Sunday, November 18, 2007

Everythings Going Good

Everything at the Croom household is going well. We've definitely been busier with "different" activities. Thomas hasn't been able to get hardly any school work done, and I haven't been able to get any work work done. I have a major report that has to be drafted and completed this week -- right now its about 150 pages long.

But we are having loads of fun with the new parenting activities. The little boy in our house is doing great. He has slept 12 hours each night, and taken an 1.5 hr nap each afternoon. He is eating just about anything - including vegetables. Tonight we had a family night dinner at church and he loved all the food -- he had peas, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, sweet potatoes, turkey, and a meatball.

Tonight he is having a little bit of a harder time going to sleep. He has had a cold since they first brought him ... and I think maybe an ear infection. I will take him to the doctor tomorrow. Thomas and I have picked up the cold a little bit - just two hours he arrived I started sniffling. It sounds too fast, but seems to be the case.

He is moving around great. He crawls very quickly, and bee-bops his head while doing it - its so cute. But he is also really close to walking. He pulls up on anything, including a wall, and walks around holding onto the walls, furniture, etc. I'm sure he'll be walking very, very shortly.

Well, I need to go. Good night.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cruisin' the Baby Aisle

For years now, I've avoided the baby aisle at the grocery store - whenever I would pass it I would have "visions of sugar plum fairies and sugar and spice and everything nice." OK, so those really don't go together - but you get the picture. The baby aisle represented a very big dream and I never needed anything on it. So I avoided it.

Finally, yesterday, I got to cruise the baby aisle with a specific purpose.

We received our very first foster child placement yesterday.I had about 2 hours to prepare before a 14-month old boy arrived. Of course, this meant I was cruising the baby aisle with very little idea of what I needed. For instance, what size diaper do I buy? What kind of food will he eat?

Really the only thing that ruined it was the fact that the baby aisle at this specific grocery store was so small - on a back wall - and wasn't really fun at all. After the food I had to go shopping for everything else. The closest store, wasn't really the best. I struggled to find baby spoons, bottles, they were out of wipes, a blanket, sippy cups, thermometer, baby meds, and any clothes. Everything seemed to be out of place, nothing was where it needed to be ... and when you have 30 minutes to get so much ...that really took away the fun. It was all about necessity and not nearly as much about the cute factor.

Things worked out well last night, he ate, smiled and laughed some. We are looking forward to another day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Licensed Foster Home - Finally!

Today we received the great news that we are finally a licensed foster care home! yeah. It only took 6 months, a lot of aggravation, and a lot of money. I quickly added up how much we have spent to get to this point - and it's probably around $1,000. That includes a crib, plus mattress, plus sheets, plus 2 car seats, plus a ton of odds and ends like having a fire extinguisher approved. If we had requested older children, obviously we could have saved ourselves a lot of the cost, but we decided it would be better for us to have young children at this time. We are approved for 0-6 years old.

What this really means is that any point we may get a call from "placement" asking us to take a child into our home. When the call comes, the person won't know much. For instance, it is very likely they won't have a clue how long that child will stay with us. It could be a weekend - it could be a year. I have seriously been hoping that we have an infant placed with us that has been abandoned - it will be a much easier and likely route to adoption that way. But if it doesn't, I'm fine with that also. It will be wonderful to be able to help children, and help other families.

I have no idea how long it will be before the first placement. The time varies widely.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quick Update

I've been meaning to write. Nothing really important has happened. The weather has me excited. It feels absolutely wonderful to have cooler weather - it is suppose to get down in the 30s tonight!

Our nursery room is looking more and more like a child's room. I bought some wonderful alphabet cards to put around the top of the room (see read to me wall cards at I saw them in the background photo of a furniture website and had to ask where to get them. Thankfully, the store responded that same day with another web address. And they were delivered a few days later with a mound of Christmas giftsI ordered at the same time. I also bought an old worn out hobby horse at a yard sale and am close to finishing it. I have stained it - it looks so much better. I still need to replace the seat cover. I will finish that in the next week and post a photo.

Halloween was great. I had a blast at work - we recreated the Wizard of Oz. And I was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West. I wasn't too sure how scary I could be at first. But it was a lot of fun.

We still are NOT licensed as foster parents. It has been a never ending, aggravating process. Once again they called last week and said they forgot to do something. It will hopefully only be a week more ... but who knows. Unfortunately, work is starting to get busy again. It would have worked a lot better for us to have already finished this and had a child for a while. I will need to take time off work when it happens. And I will have committee meetings starting back up next month.

I haven't looked at any fertility treatment lately. It is frustrating not to be doing anything on it. But since we don't have the $ anyway, there isn't much to do. I want to figure out how much it would be for me to have the next test that is necessary. And make a plan.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Endometriosis and Fertilty

I remember hearing when I was around 20, when I was in grad school, that women with endo are often infertile - one of my friends at the time was diagnosed, she was not married, and very worried about her prospects of ever having children. At that time, I was worried for her, and also wondered if I had endo. I seemed to have all the symptoms then, but had never been diagnosed. It quickly left my mind when I graduated. After all, no one in my family has ever had problems having children.

So, when I was told by the doctors that I had endo and it would affect my fertility. I wasn't all that concerned. Still thinking, no one in my family has ever had problems.

Now, I know there is a problem. The only thing is, most doctors have no idea what to do about it. And the studies that are out there are controversial. But, I have convinced myself that something in my body keeps a embryo from attaching. I keep feeling like everything goes really well for the first few days after the transplant, and then something happens. And we have decided not to pursue any more fertility treatments until we can get more answers on this or treatment.

This is the introduction to the latest article I found
: "Proteins missing from cells lining the wombs of women with endometriosis may help explain their infertility, according to findings from a study headed by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientist." And then ... "The new study headed by Dr. Bruce A. Lessey, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, suggests that a reduction of the proteins in question may interfere with embryo implantation in the uterine lining."

This doctor is a lot closer, he works out of SC, and less expensive than the other one I was considering in NJ. So he is on our new list of folks to visit at some point ... who knows when.

Today I screamed like a girl

Today, I did scream like a girl, but I decided that is OK - that is usually what happens when I am chased by yellow jackets, can't get away, and get stung. I only got stung once today, on the ear. It was stuck between my hair and ear, I really couldn't get away. So when I came inside, it came with me. Thomas dutifully attended to me, killed the bee, and took me to the drugstore to get some benadryl.

I've been sick all week, mostly just a crappy cold, nothing to stay in bed for, but it made me dead tired. And when I lay down, I can't sleep because I start coughing. I decided I felt a lot better today, I woke up with an appetite, the weather is gorgeous -- so around 2pm I thought it might be a good time to weed the front bed under the big oak tree. I only weeded about a 6 inch area before I was being chased. I'm thinking it might be a while before I finish. I need to make sure they are good and dead.

While, I've been sniffling all week, Thomas has been studying. He can't escape from the books or computer for any period of time. I'm a little worried he's missing out on life, but there really isn't anything I can be doing right now anyway. I have been trying to give him lots of time for his schoolwork, using most of my evenings sewing. I had a really, really nice Viking sewing machine here while mine was being repaired. But that has come to an end.

That is about all that is happening around here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Update on the House

I've been wanting to add some photos of the house so everyone could see before and after photos of our home. We haven't done much of anything lately. But we did a whole lot those first few months after moving down including ---
* New pool liner and pump
* Cut down 10 pine trees
* Cut down lots of volunteer trees, brush, and weeds
* New roof
* Put down 10,000 sq ft of sod
* Painted indoors
* Had bookshelves built for office
* Bought two new beds
* Put in new dishwasher

And so many more things. So I've added photos to our Flickr account so everyone can preview. CHECK IT OUT.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Finishing the Paperwork

Finishing the last bit of paperwork and requirements for the fostering process can be a little aggravating ... if you let it get to you. I stopped that last month. For the last month, I have been extremely patient with some of the idiosyncrasies of the process and some of the things I've been told.

But here is a quick update. We have the crib, we've assembled the crib. Today we bought a car seat. (That was a nice last minute surprise which we were previously told was not required). I was given one last final list of things to get done and turn in. I took a three hour lunch - shopped for the car seat and turned in the last few things they asked for.

I'm told that tomorrow morning, our paperwork will be sent off, and I just don't mean mailed ... it is going to be hand delivered! woo hoo! Finally. I think part of the reason was because they felt so bad about how long their part has taken. It will hopefully be delivered with care to individuals who are "in the know."

This means that we could have a child in our home shortly. I was told last week that it takes 1 month to process the paperwork. Today, I was told they had children that needed a foster home immediately. =)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hand Dyed Fabric

One thing I've wanted to do for the last 2 years is to hand dye fabric. It is really important when you quilt that you have some solid fabrics. Solids at the store are super boring and its hard to get the color you really want. But hand dyed fabric adds a nice touch with just a little variation to make solids much more interesting.
So I took some birthday money and bought some dyes. And had a blast last night doing it. I think I could get addicted to this. I already want to try some more colors. So I spent several hours last night dying and then this morning I rinsed and washed the fabrics. Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Philanthropic Searches

Several times I've wanted to post about certain nonprofits that have either appealed to us, or that we have supported at one time or another. For instance, we have talked about supporting Shaohannah's Hope - which provides support to families wishing to adopt from overseas. This particular business was founded by popular Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and provides adoption grants to families.

