.

I got negative home pregnancy tests every day of my 2ww. Then my beta was yesterday and the doctor called today:


The story of God's journey with my heart this week is pretty incredible and I can't wait to tell it when I can type more. 

The reason the home tests were negative is that my blood count hormone is really low. That could mean nothing at all but it could also mean baby is struggling. So we are asking you all to pray with us. Grow baby, grow!

Thanks friends!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent for Little Ones: Truth in the Tinsel

Christmas is coming. I've recently begun blogging with another blogging team, and I was working on an article yesterday. This is how I introduced my love of Christmas:

"I love Christmas. Like, Deck the Halls til the beams are sagging, start Christmas Carols in October, Clark Griswold, collect dozens of nativities love Christmas. It’s second only to Easter in my list of favorite days. I always loved it as a child because there was something about the child Jesus that made me able to identify with Him. “Hey! He’s a baby like I was a baby! He’s little like me!” He always seemed more understandable to me than “old” “grown up” Jesus.  As I grew up and developed a deep love of Hymns, Christmas Carols quickly became some of my favorites. They’rso rich in theology. “Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail the incarnate deity!” How amazing is that? One of my primary love languages is gift giving, so that part of me especially loves Christmas.
Suffice it to say, we make a BIG deal of Christmas in our home. Because Christmas IS a big deal. What God did in coming to earth as the Christ Child is the biggest deal the world has ever known. I love to flood our home with light that reminds us of The Light, of Music that sings of His love, of gifts that remind us of his generosity.  My house sort of looks like the Christmas section at Target threw up all over it."

I want to make a big deal of it, but I want Matthew to know WHY we make a big deal of it. Sure, it's pretty, and festive, and fun to do everything, but I really want to impress on him exactly what it is we're celebrating.

A friend introduced me to Truth in the Tinsel, which is a daily advent activity for small children. It's an affordable, downloadable e-book full of devotions and instructions for teaching advent. To be honest, I had never done daily advent before, so I was sure I was going to drop the ball. However, the wonderful thing about Truth in the Tinsel is that it's manageable, even when you have limited time and little ones with limited attention.

The basic format of TinT is that you read the relevant scripture from the Bible with your child, and then you create an ornament, so at the end of the experience, you have 24 ornaments to retell the Christmas story. I added a reading of the same part of scripture from a Children's story Bible so that I could correspond pictures to what we were doing.



We didn't get through all 24, but we got all of the major players. That's one thing I really like. We didn't get all 24 done, but it's not an "all or nothing" kind of program. A few days are a little redundant and a few went a little over his head, but he still came away having a very good grasp on the Christmas story. This is a video I took of him when we had completed a few days.



The crafts are simple and quick, and use basic materials that are easy to find at most stores.  The author, Amanda, even provides a checklist of supplies so that you can plan all at once. Last year, I bought a 3" notebook and some page protectors and printed out the entire book. Then I put one day on each side of each sleeve, and I put in as many of the supplies necessary for that day in each sleeve with the instructions for that day. I also used a dry erase marker to make any notes on that day. This was especially useful if I planned to deviate from the author's plan at all, which I didn't do often, but I did do a few times. I kept a small box that had glue, scissors, crayons, and the few bulkier items like bells and toilet paper tubes.



Every day we got out the box, the notebook, and the Bible, and worked through our lesson. Matthew really loved it, and really retained it. He was excited to see the book each day. He was not even 3 years old at the time, and he can still tell me salient parts of the story based on what we learned. He was able to do most of the activities. I adapted a few to be more concrete and age-appropriate for a 2 year old literal thinker but for the most part, we were able to just follow the instructions exactly. But it wasn't so young that we can't use it again this year, or probably even next year. My friend Hannah had the good idea of photographing the year's ornaments, but then tossing them so you can start over the next year.  I'm too much of a packrat to actually execute that, but I'm with her in theory!

If this sounds a little overwhelming, think of this. Last year at Christmas, we were living in a hotel. Providentially, I had created the notebook before our house damage, so I just took the notebook and box of supplies with us. But the projects were manageable enough that we were able to do them in a hotel room with limited space and resources, and without damaging the hotel. If I could do that, I think anyone can do this. And if it's still more than you want to bite off, Amanda also offers printable ornaments that you can just have your child color after the story each day. Matthew doesn't love coloring enough that coloring an ornament each day was interesting to him, but it may work for you.

The other recommendation I have is to like Truth in the Tinsel on Facebook, where you can see ideas and reminders from other TinT parents and from the author.

