Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bluebonnet Baby

'Tis that time of year again in Austin when my Facebook feed gets flooded with photos of adorable children frolicking in fields of native Texas bluebonnets.

This year I bent to the pressure and took Iyla to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for her own little photo shoot. The results are pretty cute if I do say so myself, and we had a blast exploring all of the fun activities the Wildflower Center has to offer.

Without further adieu, I bring you Iyla's 2015 Bluebonnet Extravaganza:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Infamous Easter of 2015

You may remember the Infamous Easter of 2013?

Well, 2015 ended up being quite a doozy as well.

Easter weekend itself was quiet and lovely. We took Iyla to a local Easter egg hunt, complete with a visit from the Easter Bunny. The egg hunt was hilarious. All of the kids were lined up in a huge circle awaiting the signal to go gather eggs, and when the signal came, Iyla made a beeline toward the Easter Bunny- caring nothing about collecting eggs (I grabbed a couple in her honor!)

She loved watching the Easter Bunny from afar, but wasn't too hip to get up and personal with him.

Curious observation from a safe distance

The terror! 

"Papa help me!"

Come Easter morning, Iyla made out quite well with her loot:

I fully blame infertility for this Easter spoiling, as I had just come off an unsuccessful IVF cycle and only have one kiddo to properly dote on. Plus- that play house was a mere $11 at a local resale store!

New books to read and color in

We hosted an Easter celebration with my family the weekend after Easter proper. Iyla was super excited to wear her fancy dress (she's a girly-girl through and through!), and promptly went to work devouring many "Mimi crackers" from my mom.


Here are a few shots from our day with family:

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We all couldn't get enough of sweet baby Sam! Seeing Iyla with her admittedly made my Mama heart ache; I so hope that someday she gets to have her own baby sibling to adore. 

I still can't stop laughing at this shot

How the teenage boys spent the day

Dinner time! Per our norm, we catered most of the meal. I am not super adept in the kitchen, as evidenced by my burning the dinner rolls while trying to heat them up (I ended up cutting off the burnt bottoms of every.single.roll).

Cake!

We had a lovely day with everyone. Come evening, Iyla was happily singing and dancing when I noticed it was past her bedtime. She gave goodnight hugs to the family and we headed upstairs to start her bedtime routine. 

I set her down at the top of the stairs and let her know it was time to sit on the potty. Instead, she made a beeline for her room- saying she wanted to go 'ni-night' first. She was one tired little girl! 

I followed Iyla into her room to grab her pajamas, then watched as she ran toward her bed, tripped, and fell face first into her bed's wooden toddler rail.

I knew instantly it was bad. Every hair on my body stood alert as my heart dropped to my stomach.

In the few seconds between Iyla's shock and her subsequent wails I scooped her into my arms to comfort her and assess the damage. I immediately noticed a large gash on her chin, and yelled down the stairs for someone to please send BC up quickly.

When he arrived he took one look at her and said we needed to head to the ER.

Our poor baby girl was SO tired and confused and just wanted to go to bed. Instead, I had to carefully change her out of her blood-soaked Easter dress and into comfy pajamas toward the long night ahead. I told her we were going to have a silly night, and that she would get to watch lots of her beloved videos on the iPad.

We got to the ER at 8:30pm, and would remain there until 12:30am. It was a long night to say the least, filled with waiting room after waiting room. The worst part was having to restrain Iyla while they gave her sedative medicine up her nose. Gratefully it worked quickly, and 10 minutes later she was in a very chill, loopy zone. BC and I were amazed at how calm & compliant she was- looking around the room at all of the assembled staff, then turning to watch her iPad while the doctor administered 5 stitches.

Brave girl resting post stitches 

The next morning I asked Iyla if she remembered going to the hospital for her boo-boo. She surprised me by replying "yes- it was so beautiful." Indeed, she did love the fancy colored exterior lights at Dell Children's Hospital, and I just love that this was her overall recollection of the night.

The irony of it all? We had just converted Iyla's crib to a toddler bed so she wouldn't climb and fall out of bed. Then that little bugger goes and falls INTO bed, splitting open her chin. Go figure!