Now that we are looking more seriously at adoption, we've found even more resources for families. In Washington State there is Antioch Adoption, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Christian families adopt with absolutely no fee. They are also hoping to get churches involved in every state so that they can expand across the nation. I also ran across the ABBA Fund which provides interest-free loans to help families adopt. This group also encourages churches to start their own ABBA Fund to help members in their congregation adopt. It looks like the down side to this is that if you use this interest-free loan you can't apply for the $10K federal tax credit allowed when adopting.

I don't feel like any of these fit perfectly with what we need at this time, but it is inspiring to see so many entities helping families grow. And I hope that as Thomas and I move forward in life, we will be able to support other families expand and grow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finding the Silver Lining

Too often I have to try and remind myself to be more positive and more optimistic. I feel like I don't recognize the blessings in my life and I try to correct my behavior. I've been trying to keep a steady list as a way to help me recognize our blessings. I can't count the number of times someone has asked me if I see the glass half full or half empty ... and I never knew how to answer. So, I've been making a list of things to be thankful about our recent events.

1. I will be able to exercise for the next year
2. I can try to lose weight
3. I'm less worried about wanting to be a stay at home mom in the immediate future and missing more work
4. I don't have to get any more shots or weird medicines for the year
5. I won't have to make regular visits to the doctor
6. I can eat sushi
7. I can drink coffee and wine
8. We won't be spending thousands of dollars
9. I will have more time to quilt
10. We can move towards adoption, and I will still be able to lose weight and eat sushi

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I guess you are wondering

Well, I thought about making everyone wait for a while for the news. I even thought about waiting until the end of the first trimester, but I just figured that would be mean ... since there is no news. We are once again not pregnant. How are we doing you may be asking yourself. We are OK. I think I took the news a little worse than my dear husband, but I am definitely dealing and planning.

We won't be moving forward with any fertility treatment for a while. We just don't have the money. I honestly feel like something isn't right with me. The doctor chalks it up to bad embryos, but I just can't see that all four were bad. So, I've checked out a few other docs and there are some that check for immune issues. Basically, something in your body could say "this is a foreign object" and it would prevent the baby from attaching. AND that is a very real possibility with endometriosis. I called one of the best of these docs. They have about 6 locations across the nation, the closest to us is NY City. So before we go any further, I want to make sure we have this checked. Plus they can do a DNA test on sperm and make sure there are no problems there. The immune test runs about $2K; I forgot to ask about the other. Plus, the doctor consultation and the plane trip, hotel, etc. If I do have an immune issue, it can possible be treated, but that will run around $3-8K. In addition to the transfer cost. So basically, its getting very expensive to move forward at all. To start a whole new cycle with this clinic would be anywhere from $23K to $32K, depending on medicine needed.

So we are stopping with fertility treatments for now. It is a big relief. I need a break from the heartache and the pain and the needles. And we will pick it up at some other point. I am not able to give up on the idea of never having biological children - I'm definitely not able to do that at this point. And we also just don't have the money to continue. So it has to wait. We need to pay off the $15K we have spent to get us this far ... which sadly ... is really nowhere. We haven't decided when we will start again, and we will wait until we think it is the right time. I'm guessing it will be years. Some states require insurance to cover IVF, and we may decided to move to such a state when we leave Florida.

So in the meantime, we would love to adopt. But that also costs quite a bit. We've been leaning toward domestic adoptions, but they run around $15K. I think one of the places here in town may do for it $7,500, I need to call them. But that is still much more than we have, so that is probably going to either have to wait for a miracle or for some time to pass so we can save and pay off debt. (And for anyone wondering, international adoptions are even more expensive) I'm just hoping a miracle happens and we find a wonderful child that we are able to adopt for no fee or a very small fee.

And that is where we are.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The waiting continues

I know some of you are wondering what is happening at the Croom household this week. Well, there were a few rough patches for me this week. I had a meltdown on Wednesday ... and a smaller one on Thursday. Today, I'm doing better.
The bottom line is that the waiting period has got to be the hardest part of infertility treatment ... well, it might run a close second to the cost. It probably wouldn't be nearly as hard if it wasn't so pricey. But the bottom line is that if it doesn't work, we can't keep going back to try again. We have one more FET after this, and that will be it for a long while. And we will only be getting older.

And I know many of you are wondering, just like us, did it work. If it was based on how many prayers there has been for the birth of these children, we would definitely be having twins next year. We probably have 50-100 people praying for us. But more than that matters, I've already learned that the path I want to take is not always the one God has planned for me.

Of if you want to go on my dreams for the week, then I'm probably pregnant. Every night this week, I dreamed I either had a child, or was pregnant. It switched back and forth each night between girl and boy. One night, I dreamed we had fair skinned, red haired, blue-eyed daughter.

But so far, I don't feel pregnant at all. I've heard you aren't really suppose to feel anything this early, so I'm trying not to let it bother me. I was hoping I would have some type of intuition about this - I don't. I have nothing. I have no idea. NOTHING. And I am scared to death to find out. Wednesday I had a breakdown, not because I thought I wasn't pregnant, but the idea of getting a negative this time was just more than I could handle. I needed to know that if it didn't work, we had a plan.

So we came up with a plan. We talked about all sorts of options .... and we have more praying and thinking to do about this plan B. But it probably involves adoption; which really shouldn't be a shock to anyone. We have already decided we want to adopt regardless of having a biological child. We believe it is part of the life God has planned for us. And I'm starting to think, he doesn't want us distracted from that plan.

Does anyone have any good vibes that this worked for us?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Our babies at transfer

We had some other good news that I didn't directly mention earlier.
The transfer was of two embryos - that were a little bit more advanced than the two that were transfered back in January. I think this means we have possibly higher quality embryos with a better chance of success. Or that is at least what I want to think.

We decided early on that we wanted to wait the 5-days before transfer for the embryos to make it to the blaystocyst stage. It means the best quality embryos with the best chance.

There are approximately 4 stages of a blastocyst - 1 is the least advanced, and 4 the most. This website has some great photos. Basically, when you get to stage 4, the next expansion should be hatching and implantation. We had a stage 3 and a stage 4 transferred this time; last time they were both stage 2. The doctor didn't give me any further breakdown in quality. They can be graded based on quality. But as I have mentioned before, our clinic does not do this.

We also weren't able to get a photo like we had wanted. But above is a photo from the internet of a stage 4 blastocyst.

The 2 week wait

The commonly referred to 2 week wait (2ww) is well underway. I actually have a shorter wait since the embryos were already 6-days old when transfered.

There is a lot of good news. I am not anxious. I am definitely looking forward to some positive news. But I'm not unsettled, not worried, not stressed. I am really at peace. Which I can only thank God for. Don't get me wrong, if the news comes back negative, I am sure I will be upset. But that isn't something I can even imagine at this moment.

More good news. The drugs don't seem to be effecting me the same way this time. Maybe because its a cryocycle rather than a complete IVF cycle. I'm not sure. I wanted to know what type of symptoms I was having last time, if I felt anything, etc. So I looked back at this nice handy blog and discovered that the progesterone was making me hungry and cranky, and giving me insomnia. That is definitely not happening. I am not extra hungry this time around, I am sleeping really well. In fact, every time I play the meditation music I drift off to sleep, regardless of how many hours I've already slept that day.

I do have a few symptoms, and I decided I wanted to post them because if I needed to look back, I would want to know what they are. There are two things that are different since the transfer - 1) I am more bloated and my stomach feels tighter possibly or different in some way; and 2) I've had ever slight pains, not really cramps, but like I might start spotting, but I haven't. So I'm hoping that's the babies implanting. If not, then I have no idea what it is. I remember vividly having some cramping last time ... and I know that is not really a good thing. So I am trying to keep that far at bay. The acupuncture really helps with that part - one needle specifically equates to no cramps for me. My next appointment is Tuesday morning.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Transfer Today

The transfer today went really well. I'm holed up in a hotel room resting; Thomas has gone out in search of dinner. We are very happy with how everything went.

The nurse called me at 7:30 this morning, I had just crawled out of bed after laying there for two hours wide awake. She asked if we could come in at 11am this morning! So I said, sure, we can make it in 3 hours. And yelled up at Thomas to let him know it was going to be sooner than we thought.
A few minutes later the nurse called back to let us know that 2 embryos were defrosted, and they both survived.

Everything went smooth. The embryologist said that the embyros had already expanded (grown) since between the defrost and the transfer time. So that is great news. They sound healthy and full of energy ... which is what we need. They are at the stage where they need to break through their shell and implant.

Please keep us in your prayers over the next few days. The pregnancy test is in 11 days.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Here's the Plan

Tonight was the start of a big tomorrow. Here is the plan.

Tomorrow morning around 8am we leave for Jacksonville, Florida. We have lunch, then go to see the acupuncturist at 12 noon. Sometime in the morning we will get a phone call about a time for our transfer. We will go to the transfer. If we can make it to the 3:30 acupuncture appointment then we will do that. Then it is over to the hotel for 2 days. We are staying at the Radison because they have sleep number beds.

