So You Think You Can Plan Everything

I have owned a planner since I was 11 years old.
I remember that Christmas {our first one since moving to California from New York} when my aunt asked me what I wanted and I answered simply: a planner.

An 11 year old's schedule wasn't really all that jam packed
and none of the contents in that calendar was really made of my own decisions as a person
but ever since then, I had been intoxicated by the love of having some semblance of control and literally a visual of what life had in store. 

Fast forward 17 years later and despite the number of surprises and curve balls that have come my way, I feel that I have managed to stay somewhat in control of the general scheduling and list making in my life.

Seven months ago, the biggest blow came when we lost the girls. Suddenly, my life was about not only damage control of picking up the pieces of my shattered life, but it was the coming to terms with the unfulfilled plans that struck, and it struck hard.

Still, my vow then was, at least as far as baby making goes, to just let God take control. Last time, my state of neurosis took the reins and ran with it... ran far with it. But since then, for months now, I have been preaching about faith.

This morning was God's way of calling me out: Practice what you preach, He probably said. 

We went to PRC's Torrance office at 6:00 a.m. It didn't take them long to lead me back to the procedure room where J sat with me. We played Angry Birds until Dr. Salem came in with a nurse, followed shortly by the embryologist, May. May gave us a picture of the top two embryos of our nine fertilized. Both May and Dr. Salem noted that the larger of the two eggs was "excellent". For a few minutes, we discussed our choices of implanting one or two embryos. Amidst conversation, I asked the doctor, "We did PGD for female, right?" {PGD = Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis = a biopsy done on the embryos on Day 3 after fertilization to determine gender}

Both Dr. Salem and May looked at me like deer in headlights.

"What?" they both said.
"Yes, PGD. We paid for it and signed for it. It's in our contract." J replied.

They both proceeded to explain how their charts do not indicate this, and that this being Day 5, it is not ideal to conduct the biopsy now. They were still open to doing so, but then we would have to postpone the embryo transfer to tomorrow morning.

While I could see my husband start to fume and his face start to turn red as he buried them in his hands, I asked Dr. Salem and the staff to give us a few minutes.

Normally, I would take on the role of neurotic and downright freaking out at this time, but something came over me. It was a calm that I had never felt before, and I swear to you, I heard God's voice in my head. Time to give Me control, he told me. Let me take the reins. And at that moment, I knew. I knew that God has seen our suffering and pain and He is ready to reward us. The only thing is that we have to TRUST him. If our faith is our saving grace, there is no other moment other than this one that will allow us to prove it to Him more. All I need to do is trust and He will make it all okay.
So after my husband asked them to come in, they proceeded to implant our little peanut. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was me giving it all to Him. 

So the big surprise . . . is that it actually is a surprise. Are we going to find out the gender before the baby is born? Sure. But that doesn't mean we have to know now.

A 5:00 a.m. Entry

It is 5:27 a.m. and I've been awake for about an hour and a half now.
No, my alarm has not gone off.
And I'm not going to lie -- I had no plans of an early gym day.
This early morning insomnia, I'm presuming, is caused by the volumes of hormones I've been taking for weeks now.

Not that I'm complaining.
My eye is as prize-focused as it has ever been,
but at some point, this lack of sleep starts to mess with one's mind.

Another side effect of the hormones is frequent urination {lovely, huh?}, and mind you, for me, waking up even once in the middle of the night to go potty is A LOT... so you can imagine how waking up an average of three times per night ever night in the past two weeks has really affected me.

Neurotic enough as I am, during those moments of potty-going, I have to monitor my brain activity. It's a thin line between being aware enough not to hit my knee on the side of the bed for the eighty-seventh time on my way to or from the restroom, and the one where my brain becomes too aware and starts running off with thoughts that, really, are not necessary at 3 or 4 a.m.