I am happy to report that Iyla has completely bounced back from her injury (save for some sleep deprivation), and life has resumed as normal. She is one tough little girl!

"I have 5 stitches. Whatchu got?"


I'm thinking that next year we'll ask my Aunt Sheri to host Easter. We are 2 for 3 in Infamous Easter debacles, and it may be time to shake things up- lest this become an annual tradition!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Big Girl Bed

It's official: we moved Iyla into a big girl bed last night, after a week of pretty intense sleep regression. 

I must admit I thought we'd get a lot more time out of her crib. This is a kid who has always gone down easily for naps & bedtime (save our big sleep regression in February), quietly & happily playing until she falls asleep. She'd consistently take two hour naps and sleep through the night from 8pm-7:15am.

That all changed Monday.

Iyla suddenly started protesting nap & bedtime, hysterically pleading for me to stay in the room with her or take her into my bed. Once put in her crib she would become frantic, screaming & thrashing all around. She'd wake 3-4x/night crying and needing much soothing. We did take her into our bed on several occasions, as that seemed to be the only thing that truly soothed her.

Sweet girl was needing lots of extra snuggles this week

There have been no big changes in our schedule or lives to precipitate this shift. No new teeth to blame it on. The best I could come up with was that Iyla was going through another major perceptual leap; that something in her world had changed to the point where she was now acutely aware of waking up ALONE in her room, and was needing extra comfort and reassurance. I also wondered if she was experiencing nightmares, as sometimes she awoke drenched in sweat.

I was torn. Should I continue to go into her room to comfort her each time she woke, bringing her into our bed as needed? Or keep loving & firm limits about staying in her own room- letting her know she was safe and loved, but being careful not to start new bedtime habits we didn't want to continue?

Then Iyla made the decision for us.

On Friday BC was on night duty so I could get some much needed rest. He reported that during one of Iyla's middle of the night meltdowns she started climbing out of the crib (a first!), so he brought her into bed with him.

There was really no choice in the matter. We needed to convert her crib into a toddler bed immediately, lest she have a middle of the night fall while trying to climb out. 

And so it was that we very quickly (& unexpectedly!) had to toddler-proof Iyla's room. The crib was converted, all outlets covered, lamps removed, & cozy book stations created. I made a big deal to her about having a BIG GIRL BED, and let her know that if she awoke sad in the night she could now get herself some books to read until she feel asleep again.


We gave the new bed its first go at nap time yesterday. Iyla wanted me to stay in the room and sit in her chair while she went to sleep, which I did. She didn't take a long nap (about 45 minutes), but it was better than the complete lack of nap the day prior! 

Success!

At bedtime we started an entirely new routine. I thought this big girl transition would be the perfect opportunity to finally kick the bottles (yes, STILL BOTTLES OVER HERE). The new routine consisted of milk in a cup downstairs while playing, then heading straight to the potty upstairs. After the potty I had Iyla chose a few books to snuggle and read together. She actually told ME halfway through the 3rd book it was bedtime, and went and got herself into bed! She didn't seem to miss her bottles at all.

Another big change we had to make was to start closing Iyla's door. With her last sleep regression we started leaving it open, as this gave her a lot of needed comfort. Now? Way too risky with a toddler on the loose and our staircase being located directly outside her door. I told her that we had to keep the door closed so Sam (our cat) wouldn't get into her big girl bed at night. She bought it and didn't make any fuss when I left the room!

Here's what transpired via the monitor once I shut the door:

*She quickly popped up, ran across her room, and then ran back into bed.

*She got up again and went offscreen; I could hear her rustling through her books and then knocking on her door. Then that little bugger quickly figured out how to OPEN THE DOOR (which she's never done before). 

After putting her back in bed and reminding her to read books if she couldn't sleep, I resorted to this:

Desperate times call for desperate measures

We'll have to figure out something more permanent soon, but it did the trick!

BC had night duty again last night and reported that Iyla did not cry out once. That is HUGE after a week's worth of nighttime frantics! However, when Iyla started pulling on her door to come out around 6:45 this morning, she was very evidently sleep deprived. Super fussy, tired, and inconsolable. I am guessing that with all of the excitement of her new room and freedom that little lady didn't get much sleep at all.