Tonight we have packing, I had yoga, and Thomas took the Mercy and Forge over to our friend's kennel.

I have saved quite a bit of meditative and classical music to my ipod, so my hope is that the doctors will let me listen to it during the transfer and in the recovery room. I'm guessing that during the transfer will not be possible since I will be in a "sterile" room. And Thomas got me a great early birthday present - a bose soundsystem for my ipod with a traveling case. So it will be going with us, so that my ears don't start aching from having earphones in all day.

I have to go pack now. The only thing I am worried about forgetting is my medicine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Good Things

Two good things happened today.

First, I got two appointments scheduled for Thursday. I had called an acupuncture lady in Jacksonville yesterday (down the street from the hospital) and was hoping she would be able to see me on Thursday. The data shows that you need treatment immediately before and after the transfer. If you can manage that, success rates nearly double. She called back today and HAD AVAILABLE TIMES FOR ME TO SEE HER TWICE ON THURSDAY! So I have an appointment at noon and at 3:30. Now, I really have no idea what time my transfer will be, but she said it is usually around 1 or 2. So here's to hoping. She can't see me later than 3:30 because she heads home to take care of her children. She has loads of personal experience with women going through treatment at this center - and she said she usually see success. She has a pretty high opinion of the center. However, she also said they aren't great at tailoring to specific needs. (I think that is what I find so frustrating)

Second, our foster counselor got moving finally. For about the third week now we have been waiting for our home study/fostering information to be typed up. That's all. It just had to be typed. I was promised we would have it Friday 2 weeks ago ... as of yesterday I hadn't heard anything. So I called and told her that we would be out of town later this week if she was hoping to get it to us soon ... and was told by our counselor that she hasn't done it but would have it completed on Friday of this week. She made up lots of excuses, or reasons as she called them -- these included "I had other home studies, I had an all-day conference." And I held my tongue and didn't say anything nasty because I couldn't figure out what good it would do. Then I called her boss and left a message simply stating to please call me. He hasn't called back , but Today, our counselor called back and said that she would have it to us tomorrow. SO THAT is really good news also. I was so tired of her dragging her butt. So we will hopefully receive it, sign it, and return it before we leave town.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another day

Today has been pretty good. I've been trying to stay relaxed, and I would say its working. I'm generally very happy today and in good spirits. I have two days at work until the next "big day" and I have so much to do that it should go by quickly. I think the wait between Thursday and the pregnancy test will be much worse ... but maybe the good mood will stick around through the end of it.

Today, I also called another IVF clinic, with the intention of finding out if frozen embryos could be transported to another clinic. AND THEY CAN BE! So, when we do this again, it will probably be after I find a clinic that I like a little better. I thought about going ahead and canceling this cycle and waiting another month or two ... and then I remembered I already shelled out the nonrefundable $2K. So, that won't be happening.

The home life is a little slower, I have spent many hours quilting and sewing. My sewing machine needs to be serviced. I think I will probably try to take it to the store on Wednesday ...

The shots I have been getting haven't been all that great. They aren't really well liked by those who have to go through these treatments. Thomas was determined that the needle was not the right one the first day - he thought it was way too long. Unfortunately, he wasn't right ... I get to have a 1.5 inch needle shoved in the top of my hip/butt every morning. The POI (progesterone in oil) is so viscous that it takes several minutes just to fill the syringe up with the oil. But my dear hubby has done a fantastic job, the nurse actually gave me a worse bruise than he has.

And the estrogen patches have left little sticky marks all over my belly. Every other day, when I get to change them, I scrub and scrub, but they just don't come off. Anyone have any ideas???, the only thing I was able to think of was to rub my belly with Goo be Gone, but that just doesn't sound healthy.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Today was a lot more stressful than I hoped for. I really didn't have a very good reaction to the doctor's office - just sitting in the lobby made me nervous, and it didn't help that they had this jazzy elevator music playing. It was not the least bit calming. I think they should redo their lobby, play peaceful music, lower the lights -- I tried to find a suggestion card, but couldn't - I guess they aren't looking for suggestions.

They probably don't want my suggestions anyway. I would have to add to it that the doctor is rude, inconsiderate, and totally obnoxious ... and that he needs to work on his empathy and people skills.

I asked him about checking the embryo quality - he said what I expected, every embryo that makes it this far we consider grade 1. But while he said this, he did something I didn't really expect ... and that was, he turned and responded to Thomas. Completely did not look at me. What he really had was a look on his face that said "Please talk some sense into this woman." I didn't know if Thomas would have really noticed, but I mentioned it when we left. He did notice - in fact, he said while the doctor was looking at him, he kept trying to glance at me hoping the doctor would get the message. .... SO ... They don't bother to actually look, they assume. Other clinics seem to grade these, look for problems, something. So I asked if I could get a photo of them. That is also a fairly common practice. So he said he might be able to do this. I'll probably have to remind them the day of my transfer.

And I also asked if maybe I would be a candidate for assisted hatching. He said that would be hard to do because they don't really do assisted hatching on 5-day-old embryos. I have no idea why. Clinics can check the thickness of the embryo shell and see if it is too thick to hatch on its own - but I guess that would require them to look at the embryo. And I checked some scientific studies, it can definitely be done.

So, overall, the doctor's appointment was much too stressful, and aggravating. They did check my hormones and the lining of my uterus. We have the all clear to proceed with transfer on Thursday.

I came home, laid down, slept, and I am attempting to destress.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another Day

Today, was another day in this whole process. In effort to remain calm, relaxed, etc., I attended a yoga class last night. It was a nice 1.5 hours long and was actually very relaxing. I wasn't to sure what to think of it while I was there, but when I left I noticed how much more restful and relaxed I felt. Next week I will probably try to make it to another one ... and I may go buy a DVD to do at home until then. I did wake up just a tad sore this morning, but it wasn't bad.
We head out in the morning about 5:45 - it shouldn't be a big deal. We have to turn in a notarized form to say they have the ability to defrost our little ones. The husband's signature is required to be notarized .... however, Thomas forgot to do it. So we will probably be running around Jacksonville tomorrow to find a notary so we can take it over to the doctor's office before we leave town. Hopefully it won't be too hectic.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Day 10 - Some info on the odds

I attended my second acupuncture appointment today -- if you missed the entry on that earlier you should know that is shown to result in increased success and also fewer miscarriages. I loved my first appointment, and today was no different. The lady I have been going to was first a massage therapist - so I think that just adds to the pleasure. So, with my attempts to increase success, today seems like the perfect day to talk about the "odds" for success.

In the last blog entry I mentioned just briefly that the odds were not in our favor. Obviously, it does work sometime or the doctor's wouldn't bother. Back in February, our fertility doc gave us about a 50% chance for one of our two FETs to work. (We should have two FETS with two embryos each - assuming they all survive the defrost)
The best information anyone can get on "success rates" is from the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services - they record success rates for all centers in the nation. In 2005, our center performed 143 frozen (nondonor) embryo transfers, resulting in 32% of these having a child born. I looked at several other center's stats and to tell you the truth - these are pretty good odds. Most of the clinics have done less than 50 frozen transfers a year, some less than 10 - and many have lower success rates. So overall, I'm pretty happy with the numbers we have going for us.

Our clinic also has a slightly higher success rate (about 37%) for women one age group above me - the 35-37 age group. I'm not sure why this is ... but I'm wondering if it might have to do with an increase in the use of assisted hatching. Assisted hatching is when the embryologist uses either chemicals or a sharp needle, or both, to either put a hole in the shell of the embryo or thin out the shell. This basically is shown to increase the chances of the embryo attaching if the embryo is not of the highest quality --- which means its often performed on older women. It costs extra - but often times means the difference of success or not success. (I didn't want to say failure)

I will be asking the doctor about assisted hatching when we go in on Friday. Probably along with a million other questions he will not want to answer. Until Friday, its just work and school for the both of us.

The hormones I'm on aren't really bothering me very much. I'm more crampy than normal, pretty much all the time. And sometimes I have difficulty eating - almost like I'm too full to eat - but I'm not full. But it comes and goes ... and actually much improved after my appointment today.

That's it. I will try to post one more time before Friday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FET #1 - Day 4

Well, I've made it a whole four days - only 24 more to go before we find out if we are pregnant.
The estrogen so far isn't bad at all - I can't tell. Right now, I only have 1 patch on. Tomorrow, I take it off and put on 2 patches. Then 2 days later, I will take those off and put 3 on ... and so forth. So things may change. I think Thomas has braced himself for possible mood swings.

Really nothing has happened. I started looking for hotels in Jacksonville that had a sleep number bed. My back hurts pretty bad if I have to lay flat for long periods - and after the transfer I will be flat on my back for about 24 hours. So I am going to find a hotel with a good bed.

Generally, I seem to having good days and not as good days. Some days I get really upset at the idea of this not working, and other days I know that its best to let God lead my life and not worry about it. But it really just depends on the day. I do want to stay relaxed. Overall, I think I will be a lot less stressed than last time ... mainly because I know its more likely to not work. Our odds were so much better last time. But it's hard not to get your hopes up.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

FET #1 - DAY 1

Today starts day 1 of our first cryocycle. The only thing new that marks today is that I have an estrogen patch on my belly - something most women don't have to worry themselves with until menopause.