But then a moment like this morning hits... when I let my brain be too aware, and suddenly, instead of finding myself drifting back to sleep for at least another 2 to 3 hours, the lists start to form:

  • Put makeup in travel bag so as to have it available next to me during bedrest.
  • Make a craft basket full of supplies, so as also to keep it next to me during next week's bedrest.
    • What do I even include / not include in the craft basket?
    • Reason with John so he would not be so leery to have me keep a glue gun next to me next week.
  • What food to order this weekend for when my extended family comes to visit: Los Golondrinas? Bad to the Bone BBQ? {I'll be on bedrest so no, John is not allowing me to cook for the family this time.}
My mind wanders to so many different topics and goes through so many different emotions in these dark and quiet early morning hours:

  • Anxiety about the embryo transfer -- what if it doesn't work? What if we have to go through with this one more painful time?
  • Irritation and anger at people who have told me they hope I have twins again {despite the dangers and risks that they know it entails} just to say that they have twins in their family. While I am not against it if God wills it, it's not funny or cute to joke of risk... and it makes me wonder, do they say they mourn Aubrey & Finley with me only because they were twins? {Believe it or not, someone really has told me this}
  • Hey, way to be passive aggressive, Angela.
Being alone with one's thoughts is not always pretty, but the key to holding it all together and not sinking into a pool of anxiety or fear or anger is to focus on all good things, especially faith. I know that when I notice myself starting to venture into places I don't want to be in, it has, and always has been, my faith in God that has saved me. Even with losing my girls, I knew that He was my number 1 defense against depression and anger. In return for my faith, He has granted me the grace to accept His will and not question His reason for taking my girls back. I have said this then and I say it again now: I have not had the urge to ask God why.

And you know what? This faith, the one that has kept me afloat, the one that has given me strength, is the one that I know will veer me away from anger or resentment, lead me to my heart's desires, carry me through, and let my brain rest once again.

in waiting

It is 6:45 a.m. and I am sitting on a chair next to an empty hospital bed. The room is bright, with three beds, each separated by a heavy curtain. We arrived at the Torrance office of PRC at about 6:20 and my brave husband is already currently having his procedure done -- a procedure that most men don't even want to think about -- in an operating room whose door I can only halfway see from my vantage point. I hear blips of his conversation with Dr. Rajfer, his urologist, during the procedure and things sound fairly . . . um . . . jolly in there. 

It is not ten minutes that a nurse, Kim, asks me to put on my own set of hospital garments -- a gown, a mesh hairnet, hospital issue socks, and mesh protectors on the socks. I get myself situated on my own bed, and in moments, Dr. Rajfer comes out of the operating room with a big smile on his face. I ask how it went and he said that it was successful. He had to make four pokes to get the most populated batch, but he got them, and a lot of them. J comes out of the room a few moments later, shimmying back to his bed while holding the back of his gown shut. It is straight-out-of-a-movie hilarious. 

I put my phone down from blogging {yes, I have resorted to mobile blogging! Thank you, Blogger for iPhone!} as Kim takes my vitals and asks me to sign some consent forms. I am unable to get back to writing as it does not take long until Dr. Hung {yes, his name is Hung}, the anesthesiologist, goes over some final items with me prior to surgery. My IV of fluids gets hooked up and soon, they lead me to the same operating room J was just in and instruct me to lay in bed. I am not on the bed for 30 seconds and I already start to feel heavy. I asked Dr. Hung if he already started to administer the meds and he replies with a perky, "of course!" I make an honest attempt at continuing a conversation with him and Kim but just continued to fade, fade, fade . . . 

After what seems like only a few short moments, I am slowly being awaked by the pfft pfft pfft of the blood pressure machine on my arm. Much like I was before being put out, I make attempts at conversation with Kim and J, who was already dressed and sitting next to my bed. 

TWELVE eggs, they say. TWELVE! That is one more than last year's eleven. Truly, we are a family of overachievers. I hear parts of statements as I come in and out of consciousness . . . the procedure went well . . . wow, that's a lot of eggs . . . some people get only four . . .

As has become almost customary each time I've had a procedure (i.e. last year's hysteroscopies and egg retrieval), I fight the grogginess, feign total coherence so we can skidaddle out of there and I can eat. They had had me fasting since last night and J and I are getting cranky-hungry. 