The lack of nighttime crying tells me that we are on the right track… now I just hope that our sweet girl starts getting the rest she (and we!) genuinely needs. Our little Iyla Grace is growing up!

'Cribs and bottles were SO last week. I'm a big girl now!'

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Conclusion of The Study

I've now completed my first ever IVF cycle through The Study. It was a bona fide wild ride physically and emotionally, and despite thinking I'd be all laid back and nonchalant throughout the process, I totally got sucked in.

And if you are checking in to find out the answer to one very specific question?

No, I am not pregnant.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Here's a summary of all the prep that went into this cycle:

*I spent 4 weeks on birth control pills to suppress my system
*I spent 4 weeks giving myself Lupron shots each morning to further suppress my system
*I spent 11 evenings giving myself FSH shots to super-stimulate my ovaries
*I had morning blood draws and sonograms every 2-3 days to monitor follicular development & estrogen levels
*I took one Ovidrel shot 36 hours before retrieval to trigger ovulation

The first surprise BOMB dropped the night I was to do my Ovidrel trigger.

I had done a blood draw that morning to monitor my estrogen & progesterone levels, followed by a sonogram to measure my follicles. The doctor confirmed that I had enough large follicles to trigger with Ovidrel that evening, and that a nurse would be calling with instructions.

When the call finally came at 5:30pm, the nurse started rattling off my upcoming protocol. In the middle of saying: "you'll take your Ovidrel at 10:15pm tonight toward a retrieval Wednesday," she threw in: "and since your progesterone levels were too high (2.5) you won't be doing a transfer- they'll be freezing all embryos after retrieval"…. and kept talking until I finally interrupted to sputter:

"Wait, WHAT?"

Shock. I had NO idea that could even happen. That the transfer part of this cycle could be cancelled just.like.that because of elevated progesterone levels. My stomach dropped to my feet, tears welling in my eyes, and I could physically feel my heart thumping in my ears.

And so it was that this became a "freeze-all" cycle (a new term to me), where the only option was to freeze all surviving embryos toward a future Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET). The FET itself necessitates another month of medically 'readying' my body for implantation, not to mention an additional 3-4k out of pocket.

So yeah, a pretty HUGE and disappointing turn of events.

The retrieval was OF COURSE scheduled for the morning we were leaving for Wimberley (of course!). I had to do all of our major packing the day before, and thankfully was able to get our nanny to help out with Iyla the morning of the procedure.

I was put under general anesthesia, and when I awoke, a nurse told me they'd retrieved 17 eggs. 17 eggs! I was pleasantly surprised by that number, and curious to find out how many of those were mature.

Because this cycle was now a "freeze-all," I would be getting fertilization reports on the developing embryos via phone calls every 2 days. My clinic starts freezing embryos on the 5th day after retrieval up through day 7. Whatever hasn't continued to develop and grow by day 7 is discarded.

Thus began the nerve-wracking journey of waiting for my fertilization updates.

*Day 1 report: of the 17 eggs, 14 were mature, and 9 fertilized. Still feeling OK about that! Hoping the bulk of those little guys keep dividing, but also bracing myself that often the original fertilized number drops as the days go by.

*Day 3 report: all 9 embryos are continuing to divide! This was the grading breakdown:

One 8 cell grade 1 (the best one of the group)
Two 8 cell grade 2's
Two 8 cell grade 3's
One 6 cell grade 2.5
One 4 cell grade 2
One 4 cell grade 3
One 3 cell grade 3

The embryologist said that the 6 and 8 cell embryos had the best possibility of continuing to divide and grow, and that we'd know a lot more with Day 5's updates.

Here's where the 2nd bomb drops.

*Day 5 report: ONE embryo got to the blastocyst stage needed and was rated a "CC", which is the lowest grade they'll even allow to freeze. The embryologist said one other embryo was close behind but hadn't yet developed the necessary inner cell mass. It was likely the others wouldn't make it to freeze.