The plan: 1) I have to call the nurse in the morning, and 2) I have to continue with these patches, and 3) we will have to report to Jacksonville in approximately 12 days for an ultrasound, 4) I will start PIO shots at some point, 5) the transfer of 2 six-day old embryos will be sometime after day 13 (not sure when), 6) then we will get to wait 1-2 weeks to see if it worked.

Please pray for us.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Baby Oliver

I love this photo of the newest addition to our family. This is our new nephew Oliver, with his big sister. Oliver was born last Monday, and I am sure he has been a wonderful blessing to his family already. I have several other favorites that can be viewed at my sister's website.

Here is the news on the home front; we passed our health home study. The only thing left is to sign off on the final paperwork. And that is about all that has happened.

Thomas has basically started school. Even though classes don't officially start until Monday, he already has hundreds of pages to read for next week's classes. He has a very busy semester and I expect I will have more time for quilting since he will be so busy. And because we both enjoyed it so much, I want to mention that last night we attended a musical show at FSU - it was very good - music written during WWII era. It was a charity show put on by the faculty for the local classical station. Very entertaining, and very inexpensive.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

FET #1 - Delayed

If you'd rather not find out a bunch of personal information about me, then please, stop reading. However, if you are interested in our family planning, or you just find the human body an interesting science, please join me for the rest of this post.

Today I am four days late. That never happens. I thought for sure that by now, I would have started my meds for our first FET. But it hasn't happened. There are 3 possible reasons I can think of that may have caused this effect. 1) I'm pregnant - which according to the doctor's is impossible; 2)I'm completely stressed; or 3)Our vacation wasn't so relaxing after all and caused massive changes in my body.

If we were at a horse track and I had to wager, I would say #3 has the best odds. I always knew that excessive exercise could cause unpredictable cycles. Sort of the same way that obesity causes unpredictable cycles. Most young females know that it is important to be a healthy weight when trying to conceive. It turns out that sudden exercise above and beyond a normal routine can also delay ovulation.

So our vacation this month, wasn't quite relaxing. In fact, the first few days were downright grueling. Four days backpacking the Appalachian Trial, climbing more than 3,000 feet up a massive hill, stumbling for hours with a 50 lb backpack, etc - was probably more than normal exercise. In fact, I know that my heart got about 7 hours of cardio exercise the second day of our trek. Thomas and I weren't nearly prepared enough, physically, for the trip. Case in point, my ovulation was stalled and now my cycle is taking a little longer than normal.

I think I have pretty strong proof, I noticed during the month that I ovulated about a week late. Did you get that? I thought it was weird at the time and that I must have been imagining things ... but, I guess not.

And for all of you who are wondering, yes, I did take a pregnancy test. And it was negative.

Today, was a very interesting day. I had my first ever acupuncture appointment - and it was FANTASTIC! I can not stress enough how much I enjoyed it and how relaxing it was. Turns out - I'm perfectly balanced. I always thought so myself! =) But it was great to have the massage, music, and I even think the needles were helpful. But more importantly, acupuncture is scientifically proven to have some type of link to increased success with infertility treatment.

Here's a clip from a website: "A German study done in 2002 showed that of the 80 women who underwent IVF and received acupuncture, 34 women got pregnant, a success rate of 42.5%. Of the 80 women involved in the study who received IVF without any acupuncture treatments, only 21 women (26.3%) became pregnant. More recently, an American study involving 114 women showed that 51% of the women who had acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant versus only 36% of the women who had IVF alone. Deeper analysis of this study revealed that, while 8% of the women in the acupuncture group miscarried, the rate of miscarriage in the IVF-only group was 20%. Furthermore, women who received acupuncture also had lower rates of ectopic pregnancies."

Did that convince any of you naysayers? Well, anyway, I enjoyed it. And if puts my mind to rest a little more, even better.

And on the fostering/adopting track, our health home study by the Florida Department of Health is tomorrow morning. I'll let you know what happens.

Also, one last thing, I added a link on the right hand side titled "House of Hartsfield" - check out our friends.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

FET #1

Our first cryocycle should begin in just a few short days, unless there is some miraculous event where I am already pregnant. I got a much smaller package in the mail last week with all the meds I will need for this round of pin pricks. It wasn't really all that bad - it looks like estrogen patches for the first 2 weeks and PIO shots the last 2 weeks. It's the PIO shots that had my bottom sore for 2 months last time. Uggh.

I'll let everyone know how things proceed. I already know that this time around I will be getting some acupunture leading up to the transfer, and we are going to stay in Jacksonville, rather than trying to drive the 3 hours back home. My goal this week is to find a hotel with a good bed.

Have you heard of the old wives tale about using a pencil, needle and thread to find out how many children you are going to have? Our grandmother tested me out while home last week with just a needle and thread - it looks like - boy, girl, boy for me. Interesting, hopefully it works out - we'll have to wait and see. Brings a whole new meaning to needlpoint family planning.

I am getting a little nervous at times - which isn't good. I keep trying to reassure myself.

Home Study - Part I Complete

It's been a busy few weeks - thus the lack of posting. After spending one and half days in Raleigh/Durham to visit my grandmother, go to Harry Potter at IMAX, and my sister's baby shower, four days on the Appalachian Trail backpacking, 2 days in Tennessee, 1 day white-water rafting, and 2 days in Wilmington, we are back home. We traveled 3,000 by car in those few days.
It was a busy week back also. We arrived late Monday night, and had to go back to work. After work each day we worked our butts off cleaning, unpacking, organizing and child-proofing as much as possible by Thursday morning for our home study.

The steps to foster/adopt have been very normal thus far. We have really enjoyed the folks at Girls and Boys Town who have trained us and are helping us through the process. Thursday morning was no exception - it went really well. Stephanie, our licensing consultant, and Ariel, our class instructor, both came for what I now know is only Part I of the home study process. As expected from everything we've heard already - it was mostly questions. And all the same questions we've answered before. I'm guessing they figure if they space out the questions enough in time, they might find holes, or inconsistencies in our stories. After about an hour of questions, we were told that they would only do half of them today, come back another time for the other half, and some photos of inside the house. We asked to please do all the questions that same day so we wouldn't have to schedule time to be off work again. They were willing to work with us. We finished all the questions and did a walk-through of the house; and they are coming back for a short visit for photos this Friday. At the end of the visit they announced that after they came back Friday for the photos, they would be back one more time to go over all the paperwork one more time. Who knew it would be so many times! The good news is that they didn't foresee any problems.

So, we are nearly there for completing approval by the state to foster or adopt children between the ages of 0 and 6. We were required to give an age range, and decided that for now, younger was better. We want to raise the age in the future, but not now. There are still a few things that had to be done. Thursday afternoon, after 4 hours here with us, we had a final list of things to complete.
1. Buy a crib - Check, done (pictured above). we are required to have a bed for an infant to receive approval for that age. So we went ahead and purchased the crib we liked best. (Or I should probably say that I liked best) After ordering online, I became frustrated to learn that it may take up to a month to arrive. --- Stephanie is coming back Friday for photos of it. Yikes. So in the meantime I purchased a used pack-n-play to set up as a infant bed while I was down in Orlando this weekend.
2. Tag the fire extinguisher - Check, done. A short trip down the road and $10 was all it took to get it "approved." This it turns out has to be done yearly.
3. Proof of income, insurance, driver license - Check, done.
4. Letter to a child - Check, done.
5. Copy of Marriage License - I think this one is done. I am waiting for confirmation.
6. Bouy and rope for the pool - Check, Done. $50.
6. And the hardest of all - approval by the Florida Department of Health. I'm more concerned about this one than any. Mainly because of the pool. They have to agree that the locks on our doors are satisfactory. And I don't want them to have to come back for a second visit. To pass this, I also have to have all medicine in a locked box, and all chemicals locked up. So we still have some work to do. I have to find a box to put the meds in. And get all the chemical in one place.

That's about it for the home study. I am very excited, Thomas has voiced concern about all the equipment (car seats, bottles, toys, etc) we are going to need when a child gets placed in our home. It's a lot, but I know we can work it out, so I just don't see a reason in getting all worked up about it. We won't have much planning time for it, if any. But I'm not concerned. That seems like such a simple hurdle compared to everything else. And anything seems simple compared to this infertility crap.

We also learned during our home study that anyone who babysits for us will have to have a background check. We really didn't expect it; it never even crossed our minds. So we will be tracking down some folks we took the class for possible services.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Moving Along

I've been patiently waiting for August to start. And finally it is here. So first thing on my list of do this month ... no, not pay the bills, not clean the house, or weed the yard (which I need to do all)... but call the fertility clinic and order my medication for our first FET, or as they call it, our first cryocycle.

I will be taking Vivelle (an estrogen patch), and progesterone in oil shots again in my bum. Most of the meds I took on the IVF cycle - I won't need again. I have about $800 left in our medication from our first IVF cycle. Unfortunately, it expires in December so we can't hold onto it - I dearly hope we won't need it, but even if we did, there is no way we could afford to start IVF all over again at this time. The cost of the cryocycle is shocking enough ... it's going to be about $1900. Uggh. Medicine not included in that price. But fortunately, I think the doctor's office is going to help me out with this -- and I in turn will donate the left over meds that I have from the IVF cycle.