Finally, at about 10:00 a.m., we left. The normally not-so-long drive home from Torrance to Ladera Ranch seemed to take hours, despite the absence of any traffic {a surprise, for the 405 freeway}. By the time we get home, I am exhausted from not only the lingering effects of the anesthesia, but from trying to stay awake and not allow my head to bob like a drunken prom queen during the drive home.

As soon as we got home, I dragged my heavy behind up the stairs and slept. 
And slept.
And slept.
By the time I woke up, it was 4:35 p.m.

Now we are waiting to hear results of the fertilization. We should be getting a call tomorrow to let us know how it has gone so far. They are planning on having my embryo transfer on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself because of how quickly time has gone since everything happened. As much as it has been so exciting to move forward, my heart especially aches more for the girls who were supposed to be here with us anyway. Aubrey and Finley are so sorely missed in our home, but I have to be honest in saying that I get scared sometimes that they may be getting forgotten. So my message to them, to the universe, and to anyone who may be reading: they are not forgotten at all. Their Daddy and I ache and long for them everyday, but are thankful for their presence that we feel. It is through them that our faith is strengthened and we are provided an anchor of hope for their sister to be here in a few months. 

What's Cookin, Good Lookin?

I walked back to my office after making some photocopies in our copy room.
As soon as I sat down, I noticed that I had a missed call from PRC... a call that I had been anxiously awaiting all day.

Earlier in the day, I went to PRC for another ultrasound and blood test to check my E2 levels. E2 is the acronym for estradiol, the main hormone that is in charge of ovulation and follicle production. At my appointment they also did an ultrasound, measuring the number of follicles {potential eggs} I'm growing with the help of our follicle stimulating hormones {FSH}, Menopur and Follistim. The results of this morning's appointment would determine any increase or decrease in hormone dosage, not to mention would give us a tentative date of the Egg Retrieval, planned for early next week. 

I quickly grabbed my cell phone and headed for the break room to check my voicemail and then call PRC back.

I spoke to Carla at PRC, who informed me that my E2 levels are 1017 and that I am to decrease my 150 units of Follistim to 75 for the four remaining nights I have to take it. She also advised that I will need to go in early Saturday morning for another appointment, this time in the Torrance office. They will be checking my E2 levels and doing an ultrasound again then, and that will be their final day to determine and decide which day next week Egg Retrieval will be. 

Best news was this: last year, they retrieved 11 follicles. I was told today that I currently have about 16-17 potential follicles! Talk about cookin!!

Now we are just waiting for Saturday so we can find out what our schedule is like next week. Looks like everyone's prayers are working so far. I cannot tell you how grateful we are for your love and support. 

Ladies Night

The meaning of Ladies Night has evolved for me in the past few years.
Earlier in my 20s, ladies night was some massively planned night out in the town,
lushly muddled by mass consumption of alcohol,
my friends and I parading ourselves in party mode galore.
In more recent times, 
and specifically, this past Friday night,
it was a small gathering {small meaning there were three of us},
huddled together in a neighbor's backyard
eating snacks,
sipping on wine and Grey Goose & soda
{and all within reason, of course},
giggling, sharing stories about family, fun, and future.
It was casual and intimate --
no formal invitations were handed out,
no drama was dished,
and it was just three friends enjoying each other's company.

Two of my neighbors, Lisa and Michele, and I had a wonderful time together in Lisa's "secret garden"...
Please bear with me as this is photo overload :-)

{cream cheese, fresh basil, and sun dried tomato "dip" by Lisa}
{savory bruschetta made by Michele}
{proscuitto, mascarpone, and chive on asiago baguette -- made by me!}
 a small candlelit affair
a cozy setting
we were not shy in eating our treats!
three friends just enjoying the first of autumn's cool evenings!

Shots! Shots! Shots!

No, it isn't a reference to college age-esque binge drinking. 
I'm way past that.
It isn't even a reference to my bachelorette party in Las Vegas last year {wow, was that ONLY last year? feels like eons ago!},
when that song was dubbed headliner of the weekend's soundtrack.