I was- quite simply- devastated.

Even though I'd braced myself for the fact that sometimes women have NO embryos make it to freeze, I had still hoped to have 5 or 6 of the original 9 make it. Yet here I was being told that so far just ONE embryo made it to freeze and maaaaaybe one more might get there.

I couldn't help but feel this must mean I have crappy eggs- to produce so many yet have so few survive. I wondered if paying for an FET would even be worth it with just one not-so-great embryo, given my doctor's usual protocol is to transfer 3-4 embryos at a time in women my age.

I also found out I couldn't qualify to do The Study again since I hadn't made it to retrieval. That was coupled with the fact that our lifetime infertility insurance coverage was just about maxed out, meaning any further interventions would all be paid out of pocket.

I cried over the fact that I may never be pregnant again. That there was a good chance Iyla would be an only child. I was so, so sad.

And then? Another turn of events.

*Day 7 report: miracle of miracles, the other embryo vitrified to a freeze quality blastocyst! (And look at me throwing around these big terms I don't fully understand!)

The embryologist told me that this 2nd embryo had 'completely hatched,' which is apparently a really, really promising sign. It was rated a "BC," so a little higher grade than the day 5 embryo (that she said could very well have improved in grade had it continued to develop). Talking to the embryologist completely lifted my spirits. I had been feeling like I had a low quality day 5 embryo, but she reassured me that both embryos looked very good, and both had an excellent chance at surviving a thaw and continuing to grow into babies. She even told me she'd be hesitant to transfer them both at once, given how likely each were to grow.

What an emotional whirlwind. From 17 eggs! To 9 fertilized! To only ONE froze? To pure elation at having a 2nd embryo get to freeze quality. What a fool I was to think I'd be able to stay emotionally aloof throughout this process.

The more I learn, the more I think I am actually in a more promising protocol than had I been able to do the fresh transfer. My clinic told me that there is currently a movement in the fertility world toward preferring FETs to fresh transfers, as it allows a woman's body to recover after the trauma of the retrieval itself. The prolonged observation of embryos (through days 5-7 after retrieval) also ensures that only the strongest survive.

That all sounds good to me, and has put *just enough* hope in my heart to allow me to move forward toward a future FET- complete with all of its emotional & financial ramifications. I'll meet with my doctor next week to discuss timelines toward likely doing an FET with my May or June cycle.

Until then? I plan to just sit back and really relax (and please don't tell me this is when we'll actually get pregnant- rule #1 in 'what not to say to someone facing fertility challenges!'). We have a lovely trip coming up (northern California!) that I plan to fully partake in with my NON PREGNANT body while our frozen babes sit securely on ice.

And the quest continues….

Future Lambies?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wimberley 2015

Babycakes and I agreed this was our favorite year yet in Wimberley (I think this was our 5th?). It had a lot to do with the amazing log cabin (on a creek!) we rented, in addition to Iyla being such a fun age to have out and about with us. She definitely proved to be a bona fide country girl.

Here's a look at our week long adventure in photos!

Our sweet little home on Smith's Creek:

This photo doesn't do the interior justice. It was absolutely cozy & stunning!

Sam made himself right at home. He HATES the car ride there, but always settles immediately into his new environment:


Iyla also made herself right at home, and started a new routine of reading on her potty for 20-30 minutes at a time! So cute:


We went to the local Wimberley Cafe in town every morning for pancakes & bacon (per request from Iyla):


Had cabin dance parties:


Looked for "treasures" in the downtown stores:


Had a play date at our twin friends' ranch (Harper & Tatum) complete with horses, dogs, a kitty, and a wonderland of new toddler toys!


We drove to Gruene for an afternoon where we danced to live music at Gruene Hall & had ice cream after dinner:


We played with water in any form:


Discovered roly-poly bugs:


Played and dined at The Leaning Pear:


Hiked many local parks:


And on our last night, headed into San Marcos to celebrate St. Patty's Day:


I'm already missing the cabin & country terribly, and might just have myself on alerts for acreage listings in Wimberley (I have a pipe dream of buying a little cottage getaway for weekends!)

Till next year….