My packet came in the mail today describing the process for the FET. However, I haven't had a chance to read it. We are way too busy planning and packing for a camping trip. First thing tomorrow (or I should say today in about 5 hours) we are heading to NC for my sister's baby shower and then on to the Appalachian Trial for a few days of roughing it. Also, a short white water rafting trip. Yipee. I'm so excited about the next week.

My sister will be making a trip to our house while we are gone ... I hate I won't be here with her. But alas, the mountains call.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Prayer and thanksgiving

Something to be praying for ... and something to be thankful for.

One of my very good friends called me a little over a week ago to say that her first ultrasound (at 12 weeks pregnant) showed a very serious problem. The baby has a cystic hygroma ... and the doctors couldn't tell her what it is likely to mean until next month when they can take another measurement to see if its growing or shrinking. It could mean a late miscarriage, Turner's Syndrome, or many other things ... or could just go away. Please be praying for their family and the baby. I found this video online - "A prayer for unborn children" - that same day and fell in love with it.


After about a year or more of looking, I finally found a book on infertility that I wanted to read. It took a while. I won't ever forget trying to explain to the salesman at the bookstore that "fertility" books are different than "infertility" books. Turns out that in this particular store, fertility books and parenting books are in the same section, while infertility books are in the health section ... assuming that a store even carries one ... which really isn't all that likely.

But I've learned that my husband is quite exceptional after reading through a chapter in "The Infertility Companion" that explained some the of differences between men and women and the struggle to have a child. Many couples struggle with infertility and are usually always in different stages. The authors explain that women usually read about it more, talk about it more and think about it more ... and also usually move to consider adoption first. They also say that women usually read more and talk more than men in general ... I guess they haven't met my husband. I know he beats me daily in both of those activites. However, with that being said, I know I read more about infertility than he does and I also connect it with more activities than my dear. But on the whole, I would have to admit we are pretty close to always being on the same page. He talks about, he's concerned about it, he is willing and open to discuss anything on the topic ... and never do I feel like I'm being rushed or held back by him. If I've read something on the topic that I want to share with him, I simply ask and its done. No questions, no problems. And every once in a while I decide to bring up a topic about a possible next step ... sometimes a little wary about his reaction ... and every time he is supportive ... and more importantly we are able to move forward together.

Infertility is by far the greatest loss I've had to deal with, some days I nearly want to collapse with grief. In many marriages it causes problems; but I am blessed to have a caring and understanding husband ... his support and love makes it all bearable. And every day I am thankful that we are able to move forward as a team.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Letting God Take Control

Our devotions together (Thomas and myself) were quite on target the next morning after my last post. The book we are working on together right now is titled "15 Minute Devotions for Couples" by Bob and Emilie Barnes.

The story goes like this ... at first I saw God as an observer of my life, and a judge. Then I noticed more that we were on a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike ride with God in the back helping to pedal. But at some point, we switched places, I'm not sure when He suggested the change. "When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, through rocky places, and at breakneck speeds! It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, 'Pedal!' I worried and was anxious and asked 'Where are you taking me?' He laughed and didn't answer. I started to learn to trust ... I did not trust Him in control of my life at first. I thought He'd wreck it. But He knows bike secrets. He knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I'm learning to shut up and pedal. ... And when I'm sure I just can't do it any more, He smiles and says 'Pedal!'"

It's a very good message for every one, but especially for us few lucky ones that face infertility. It was a blessing to see such an on point message. I was happy to see such a clear message that I could apply to my life and now I am trying more to let God lead and to trust in Him ... and that is not only a good thing, but a great and wonderful thing.

The scripture of course that goes with this is Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust is the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Praying for Peace

I've been praying for peace and comfort for myself this week. There have been a lot of ups and downs on this road. The first few months after our first failed IVF was heartbreaking. My poor pastor must have thought he was doing a miserable job at church because I left the service every week for months bawling.

It's been a little better. There's been less crying; which means I'm not crying every day ... maybe only every other. But there is stress in other ways. Our first FET is around the corner and what this means is another chance for success ... or for failure.

I've always been the sort of person to plan, prepare, and control a situation if possible. Unfortunately, on this road you learn way too quickly life is not simple ... and life is certainly not in your control. So I try to control what I can. Over the last few weeks this means what can I do to try to increase my chances of a successful FET. Lose weight, more tests, more exercise, more tests?? I honestly feel like I owe it to our babies. Their chance at life hinges on a successful FET ... and that is quite a bit of stress to put on yourself.

When you believe as we do, that life begins at conception, the road of infertility is only more complicated and harder. I remember three days after we the eggs were fertilized we had thirteen embryos! Wow, can you imagine, thirteen starts to life ... can you imagine 13 children! Those few days were rough, because while we waited for the most "viable" embryos, what it meant to me was more of our children were dying. And you can trust me when I say I had a lot of worries, concerns that we had made the wrong choice. By day 5 we were down to six, and now we are at four. And our chances are much less than when we started ... about 35% is what we were told for each FET ... we should have two if everything goes as planned. And for everyone who says you didn't really lose anything ... that is a load of crap! Because I lost a two children, and I certainly lost hope.

So I feel like I owe to myself, and of course to them, to be proactive in our approach. Should I be tested to see if I am lacking certain uterine proteins that will prevent a embryo from implanting. If I am, its a 3-month dose of medicine to help treat. Simple enough. Or should we try acupuncture. There are studies out there that show a better success rate when combined with a few needles. No problem.

I feel like if it may make a difference, and I should emphasize "may," then we owe it to these young little babies to make the effort. Unfortunately, the doc doesn't quite feel the same way. He thinks a healthy and vital embryo will grow just about anywhere. So, we have had to decide what to do ... should we push for more, should we trust the doc.

I'm starting to see why so many infertile couples end up changing clinics for their second attempt at IVF. You learn what you are looking for, and its a struggle, because not only do you feel like you just wasted $12K learning what you want in a clinic ... you lose the babies ... and there is nothing you can do about it.

So recovering from the heartache of infertility seems to be an ongoing struggle as we deal with these issues in our life. These past few months have definitely been better. And we are trying to move forward and focus on areas of our life that need improving. We have been setting more goals for ourselves in many aspects of our lives. One of which is to post on this site at least twice a week.

But the days, weeks and months remain challenging.

Every week, we see the sweetest little children at church with captivating smiles and laughs … and I hope that one day a young child will look at both myself and my husband the way I see other children look at their parents.

My dream is that one day we will be able to add our child's laughter to our home.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

4 months later ...

I've been meaning to post ... but now that I'm sitting here I don't quite remember what I thought would be very interesting.

We've been VERY busy. And we are healing from our January experience. There are definitely times when I am upset that we haven't been able to conceive a child, but they aren't as often as before. Through Feb, March, and April I couldn't hardly get through a day without some serious weeping.
There were also days when I thought we were way too busy to be able to handle a pregnancy or a baby. Thomas and I can juggle a lot, but I think it would have been too much. I guess, we would have just had to put other stuff on hold ... and that would have been difficult also.

We are planning to go back for IVF in September for the frozen embryo transfer (FET). What that means is come July we have to contact the nurse about medications and procedures for then. So things will start moving again in that direction soon. I guess it's possible we could change our minds about when to do the FET, but I doubt it.

It's always so confusing ... folks will tell you that when the time is right you will have a child ... or when God decides the time is right ... well, I'm still wondering how we know when that is ... because if September is not the "time" we could save some money and give our embryos the chance to be saved. I thought the right time was January, so what was I missing then. Maybe my point is, I really don't like these comments. Whether the time is right or not, our job is still to make the best decision based on what we know, because we can't know what God knows. So, I'm not sure why anyone says it.

Anyway, back on point. Things have been busy, and I truly believe that if I had been pregnant, we would have had a very rough few months. Just over the last few weeks we completely demolished our yard and repaired it again. Here is an example - take a look at the pictures. Here's two of the back/side of the house during the demolition phase and after. Now that many of the main projects are completed with the house ... for now ... maybe we can get on with our fertility plans.

On that note, we are also taking a MAPP Class. This class is a state required class if you are interested in fostering or adopting a child. I would say the first couple classes everything seemed like common sense, but now, after a few weeks, I have decided the class if very useful and at the least has us thinking more about how to identify needs of children, and at the most is teaching us to be better parents. At this point, we haven't committed to fostering or adopting, but we wanted to be ready and prepared should something come up during the year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Advice from a first grader

It's always the simple things in life that I end up musing over.

My six-year-old nephew called this week to tell me that he had miraculously found a four-leaf clover. After a very detailed discussion comparing the extent of clover patches in our yards (or lack of clover patches in my case), Gabriel decided to ask about other stuff.

And at the top of the list was my moving. He has been asking his mom on a regular basis when they can make the trip to come see our new house. So the question popped up, "Sherri, are you done unpacking... well it really shouldn't take you so long... all you have to do is move the boxes to the shed and you are done." FUNNY. I think I learned a secret about how my sister recently handled her move! Anyway, I can only assume that his mother told him they couldn't possibly make the 10-hour drive to see us because we were too busy to unpacking and moving in. So he was full of helpful suggestions.