These kinds of shots are what my life is scheduled around these days: Round Two, Phase Two of The Baby Bench Project.

My 10 unit 8:00 a.m. Lupron injection has been going on for almost two weeks. Since this past Thursday, it has decreased to 2.5 units, but has now been partnered with two {count them: TWO!} other injections at night.

Before I get into any sort of dissertation on the order of my shots, it may be important for newer readers {or those who may have forgotten} to read this post from last year's cycle . . . or at least bear with me while I explain my meds . . .

{Note: I am not, by any means, a doctor, nurse, or authority in the IVF field. This is just what I know . . . or at least how I understand this process.}

Lupron: This hormone is used to suspend the menstrual cycle. Sound counterproductive? I hear you, but what this hormone also does is it "evens out" the endometrium {the lining in the uterus}. This helps to make for a more ideal environment for an embryo  to "stick".

Nighttime shots:

Follistim: {Last year, I used Gonal-F} This hormone is a follicle stimulating hormone. This aids in stimulating the growth and development of eggs. Follistim is administered through a "pen" syringe {the needle is changed at every dose} that measures precisely how much medicine is given. 

Menopur: This hormone also helps in the maturation / development of eggs. It comes in two vials -- one vial has sodium chloride {saline?} and the other is the medication itself -- a tablet. We mix the sodium chloride with one tablet, spin the mixture for a few moments, and then I inject it into my belly. I'm not going to lie: It STINGS. The medicine is a little thick and I feel it burn as the plunger pushes it into my body.

The consolation is that the needles I use right now are all small. Injections right now at this phase are subcutaneous. The ones in the last phase of the cycle, the ones injecting progesterone and estrogen, are done intramuscularly, and are huge and thick.
See the difference?

For now, we are following a very strict and precise regimen of hormones / medication. 

Despite the pain, physical, mental, and emotional toll, we continue to trudge on. We carry the memory of our girls, Aubrey & Finley, the faith in God we have in our hearts, and they give us hope for happier days to come with Baby #3.

Halloween Time!

Autumn has officially hit the Bench home.
Well, sort of.

Living in warm South Orange County, California,
autumn, among all the other seasons, tends to be the one who fights the toughest battle when it comes to showing itself.
The summer months, although they sometimes have a hard time fighting the June Gloom near the ocean,
they sometimes still seem to have staying power that pushes through to even November.

I think that's what's going on this year.
Outside of about three cool rainy days we had last week, the weather forecasts predict warm weather up until the high 80's and even the mid 90's.

Needless to say, with Halloween coming up in such a family oriented, generally kid-centric neighborhood, we are fighting on Autumn's side in little ways that we can.
For example, despite not really being a big fan of Halloween, 
I actually agreed to decorating this year.
Normally, my decorating consists of allowing J to carve a pumpkin, maybe two, on the day of,
but this year is a different story.
J was thrilled to be able to put up all sorts of decorations {including black lights! yes, black lights!} outside and we are actually looking forward to being a part of the festivities outside of just handing out candy next to our dimly lit pumpkins.
This year, we have spirit, we sure do!

Our front door:

The patio pillars:
 It's like celebrating two holidays in one! We may put up the creepy netting, but we were not going to give up having our flag there!

Lanterns on the steps

I love our little cemetery

And the piĆ©ce de resistance: 
J's ghoul in a cage!
 This guy is pretty creepy! His eyes light up and he screams!

We have a few more items to add to our festive decor,
and my feeling is that they will have to wait until next weekend. 
{As I'm typing this, my husband is sitting in front of the TV, playing his PS3 games... Battlefield or War or whatever it's called -- it could be HOURS before he realizes it's almost nighttime.}

Until the next!

Another Saturday Dinner Party

Last week was Bunco.
This weekend, we had my boss's family come over
and I made Porchetta 
{recipe from Bon Appetit}
The result?


