Fear and Bloating in Los Angeles

Disclaimer: I’m beyond grateful for being able to even try this IVF adventure and I’m super hopeful that we will get to meet Baby Martin after everything. Please don’t take anything I say about the process, tests, or IVF meds as I am not absolutely thrilled to be trying IVF.  I just want to be as honest as possible about everything and well…sometimes things make you feel yucky whether it be mentally or physically! Like, corned beef and cabbage…I think it’s gross and makes me feel yucky both physically and mentally!   

December 20th, 2018

A quick refresher first! On November 26th, 2018, Scott and I found out we would be headed down the IVF path to a potential Baby Martin. I honestly don’t really remember what happened between November 26th and December 20th except for a lot of Christmas parties that I wasn’t at all in the mood for and being excited Scott booked a show that started before Christmas and ends in February (that’s rare…LA basically shuts down after Thanksgiving until after the new year). I do know I started estrogen pills (Estrace) on December 20th…one day before we were flying home to Florida for Christmas.

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I laughed when I saw what my estrogen pills looked like because they reminded me of Viagra…well, at least from what I’ve seen in commercials.  A tiny little blue pill was going to help my endometrium grow. (Oh man, Google wormhole!) Also, the endometrium is the mucous membrane lining the uterus, which thickens during the menstrual cycle in preparation for possible implantation of an embryo. Estrogen priming is a protocol used during in vitro fertilization (IVF) to facilitate a more gradual and coordinated growth of follicles in the ovary in women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). Estrogen is administered during the luteal phase of the previous menstrual cycle to “prime” the FSH receptors which enhances the response to FSH. This helps to improve the outcome of the IVF cycle in patients who respond poorly to traditional IVF protocols. Estrogen priming also allows the patient and clinicians to schedule the ovarian stimulation cycle and the timing of egg retrieval. (Note: I’m still not a medical professional. I’m a professional Googler.)

When I was given my estrogen prescription, Dr. TT’s nurse also told to me to start taking low-dose aspirin and to buy compression socks if I was doing any holiday traveling because increased estrogen can cause blood clots (cue my overactive imagination).  I didn’t have enough time to order the compression socks online so I hit the streets of L.A. in search of my anti-death-by-blood-clot socks. Scott and I haven’t received our eviction notices yet, but I’m pretty sure you’re kicked out of Los Angeles after you turn 40-years-old. Every store I went to had cutesy “compression” socks, but not the down n’ dirty beige medically-approved compression socks I needed…except for the Burbank Walmart. Good ol’ Walmart…I dislike you so, but if you’re ever scouring a city for compression socks then I vote to just suck it up and go to Walmart.

There are a lot more drugs for me to write about in this post so I’ll make this estrogen part quick!  Plus, I already gave a teaser to it in my last post.  Dr. TT said some women experience some side effects from the estrogen, while others experience no side effects at all. I was really hoping I’d be the latter.

Side effects of estradiol and Estrace may include:
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps
  • mood changes, sleep problems (insomnia)
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sinus pain, sore throat
  • weight gain
  • headache, back pain
  • breast pain
  • thinning scalp hair; or
  • vaginal itching or discharge, changes in your menstrual periods, breakthrough bleeding.

Nope. I experienced the side effects in blue with some major bloating and HOT FLASHES!!! SO. MANY. HOT. FLASHES. I’ve never experienced a hot flash. I always run a bit hot around my menstrual cycle and I freeze Scott & Stout out of the apartment, but I was not prepared for feeling like molten hot lava was running through my veins while a fire erupted in my chest and that I needed to remove all of my clothing immediately or else I might spontaneously combust. So far, my most memorable hot flash was the one I experienced on our 38-minute flight from Atlanta to Jacksonville while flying home for Christmas. Scott was asleep in the aisle seat, I was in the middle seat, and there was a young woman asleep in the window seat. We were already beginning our descent into Jacksonville and our seats were in their upright and locked positions when the volcano inside my body erupted. I could not only feel my own personal body heat, but also the heat coming off Scott and window seat woman.  I don’t know how they slept through the nuclear blast happening between them.  When we got off the plane, I immediately went to the bathroom and my clothes were soaked through with sweat.  I swear I could have wrung sweat out of my compression socks too. I do not look forward to menopause in the next 5, 8 or 10 years!

December 31, 2018 

We had an appointment with Dr. TT on New Year’s Eve to see how my body was responding to the estrogen and to count how many potential eggs I had floating around in there for the month (spoiler alert: It was four. I’m now Four Eggs Martin.) Scott and I came back to L.A. with the worst flu-like colds that either of us had ever experienced before EVER, but we made it to the appointment. I was terrified my cold was going to hold up the process but, luckily, it didn’t. Dr. TT said my body was responding well to the estrogen, my eggs looked good, and he was ready for me to begin the IVF meds prepping my body for egg retrieval.  YAY!  Then, it hit me. This means needles and shots are headed my way.  Luckily, I’ve never experienced a medical condition that has required at-home shots so I was more than a bit nervous about do-it-yourself syringes. I have experienced a ton of needles in past medical issues so I’m not really scared of them, but then again, no one besides a trained medical professional has stuck me before!  The nurse walked Scott and me through prepping the syringe and how to administer the shot by using this little bubble of fake skin.