So I've been thinking. Is this really an option. Should we move the boxes out and only move them in one at a time as we are ready for them. I can't imagine I would ever finish if this was my method. So for the meantime, the boxes will remain in the appropriate room.

Good night.

Owning a home

Well, I've been pondering our move over the last month. Thomas and I were really never planning on moving to "this side of town." But overall, I can't say I'm upset with our decision - which is probably really good thing.

It funny, because the drive to work reminds of Durham. I've lived here for more than four years and Tallahassee has never reminded me of Durham until now. But we made this move for several reasons:
1) Our immediate neigborhood is safe, stable and pleasant to live in
2) The house was one of a few in the city that was not outrageously priced
3) We have our own yard and more living space, and now are building equity
4) We will save approximately $250 in gas each month
5) From the time I cranked my car until the time I arrived home - was only 9 minutes tonight.

But its funny, ever since we moved, I have a sudden urge to see some economic development on this side of town. The area I drive through each day to and from work is severely plighted and I suddenly became worried about the social and human resources, business investment and such in this area. Go figure.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

New Things

I had all sorts of stuff I was going to post on when I was finally able to sit down and say something. And of course, now I'm not sure what any of it was. So I am going to gradually work myself (and you) through a few topics/days events.

First, let me congratulate Jenn - my best friend on the birth of her new baby boy. Little Raymond was born early, early this morning and is doing great. We are so excited that this day finally came and our friends have a healthy boy. And to top things off, they are moving to Orlando in a couple months - which is a whole lot closer to us than NC. It was great talking with Jenn today, she sounded older, relaxed, and more mature. Is that a normal side effect when you have your first child?

The house has been an adventure. We are finally here. Last night was the first evening I didn't have to go to the old place to clean or paint. And wow, what a relief. Unfortunately, I haven't had any time yet to start unpacking at our new place ... but the good news is that 100% of our deposit from our last home was returned to us. Guess that means all the hard work paid off.

I have been looking forward to this weekend so that I can finally have a good block of time to unpack. That was just ruined. I've learned I will be quite overloaded at work for the next week. I had to bring work home with me tonight and will spend most the weekend getting ready for a committee meeting next week.

Repairs are beginning to become a constant thought as we look to decide what to do first. Things that we thought we may want to replace fairly quickly - like appliances - are taking a back seat to other things. During our first 48 hours in the new house we noticed the pool filter hadn't cut off - so we schedule for a specialist to come give an estimate on pool repairs. We need a new filter and liner; so we've been chatting as to when we want to proceed and trying to figure out when it will be warm enough to even use.
The roof is also a priority. That needs to be scheduled for the next month. But I have one more estimate I want to get. It's just a matter of getting it done.
Painting and landscaping have also hit the top of the list. I need to decide on a total color scheme before I move forward with painting - so I need time to decide what I like and want to do. And landscaping may be too expensive to do much with at this point. We had the pool guy give us a guestimate at replacing the cement around the pool - it was a cheap $15 grand. Yikes!

So we are just moving forward one day at a time. Getting things done that need to be done as we can.

Josh is also in a whole new world. Not only did he move, but he got his license and a car all in the last week or two. I am sure he is enjoying his extra freedom. He's also learning quickly how much it costs to have a car. He's had a few bills pop up this last week that he wasn't expecting (like locking his keys in the car).

Hopefully I will have something more interesting to talk about next time.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Things are getting busy

Things are getting busy, and I am starting to worry about how much sleep we will all be getting over the next 4-5 days. We have loads of packing, painting and cleaning to do. Unfortunately, I am much further behind than I had hoped -- mostly due to the fact that I was down with a fever and body aches this entire past weekend.

Our house closing is set for Friday. We have a rental truck for Saturday, along with 4-5 friends that are coming to help. And we have folks moving into our house next week! On Monday, I got a great phone call, they thought we might be able to close Tuesday! WONDERFUL, we can start moving stuff over. The only problem is now something is delaying the process of closing. They aren't sure if they can wrap it up by Friday. Lucky us. I'm not sure what they expect us to do. We can't just take off Monday and Tuesday to move. We should hear something tomorrow.

The big news this week is that Josh got his license and a new car. I posted a photo above for everyone to see his new ride. It's a big deal. He saved diligently to buy it himself. So now he gets to drive himself to work. YEAH!

Well, everyone have a good few days. I will not be available.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I wouldn't say I was anxiously waiting for today. I wasn't expecting much. I doubt many women worry about this appointment--not after all the other stress they've been through. Today was our follow-up appointment with the doctor for our IVF failed cycle.

Thomas and I talked about it last week, we both had many questions, ideas, theories. And today, nothing. I kept looking at Tom for input because nothing was coming to my mind to ask. There really isn't much to say. It was a failure. We get to try again for less money. And honestly the statistics aren't nearly as good as the first time. So what's to be excited about.

Well, I won't linger any longer.

The doctor chalks up the failure to two bad eggs. Once you get to the embryo stage, it mostly has to do with the quality of eggs according to him. So these embryos must have just been bad. That's great. I'm not sure anyone could prove it. He said good embryos can grow just about anywhere, they are very invasive. Which makes me think maybe I don't want an alien invasion.

Moving on, there is no reason to assume I have poor quality eggs just from this cycle. He said maybe if we don't get pregnant with the remaining four embryos he might decide to revisit that statement. He also said it didn't have to do with any male issues or endometriosis.

So, great. I've decided that's good news. Both my sisters, my mom, my maternal grandmother have been pregnant, naturally, in either their 30s or 40s - so I have good genes for at least decent eggs that should be able to make it to my grand old age of 30.

The doctor said we have two good tries with these four embryos -- two each time. Assuming they all survive the thaw. The chances for surviving the thaw he said was very good -- about 70% each. So this fall, we will go back to transfer two more blastocysts. They froze two of them together, and then the other two separately. Something I didn't know and hadn't read anywhere was that they could tell very quickly if an embryo would not survive a thaw; in just 10 minutes. If one of the two isn't going to survive, they pull another one to thaw before the transfer.

So according to the doctor, each of the next two trials give us a 30% chance of pregnancy each. Overall, he said about a 50% chance of pregnancy between the two cycles. Our chance will of course dwindle if an embryo doesn't survive a thaw.

Which is about where I was last month - at best - 50/50.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Moving Forward

I really only have one thing to share. And that is that the house closing is moving closer and everything is lining up. They've agreed to pay our closing costs plus quite a bit will be getting fixed, including a new roof. Our closing date is Feb 23rd - so we have a LOT to do between then and now. Thomas also told me today that he has midterms the last week of February and a large paper due the first week in March! Yikes.

In the meantime, Josh wants to go car shopping. Unfortunately, every car he has found that he is interested in is either in Tampa or Orlando. So we may be doing some driving one weekend soon. When we move, the plan is to have him drive to work.

I've started just a little of transitioning to my diet. I'm utterly dreading it which I think is a major problem. But I made the first wheat-free bread ever that I liked. It was from the nearly normal cookbook - and so far, I'd say that book is generally a winner. The zucchini-carrot bread that I made was pretty good. And I need to start walking or jogging again - tomorrow morning I decided sounds like a good time to start.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

How to make dirt pies taste good

According to Tom, that's going to be the name of the cookbook I will be able to write at some near point in the future. Not being pregnant means I have to go back on a diet that suits my endometriosis. Unfortunately, no one else in the world follows this diet so its almost impossible to find more than one recipe in any book that is helpful. Let me go ahead and get the rules out there for all you to understand what I'm talking about: No wheat, no rye, no dairy, no alcohol, no sugar, no caffeine, no chocolate, no additives and preservatives, basically nothing American.

The good thing about the diet is it works. What used to be hours to days of endless pain that most pain killers couldn't touch; becomes nothing. I often wonder if it keeps the endometriosis from actually growing and getting worse. I've asked the doctor about it - they always tell me they've never heard of it and look at me like I'm crazy. For some reason, every doctor I have mentioned it to, thinks that it's absurd that food would actually affect your health. I haven't been able to figure that out.

But the main goal here is to keep myself healthy until we are ready to try again for a family.

Have you ever noticed that the books you are looking for are never at the bookstore -- so you can't sample them. In December I asked the clerk for some books on infertility. After explaining that I only saw "fertility" books, he proceeded to take me to the "fertility" section twice and say that was all they had. For those of you who aren't dealing with this issue, I assure you there is a HUGE difference between "fertile" and "infertile."

Well, anyway, over the past 6 months I found 3 cookbooks I wanted to check out. One was at the bookstore but full price (not about to pay full price for a book). And the other two I saw online and they both had really good reviews. So, three books were delivered this week through the great world of Amazon: Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine, Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook, and Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating. And now the fun begins of rummaging through them, choosing recipes, making substitutes as needed, and trying them out. I'm not sure I would have ordered the Macrobiotic cookbook if I had checked it out in the store. I already have one that is much bigger, and I'm not sure if this one will supply anything new.