If you're a Sunday School Teacher, there's also a TinT program formatted for church.

I investigated a few other advent programs this year, including Melk the Christmas Monkey, but TinT still wins hands down for us so we'll be using it again. Truth in the Tinsel doesn't start for almost another week so there's still time to jump in if you want to join us!

What do you do in your family to prepare for Advent?





*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Embryology 101 and Baby's First Photo and Video of our FET

I'm so fascinated by Embryology. The first time we ever met with an RE to discuss Embryo Adoption, he sat us down in his office with this really cool book and told us so much precise, scientific information that I literally walked out with a headache. I was on overload! Over the years I've come to understand it better, so I thought I'd explain some here for anyone interested. Warning, this may be very dry. You've been warned. After the photo below that looks like this, I share details of our last transfer, if you want to skip to that part.



An embryo is, quite literally, the earliest form of human life. It is what is created when a sperm fertilizes an egg. A lot of people use the term embryo and egg interchangeably. They differ in that an egg is not fertilized, and therefore, is not life. The man and the woman, or in this case, their "contributions" to the baby making process, have not come together yet. The embryo is created when the sperm successfully penetrates the egg and fertilizes it and human life begins. It gets a little confusing though because "eggish" terms are used to explain embryos, namely "shell" and "hatching."

An embryo begins as one single cell. The one-celled embryo is called a zygote. The next day, it multiplies to 2 cells and then 4 cells. Then it is called a morula. The third day, it multiplies to 8 cells. By day 5, the cells have multiplied so many times that they all blend together under the microscope and you can't distinguish one cell from another because there are so many. When the embryo reaches this stage, it is called a Blastocyst.


Embryo Transfers are usually done on Day 3 or Day 5. They used to do them on Day 1 and 2 but that is less practiced now. These are also the same days on which embryos can be frozen. For some reason, they don't do transfers or freeze them on Day 4. It has something to do with what's happening in the embryo at that stage of development and you can't interrupt it. Our embryos have always been day 5 embryos. They have been frozen on the 5th day. When they are thawed, the 5th day "resumes" (even if it is now, years later) and then the transfer is later that same day. From all they can tell, there is no difference between 1 day frozen and 10 years frozen. For all intents and purposes, it appears that time quite literally stops.

When an embryo reaches Blastocyst Stage, it needs to break through the "shell" or "ring" you see in the photos above. When it has broken out, the embryo can then grab on to the wall of the uterus and implant and grow in pregnancy. If it doesn't break out, it can't "stick" to the uterus and grow. The breaking out process is called "hatching." As the embryo grows, it becomes a fetus.  Ethically, they all mean "baby," or "human," but they describe different ages, much like "toddler" and "teenager" and "elderly."

This is also why the procedure to put the embryo in the woman's body is called a "Transfer" and not an Implantation. They are quite literally "transferring" (moving) the embryo from the vial it was frozen in to the woman's uterus. Whether it actually implants (grabs on, nestles in, burrows down) is up to the embryo and God. It's the same in spontaneously occurring pregnancy. The baby can be made, but it still may or may not implant--it orbits around in the uterus looking for a place to grab on, but it may or may not actually do so. In a Frozen Embryo Transfer, the doctor will "aim" the embryo for the part of the uterus that looks the most favorable, but that's as far as he can take it.

This is a super awesome chart. Enlarge it to read all the way cool information.



Embryos are graded on a scale. There are a few types of systems, but the two clinics we've used and the 3 clinics from our genetic families have all used the same system. My understanding is that this one is the most common. There is a different system for day 3 embryos but I am not familiar with it.

The 5 Day Embryo grading format is  Number-Letter-Letter.

The number is a number from a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most desirable. It indicates the degree to which the embryo has expanded inside its "shell," called the Trophectoderm. A 1 means it hasn't expanded or isn't growing. A 5 means it has hatched out. Our embryo was a 3, meaning it filled 70% of its shell.

Then an embryo receives a letter grading of A-C for the quality of the "Inner Cell Mass" which are the cells that are the baby.

  • A means that there are many cells, tightly packed (this is what they should be doing). 
  • B means that there are several cells, loosely packed. 
  • C means that there are very few large cells. 


Then it receives a second letter grading of A-C. This grades the quality of the Trophectoderm, the part that in the pictures looks like a shell. The Trophectoderm is what becomes the placenta in the event of implantation.

  • A means that there are many cells forming a cohesive layer.
  • B means that there are few cells, forming a loose layer.
  • C means that there are very few large cells. 