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The shot needed to be given in the stomach area underneath your belly button. SAY WHAT? Shots in the stomach?!? AAAAAHHHHH. I had always heard about husbands/partners helping out by giving the shots, but no…nope, noppity nope. Scott wasn’t getting near my stomach with a syringe.

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I realized I could give myself the shots at that point instead of having Scott pinch the fat of my lower abdomen. I’m not a masochist but I am a control freak so I was definitely more on board for sticking a needle into my stomach myself.

Dr. TT wanted me to start the new IVF meds on New Year’s Day. I was very excited and nervous…and then rage-filled once I hopped on the phone with insurance and CVS Caremark Pharmacy. Dr. TT’s office had an at-home delivery pharmacy that was ready to deliver the drugs to me on New Year’s Day, but that pharmacy wasn’t a preferred pharmacy on my insurance. In fact, the only at-home delivery pharmacy I could use was CVS Caremark whose offices are on the East Coast and they use UPS which wasn’t delivering on New Year’s Day. I’d like to think I would have been a bit more rational about this if I didn’t also have the raging flu-like cold coursing through my body while also taking estrogen pills, but I started crying and almost tried to convince Scott that we should just pay out-of-pocket for the drugs so they could be delivered on-time by Dr. TT’s pharmacy of choice over stupid CVS Caremark and UPS.  However, that was a price difference of about $700 and would have been silly.  CVS/USP couldn’t deliver the meds until January 2nd so I called Dr. TT’s office to see if that was a problem and, ultimately, it wasn’t. I just had to keep taking the estrogen pills until the new meds arrived. It was all A LOT more complicated than this, but just know I spent almost all of New Year’s Eve on the phone with insurance and CVS while coughing up a lung and just generally feeling awful. Poor me, right?! Haha. Basically, I was an emotional basketcase that needed to just take a step back and calm down. But still…

RANT TIME: The health insurance system is so beyond broken and my heart goes out to anyone who has to fight these fools for life-saving medications, treatments, or supplies. It’s beyond disgusting the power insurance companies hold over our health. That being said though, I’m also still super grateful that we even have insurance to help cover IVF, but still…it’s a complete mess. And, don’t even get me started on UPS. UPS’s website and app are awful. All of their product managers, UI/UX designers, and developers should be fired on the spot. Scott took over calling UPS for me because I was ready to crumple up on the floor and sob my eyes out.  He’s way calmer than me.  You’re welcome, UPS customer service representatives.

January 2, 2019 

THE DRUGS ARRIVED!  Scott wasn’t due to head back to work until the following Monday and I was home sick because of the DEMON COLD FROM HELL so Scott was there to answer the door when the UPS guy knocked. I don’t know if the UPS guy knew we had been stalking this package or not, but he commented to Scott about it seeming like we were really waiting for this box. It made me think about how UPS, FedEX, USPS, whoever, etc., don’t know what they are delivering to people for the most part and how important some of those packages are to people. I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t, but just a thought that crossed my mind.

 

If I were on the “normal” IVF cycle, then there would be a lot more drugs on our table and I would have taken them for a longer period of time.  Due to my low egg production, I was on the mild stimulation IVF cycle to focus more on the health of the little bit of eggs I do have versus trying to get a bunch of eggs that might not be high quality.  Here are the drugs I took for the most days leading up to my egg retrieval. I’ll go over the drugs I took the week of my egg retrieval in my next post.

Gonal-f (follitropin alfa for injection)

  • January 2nd – January 15th: Nightly shots in the lower stomach area
  • SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS!
  • This medication contains follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and is used to treat certain fertility problems in women. Follitropin alfa helps stimulate healthy ovaries to produce eggs. This medication is usually used in combination with another hormone (hCG) to bring about the growth and release of a mature egg (ovulation).
  • This med comes packaged in a syringe that looks similar to an EpiPen
  • SIDE EFFECTS: Bloating and being a bit terrified of sticking a needle in my stomach. But also, feeling like a COMPLETE BADASS the first time I gave myself the shot in the stomach. After pumping myself up for the first shot, the shots really weren’t that bad. Again, I’m not super scared of needles, but if you pinch enough skin under your stomach then you really don’t feel much at all.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid)

  • January 2nd – January 14th: 2 pills taken orally nightly
  • Clomid stimulates the pituitary gland to cause stimulation of the ovaries. The result is the growth and development of a few eggs.
  • SIDE EFFECTS: Waking up around 3am DRENCHED in your own sweat all over but also super cold somehow and the only thing that makes you feel better is a hot shower. You also do not want your husband or dog touching you so you sleep on your couch and watch The Vampire Diaries until you drift back to sleep after your 3am hot shower.

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I also continued to take low-dose aspirin from January 2nd – January 15th. I thought I was bloated taking the meds above,  but I had *no idea* the bloating awaiting me the week of my egg retrieval. I didn’t even feel comfy in my most stretchy pants!

Full disclosure: I may take an extended break from posting about our fertility adventure for a bit so Scott and I can either experience the normal excitement of getting to announce a pregnancy after 12’ish weeks (or longer because I’m a very cautious person!) or to give us the time to process any potential bad news we might have to share with our family and friends. (Always accepting good vibes, thoughts, and prayers!)

But, there are still two more posts headed your way!  Up next, it’s egg retrieval day and I learned what Kim K. wanted to eat after her egg retrieval!  The suspense…right?!  😉

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