So now, the next few days will be a gradual shift for all of us to very healthy meals. I know I'm going to struggle; it really is difficult to follow, to plan, and to make lunches ahead of time. Thomas has been very supportive, and I keep reminding Tom and Josh that they will be able to eat pretty much whatever they want at lunch 5 days a week when they are not with me.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

After Failed IVF

I'm not sure how to start this post. I have preferred not to talk about our failed IVF attempt over the last few days. It is very upsetting to think about - and not so upsetting if I just don't think about it. Unfortunately, after something like this it's too easy to think about what may have caused it to go wrong. I find it hard to believe it will work with a frozen embryo transfer when it didn't work on the fresh cycle. Our odds were much better with the fresh transfer. But I know it has worked before and I have decided not to ponder on it - as it won't make a difference anyway.

I had a very supportive weekend. I spent time in NC with my dearest friends, and while I was there for a baby shower, it was very comforting to spend some time relaxing with my friends and with my husband.

Thomas and I still need to schedule our post IVF interview with the doctor. They are going to let us do this by phone instead of driving the 6-hour round trip.

We have discussed briefly when we may decide to do the Frozen Embryo Transfer - and I believe we will be waiting until the fall. My work schedule with the Florida Legislature means that I am busy Jan-May and not so much the rest of the year. And we have to plan accordingly. I guess that means I have plenty of time to attempt to lose 20 lbs. Oh boy. How exciting.

Friday, January 26, 2007


The news is not good. I am not pregnant.
We have to set up another appointment with the doctor to see what the next step will be. We have 4 more embryos to try with ...
I'm not sure yet when we will do that.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Day 26

I am so thankful that this month is nearly over. I can't tell you how anxious I have been for it come to a close. Finally, tomorrow I should know something. I can't thank you all enough for all your kind thoughts and prayers. Thomas and I are very thankful to have such a large group of friends and family to support us through times like this.

I'm sitting here now with a headache, exhausted, and nauseated - but not so bad I can't eat. I really haven't shared a complete description of how hungry I've been. Today, is really a bad example because I had tons of junk, but just to give you an idea:

This morning I hurriedly ate a bowl of shredded wheat before leaving for work. About 10 am, while in a committee meeting, I had to leave to 1) go to the bathroom (nothing new) and 2) scarf down a pudding and peanut granola bar (I was starving). By 12 noon I was eating a bowl of spaghetti-Os with meatballs. And by 2pm I was eating my second lunch - a friend brought in some left over chinese - I ate it all. By 4 pm I was eating three chocolate chip cookies, and now its dinner. Usually there is at least a salad and fruit here or there - but not today. I really need to get control of myself.

And finally, due to popular demand. Here is a photo of the house we are under contract to buy. Nothing real fancy; it was built in the 50s. I'm personally excited about the hard wood floors, the lighting, and the pool.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 25

blah. Still a few more days.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 24

I had tonight's post all planned out. I was going to discuss the phases of control (i.e., losing it) that a person dealing with infertility goes through. However, my emotional state remained questionable today and I decided I don't really feel up to it. So instead, I checked out a few definitions this evening to see which term fits my current emotional state: stressed, insane, powerless, concern ... hyperventilation. And none of them fit really well; I decided I'm too complex to fit myself into one term. So I will briefly state that I will continue on and I will try to convince myself each hour of the day that it really isn't that much longer before I hear the news.

On a more positive note, Thomas and I finally heard back and we are moving forward on purchasing a house! I am hoping that it will keep me busy. But honestly the real estate agent is so good I don't have much to do ... well, except for simplifying what we own, donate, and pack. So, we are under contract, and things may still fall through - but we expect all will be fine. What makes the move so great is we will be closer to school and work - it will be approximately 2.5 miles to FSU campus, 3.25 miles to the capitol, and 5.5 miles for Josh to get to work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 23 - Blue Monday

Did you read that today is the saddest day of the year? No kidding. No wonder I woke up in a foul mood. A British university psychologist, Cliff Arnall, devised a formula that took into account six factors: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year's resolutions, low motivational levels, and feeling a need to take action.

Well, I personally can't decide which one factor I am more upset about. Let's first start with the feeling a need to take action. Yep. Did that. Hubby and I have done all we can do to get pregnant. And guess what there is nothing else to do ... but pray and wait. And realize that you really don't have control over anything.

Next, let's move on to New Year's resolutions. I don't remember making any. My new year plan was to start IVF, get pregnant, and have a baby. What was I thinking??!? I should have learned my lesson years ago on this one. Well we started the IVF - actually December 31st. But the rest of it, is just plain stupid. You can't make resolutions for things you have no control over.

If I was going to make a resolution, it would have been to lose this nagging 10 pounds thats been sitting around my waist and hips. But can you say "progesterone" - the stuff has me eating all day. It's a steroid and after doing a little research I've learned it is sometimes prescribed as a way to increase cancer patient's appetites. The crazy stuff actually effects your metabolism and causes you to store fat deposits. Great. Maybe that's why I'm waking up at 4am - I'm starving. In fact, yesterday after an hour of trying to go back to sleep I finally gave in, crawled tiredly out of bed, and made my way to the computer. I only decided it would be good to go back to bed after I gave in to a bowl of cereal that had been screaming my name hours earlier.

Or maybe I'm waking up because progesterone causes insomnia. But get this, not only does it cause insomnia, it also causes fatigue. Wonderful. So all day I wander around bleary eyed, I'm zapped of all energy in the evening and can't muster enough to do anything more than lounge and complain, and then when I finally drift off to sleep - its only to find myself laying awake in bed a few measly hours later.

Here are some of the other wonderful side effects of progesterone: feeling of bloating, full breasts, mood swings, and depression.

Full breasts - check, got that one too.
Mood swings - I would say that's pretty obvious.
Depression - yep, think I'm there.
And did I mention the sore hynie.

I can honestly say that so far I guess I should feel lucky that I am no longer bloated. That's the one symptom I don't have.

All in all, I think I would be rather ecstatic if I knew I had these side effects because I was pregnant. But the truth of the matter is that I just don't know and there's no action plan I can take to ensure my success.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Day 22 - 4dpt

Today is 4 days post transfer, still really early in the scheme of things.

I am sure that when tomorrow comes and I head back to the office, someone will drill me for more information. Yesterday's post talks slightly about whether I am having real or fake symptoms. So with that being said I will go ahead and make a prediction.

I am 99.5% sure I am pregnant. I am 99% sure it is twins.
Disclaimer: Any and all assumptions on my part may be completely absurd and false based on the fact that I am being shot full of hormones each day. And the fact that I can not sleep may be attributed to a certain amount of insanity.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day 21

Thomas has been complaining about being extra hungry lately; I think it may be his early start to sympathy weight.

The big question these days is do I feel pregnant? Well, that's hard to say. Yes, I do think the cramping I've been having is babies implanting. But the doctor said to also expect cramping from the procedure. Plus, I've been getting shots of Progesterone so there really isn't any telling if any symptoms I have may be real or fake. The amount of POI(progesterone in oil)doubled today to 2cc. So I'm trying not to read too much into anything. I honestly believe that this was the perfect time for us to do this, and I don't need to worry about it. Everything else has worked out so perfectly.

On a different note, we found a house that we really like and have made an offer on it. The room across from the master bedroom is perfect for a nursery. We should hear something in the next couple days.

This weekend I am keeping busy. I have several things to cook, clean. And I am also trying to start and finish a baby quilt for my friend's (Jennifer) baby shower this weekend. It's going to be an adorable baby boat wall quilt. I'll post a photo when its complete.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Good News Today

I wanted to go ahead and post. The doctor's office just called back to say we had four more embryos make it to blastocysts!! YEAH. So these have been cryopreserved for future use. YEAH!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 19 - Implantation?

Just wanted to post a short message to let everyone know that I am feeling really good. The hardest problem has been laying on my back for so long - my back was aching even before the transfer yesterday. But the bloating and soreness is finally gone!!!

The 2 embryos transferred yesterday were "expanded blastocysts 2" - but I can't tell you what it means. I do know they were the strongest, most advanced of all the embryos. The doctor explained briefly there were several expanded stages and this was one of them. The next step is for them to hatch and implant in the lining of my uterus. That should be happening today, or over the next couple days at the latest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day 18 - Embryo Transfer

Hey guys, T here.

Today was the big day. First things first, two blastocysts were implanted and our next planned event is next Friday for the first pregnancy test.

Additional information:

There was no pain. Just a strong urge to pee for about an hour and a half. Ever since Sherri has been on her back, as directed.

12 embryos are still developing as of today. Two had reached the blastocyst stage and those were implanted. The remaining ten are in various forms of development, several of which are expected to continue developing into a blastocyst. Sherri asked what grade the two implanted were and she was told that once the embryos make it to the blast stage they are considered excellent, so no more grades.

According to the doctors if the embryos don't continue to develop, or fail to reach the blastocyst stage by day seven, then they aren't going to. By that point it will have been several days since the last division.

They told us they expect five of the remaining embryos to reach the blast stage, which would mean seven of the original 22 made it all the way. As always, it could be more, or it could be less. We will find out Friday how many have continued and how many have stopped developing. At that point we will freeze the embryo's for future use.

We are supposed to call on Friday for a report on the remaining embryos.

In the meantime, the shots will continue and at some point (Saturday?) we are supposed to double the progesterone dosage. I'm not looking forward to pumping that much liquid into my wifes backside. It's going to leave a knot.