A Month of Action

A few weeks ago, I went with a friend to see the movie I Don't Know How She Does It.
The basic premise: Busy working mom gets even busier with a large project and a marriage potentially on the rocks.

Now, I'm in neither situation.
I'm not a mom to school age children {yet},
nor is my marriage on the rocks.

I guess this is my way of apologizing and explaining myself,
because while Kate Reddy still seems to be able to do it all,
I seem to still be searching for the right formula to do so.

Last year, I was phenomenal at keeping everyone up to date with all our In-Vitro steps.
Disappointingly enough this year,
aside from a few short blips and check-ins on Facebook,
I have managed to maintain radio silence about this process.

These days, it seems like there are not enough hours to do anything.
From a full time, 8-hour a day job that leaves me absolutely wilted like a wet piece of paper at the end of the day,
I get home and want to do nothing else but cuddle up to my husband {never mind that he has those ridiculous headphones for his Playstation 3 on -- I'll take it!}

{He's gonna get mad at me for posting this picture, but that's what you get for smiling like that, Mr. B!}

I've managed to drag my lazy behind to the gym a few times, but aside from that, I have had clean laundry that had stacked up, unfolded in a hamper that could only hold a quarter of what was there for about a week and a half {it finally got folded two nights ago}, crafts undone in my craft room, and grocery shopping that got put off until I go {possibly today?} this weekend.

I'm not whining or complaining, I promise. 
And very true to character, if I am so much as putting out an even an ounce of whine or complaint, I am always finding a solution.

So here it is:
Today is October 1st,
the start of a new month,
the beginning of the month with the most action being done in our journey for Baby Bench #3,
and today, I will start being more diligent in posting updates and news about our journey.

And in the spirit of keeping all our readers well informed, here is what's going on...

Last Tuesday, I had my hysteroscopy done at my regular doctor at Kaiser, Dr. Moore.
Although I am no stranger to this procedure {I had two done last year through our IVF doctor}, the way this was done was all new to me.
Unlike last year's procedures, I was fully awake during this process. Last year, they sedated me and I had to sleep off the sedatives for hours when I got home from work.
This time, I was instructed to just take Motrin the night prior and the day of the procedure, they numbed me down there, and away they went.
The experience was not completely awful, I must say. Outside of the actual process of numbing {i.e. injections on my cha cha} which was a long and dull pain, everything else went smoothly. I didn't have to take an entire day off work just to recover.
Of course, in the end, what matters is the results, and everything went successfully. 
By Friday morning, I had the procedure report in my hand as J and I walked into our IVF doctor's office.

Our Friday appointment involved receiving our IVF meds {syringes galore!} and {the most painful part} paying for the procedures to follow.
The same as last year, we went over the initial medication with our nurturer / patient coordinator. This year, her name is Maria. {If you remember, last year's was June, but she is no longer with the same company} Maria is an older nurse, and J and I love her so far.

Today, Saturday, I received a phone call from Dr. Moore at about 9:30 a.m. {hello, Random!} just to let me know that the pathology results from the excess endometrium {the lining of the uterus} he removed are normal, and that this puts us well on the way to having Baby #3. 

On Monday, I will be starting the first of the Lupron shots. Just like last year, I will be self-injecting this hormone into my belly every morning for the next 10-12 days. The needle is small, and I honestly barely feel anything {For once, hooray for belly fat!}.

I'm trying very hard to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize, as my husband always reminds me.
When you've been through what we have been through, it's hard not to constantly be scared of the worst. There is a part of me that always thinks,
What if it doesn't work?

But yesterday, I saw my sister-in-law, and she said something that sparked HOPE in me...
"I have Faith that it will happen."
Although her statement did not focus on the word Faith itself,
her statement did remind me of what has kept J and me going through last year's process, our loss six months ago, and our everyday since: FAITH.

I know it is through this alone that we are kept hopeful and optimistic,
and it is through Faith that we hear the Lord's voice telling us
that our future is bright
and that our baby is just around the corner,
with her big sisters holding her close
as she prepares to join us and make our family whole.