Our embryo was graded 3AA. Seventy percent expanded, great inner cell mass, great Trophectoderm.

Ethically, these grades don't really mean anything. As long as any cells are alive, I believe an embryo should be transferred.  I don't think grades should ever be used to make life or death decisions. But the numbers do tell us where the embryo is at in its stage of development, which I find interesting.

So here is our photo, explained. Though it received a 3AA Grading, the grading was made as soon as it was thawed and the photo was taken a little later. In Reproductive technology, an embryologist will often perform what is called "Assisted Hatching," wherein they make a tiny hole in the Trophectoderm to let the embryo out. That, to my understanding, is what is happening in this photo. The inner cell mass has broken through the Trophectoderm and hatched, and will hopefully be looking for someplace in my uterus to grab on to.  The "ring" around the Trophectoderm, is, if I recall correctly, the solution in the dish, and not part of the embryo.


None of my embryo photos have ever looked like this one before. I don't know if mine have never hatched this much, or if this photo was just taken later than the other ones have been taken. The camera is different, so perhaps the process is different. This doesn't really match up to 3AA because 3 means not hatched, so I think the difference is just time.

For reference sake, these were my other embryo photos.  This is a great example of how grades don't necessarily correspond to likelihood of further growth or pregnancy. I don't even remember the grades they all got, but they look so different. Lucy and Mary don't look super expanded at time of thaw, but eventually hatched and successfully implanted. Transfer 2's babies totally filled their cavities, but couldn't implant. Matthew looks "average" in expansion and he's happy and healthy here today. Transfer 4 looked great with nice big masses, but didn't result in a pregnancy. So we'll see what happens with this baby. Nevertheless, I'm super intrigued by all the nuances and highly precise information. These babies multiply and divide and grow so aggressively, I just can't understand how anyone thinks they aren't human life. If that's not life with a desire to keep on living, I don't know what is.



So anyway, there's the skinny on all the stuff you never wanted to know about Embryology.

I was pretty drugged up when I posted my last post, so I didn't include details about the transfer itself. Here we go, if you're interested.

The transfer went well. My doctor is a man of few words. I wish I had asked more questions, but the Valium they give you to relax your uterus really puts me out of it. When he told us that one had died in thawing, it was a little like a kick in the gut. In 5 transfers, we've never lost one that way. But he told me as he was lying me down for the transfer so I didn't get to ask any questions or really digest the information. One baby living and one baby dying happened with Matthew--it's a bittersweet thing to digest.  I don't want to get myself too upset because my body just needs to chill right now, so I think God is being gracious in keeping that process "shelved" for now. We are sad, but I am comforted to know that baby is with Jesus. He said the transfer went well. It was the quickest and physically easiest one I've ever had. The only thing he really said was that my C-Section scar wasn't in the way. Honestly, the weirdest things are compliments when dealing with infertility ;)

Here is a video if you want to watch. We've never taken video before but we decided that if this worked, when we tell Matthew, we wanted to have something to show him if he wanted.

Watch the area where the red circle is on this still image. You'll see the catheter come in, the embryo released from the catheter, and then the catheter will be removed and the embryo will remain behind, shown as a white oblong shape on the screen. The white is not the embryo itself, but the air the embryo was in. They put them in a little air bubble, in part so that they can see them when doing this procedure because they're so tiny. The black sort of cantaloupe looking shape around the red circle is the uterus. You probably need to full screen the video to be able to see anything.






I came home and slept most of the day. My doctor doesn't believe in bed rest, so I wasn't restricted, but it took a long time for the Valium to wear off. I was still pretty out of it the next day. We stayed with my folks and spent a nice day with them just relaxing. We came home last night. By the evening, I was feeling "twinges" in my abdomen. Today, it had progressed to cramping and pressure, in addition to twinges. Those could be really good signs (this is about when the baby would implant if he or she is going to and those could be signs of that), or they could mean nothing. It's hard not to over analyze everything. Honestly, had I not just had a transfer, I probably wouldn't have even noticed these symptoms.  But they were mildly uncomfortable so I just took it easy today, napping, and keeping my feet up (perfect, since my Packers football game was on anyway), and doing chores as I felt ok and then resting again when I got sore again.

My beta is not for a while yet, so all we can do right now is wait. I still feel very much at peace, and with some hope.  We'll see how soon before I break down and start testing on a home test. Right now I don't even own any because I never made it to the dollar store in my errands last week, and that's probably a good thing.

That's all the news that's fit to print (and then some). Have a GREAT week!