Anyway, we still aren't out of the clear, and that's what the shots are for. I think we still have two weeks of shots, then other methods of delivery which I'm not going to discuss. That will continue until I think the first ultrasound, which will be fun.

Next Friday will tell us if the pregnancy took and the embryos implanted. But we won't know how many until the ultrasound which will be in mid February. So, like I said, nothing to do between now and then but wait.

If Sherri doesn't have something interesting to tell you in the next couple days I'll post pictures of the needle and dosage, just for fun.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Day 17

Thank you everyone for your comments, emails, and phone calls. We are very excited about tomorrow. I have a stack of movies to watch as I lay around the house the next two days.

I picked up a small cold yesterday - so I hope it stays at bay. Oh, and we went to go look at a house today - older, but we both liked.

Tomorrow is a big day. No word today on the babies.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 16 - Our Second Embryo Report

Well, since I have been officially freaking out - I called the doctor's office this morning for another update. It turns out they would have called this afternoon anyway with an update, but I didn't know that. We have decided to definitely wait till day 5. Just waiting till then drastically increases our chances of success.

The good news is that the majority of the embryos are doing really well - and none died out from yesterday. We have nine 8-celled embies (they were 4-cell yesterday). Out of these nine, eight are grade 2 and one is grade 3. I'm pulling for the grade 3 because I figure he's a fighter. We also have one 6-celled grade 3 embryo and two that have stalled at 4-cells. This is really good news that so many of them made it to today and so many have already doubled. Today is the third day after retrieval, they should be 8-celled at this point -- so we have nine embryos on target.

I grabbed the above photo of an 8-cell embryo from Wickipedia.

So we just continue to pray and trust that come Wednesday the majority of these embryos will still be kicking.

In the meantime, I'm still recovering from Friday's procedure. I've been so completely bloated and sore for about a week now. I think I have probably gained 10 lbs and added 4-5 inches to my waist. Sweatpants have become a favorite items these days - so yesterday when I found a very cute pair of corduroy maternity pants at Old Navy for $6 I didn't hesitate to buy them. I'm in them now, and plan to stay that way - at least till the bloat dissipates. Which it actually has improved tremendously today.

We started new shots yesterday. Fun, fun. This time its progesterone in the butt muscle/fat. I think its honestly worse on Thomas because it looks much worse than it feels. However, I'm not sure I should really call this one until at least a week has passed. It never really is that bad until after 5-7 of them.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 15 - Embryo Report

They said we have 13 fertilized and developing embryo's. To increase our chances of pregnancy they want to implant the embryos that look the best. The longer they stay in the lab the easier it is to differentiate between good and bad, but it's also less likely they will continue to develop in such an artificial environment. Of course, if they could fertilize and develop in the natural environment we wouldn't be doing this in the first place.

In order to determine the embryo's with the best chance of continuing success the doctors grade the embryo's on a scale of 1-4, 1 being the best and 4 being the worst. We have 10 at grade 2 and 3 at grade 3.

The doctor suggested we implant 3 tomorrow, but we don't want to purposely run the risk of triplets. We never did. It is possible one of the eggs that is implanted can split in the womb and we would still have the risk of triplets, but that's not in our control.

Instead we are going to implant 2 on Wed. The doctor expects around 4 embryos to make it that long; could be more, could be less. The ones that are still developing at that point will be frozen for future use.

I'm happy. I think we are doing well. More than 60% of the eggs retrieved have developed into sustainable embryos. It's likely 30% or more of those will continue to develop into blastocysts; then when we do implant two we will know it's the two that will give us the greatest chance of success, and we will know how many more chances we will have in the future.

Sherri is understandably upset. We naturally want grade one embryos, and she's upset nearly half of the eggs didn't develop. And worried about how many, if any, make it to Wednesday. Plus,

I am upset that the doctor suggested we implant three. That was never an option for us and we made it very clear to them. But because he suggested it, we feel like we have decided to take the option with less chance of success, and that certainly isn't the case. If we take the three, and complications arise later because all three develop, we could never choose to "selectively reduce" any of the embryos, and I'm not willing to intentionally put Sherri's life at risk. If we have the choice to make, then we aren't going to put ourselves in that position intentionally.

This morning is both difficult and encouraging. Very strange to have both feelings at the same time. But I know that God gave us the ability to make the right decisions and the outcome of this procedure will be the right one.

I think it's important to remember that the doctor has the training, but if the decision is left to you then you have to make the one that's best for you and your family. Sometimes that means it's best to take the doctors advice, sometimes it means you trust the Lord gave you the ability to make your own decisions, and you trust in that ability. We believe we know what's best for us.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day 14 - Egg Retrieval Report

It's been a busy couple days, so I'll bring you up to speed with recent events.

Day 12 - Nothing. Sherri had a busy day at work and I had a busy day at school. No shots either. that was nice.

At dinner Josh and I teased her about how she eats healthy now, but when she gets pregnant, especially with twins, she would be craving junk food deluxe. Just wait," we said, "you'll have us heading to Burger King in the middle of the night for Whopper meals and Crossanwiches."

Day 13 - Retrieval day. We had to be in Jacksonville at 8 so we were out the door at 5:15 and on our way. We stopped for gas and for some reason the pump was messing up when it took our card and we were nervous about making it on time already. It was looking like it was going to be one of those days you have on precisely on the wrong day. But it turned out to be just a minor bump in the road.

Once we arrived in Jacksonville it was a fairly straightforward process. They called Sherri back shortly after 8, but she didn't get started until about 9. They told her, "You're going to get a little drowsy" and the next thing she remembers is waking up and time to go home at 10. It was very easy.

When she was just waking up in the recovery area she said, "I'm starving. Do you have any Burger King?" And the doctor said he loved Burger King but he had to stay away because he couldn't stop eating it.

Too much information, I know. Anyway...

The Dr. came out to talk to me and he said they were able to retrieve 22 eggs. I said, "That's it?"

"What happened to the 30-40 we see every time we come in for an ultrasound?"

He said, "Not all follicles contain eggs. 22 is real good." Huh. I didn't know that.

He was very excited. A little too much if you ask me.

He said, "We normally get 5-10 so this is more than double. It's very good."

Ok. Great. Already our kids are overachievers...

When we get in the car Sherri is feeling fine. She was in a great mood and not any discomfort to note. As soon as we hit the Interstate she said, "At exit 343 there's a Burger King."

Seriously, everything went great. We returned home around 1:30, took a quick nap (well, I did. Sherri just slept) and we couldn't have asked for a better day. Sherri was starting to feel some pain from the surgery and I promised to get the prescription filled on later that day. And then...

I took Josh to work at 3. I had colloquium at 3:30 and Sherri was home in bed. At 5:45 I get a call, Josh is going to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. When I talk with Josh he sounds very distressed and in a lot of pain. Not typical Josh. I arrive home to get the insurance information and tell Sherri I unfortunately hadn't had time to get the medicine for her - but Josh is in the hospital.

So, for the next 6 hours we were treated to the hospitality of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. They were very nice. I'll leave it at that.

Long story short, we thought it was Appendicitis, but the scans came back normal so we think it may be a kidney stone.

So, I spent 18 hours yesterday driving to, leaving, or lounging about hospitals. But let's not forget, 22 eggs were retrieved and fertilized yesterday and in the end, everybody went home healthy. It was a glorious day.

Tomorrow we expect a call in the morning to update us on how many eggs fertilized successfully, and when we should expect to return for the implantation procedure. Right now we are planning on Wednesday.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day 11

It's time!

This entry is going to be short. We've had a busy day. It started with me leaving the house at 5am to make the trip to Jacksonville. My appointment, at 8 am, went quickly. Everything is ready to go the doctor reported.

What that means is a big shot tonight (a 1" needle this time) and I start some antibiotics. TOMORROW is SHOT FREE!!! And Friday at 8am we report for the egg retrieval.

Follicles today looked really good. The largest was 22mm. He measured roughly 18 of them (between 17-22mm), and I probably had another 30-40 smaller ones.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Day 9

Today pretty much stunk. It didn't really go as planned ... but all is well. Estradiol was 1535.

Our ultrasound was early this morning. After driving about 3 hours to get there, and waiting for 50 minutes to see the doctor, we learned that my follicles really aren't as big as measured here in town. More around the 9-14mm range. =(

So we are back to waiting. Which the doctor said was fine - we are on track. He also said he thought something might be up because my numbers that were coming back from the technician here in town were so high, so quickly.

I'm still doing fine, but I have one more ultrasound on Wednesday. I was really hoping today would be it. I am so tired of getting shots. And I'm tired of being bloated. And last night my left ovary was hurting for about 6 hours. And it also means another $250+gas+time+aggravation.

According to the doc, our plan is to do the final ultrasound on Wednesday and the egg retrieval on Friday. This works absolutely great for our work/school schedule. Except for the fact that I will be driving back by myself on Wednesday because Tom will be in class.

Which brings me to the point where I'd like to explain that I am such a crybaby when it comes to driving these days. Thomas has completely spoiled me and always drives any of our long trips, to the point that I just dread and hate driving. And with that in mind - we will be making 3 more trips to Jacksonville over the next week. Uggh.