Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

8 Week Ultrasound Shows Healthy Heart Beat

by Kristen Suzanne in Mini IVF, pregnancy

Here’s our Monkey striking a pose during the 8 week ultrasound. According to the tech, everything is normal – YAY! I’ll get a call from New Hope Fertility Clinic later today to confirm after my doctor checks out the results.


I’m not crazy about ultrasounds during pregnancy. In fact, my doctor wanted me to get one last week and I skipped it. But… I did want to make sure everything was okay so I went ahead with it at week 8. I have my all day morning sickness to let me know that I’m very much pregnant, but I’m also still taking estrogen during the first trimester so I thought it’d be smart to get the ultrasound and see what the doc says. After all… maybe he’ll be able to take me off it early like he did with the progesterone. I’ve been told that because we went through Mini-IVF, my body didn’t start to produce it’s own progesterone and estrogen so I had to take the medication. However, early on, my progesterone actually shot up on its own, and the doc took me off it. I’m eager to get off the estrogen as soon as possible, too.

I have to admit though…. it was so awesome(!) seeing Monkey and his/her little heart beating away.

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Monday, September 14th, 2009

Fertility Adventure – 1 Frozen Embryo Transfer Coming Up!

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, Mini IVF, new york

The time is coming for another chance at having a baby…. exciting!!! We’re heading to New York this week for a frozen embryo transfer at New Hope Fertility Center. It’s one of those shown in the picture to the right. Aren’t they cool looking?


It’s been a great month. I’ve had the time to fully research the vaccine issue. I’ve eaten a super clean, HRAV (high raw, all vegan) diet. I’ve exercised by strength training and doing some cardio. I’ve had time to listen to many visualization CDs about birthing, infertility, etc. I’ve become a pro at deep breathing. I’ve made progress on new Kristen’s Raw projects (I’m bubbling over with excitement about them). And, I’m ecstatic and ready for the next attempt at becoming a mom.

I’ll keep you posted about the trip (fertility stuff, food and restaurants, and overall adventures in the Big Apple) through my blog here (I’ll do some videos from NY!), as well as Facebook and Twitter. Wish us luck!

PS. A special shout out to my mom (many of you know her through Facebook – Susan Sunny Larson – if you’re not friends with her there, you’re missing out on some serious humor. Although, be warned, she’s beautifully intense – haha). Mom is taking care of our home and dog while we’re gone. Thanks mom!!!

For those of you who don’t know the back story, feel free to check out these blog posts:

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Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Vegan Chipotle Burrito Juice

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, Mini IVF

It’s Tuesday night… and it’s the end of day 4 of my juicing frenzy. I asked my mom, “If I get a vegan burrito from Chipotle, and I blend it and then strain it… can I call it juice?” LMAO. That was my sign. Time to stop my cleanse.


Each day of the cleanse and healing had its ups and downs. Some moments were a breeze and I felt strong (especially during the 1st half of the day). Other moments (late afternoon and evening) could be kind of tough. And, tonight, it got to the point where I know I’m done… at least for this particular juicing extravaganza.

So, I had my vegan burrito from Chipotle (not juiced), and a few bites of organic dark chocolate. (What can I say? When I go down, I go down in flames – LOL). I feel great. I restricted myself for four days, I had a nice squishy reward, and I’m ready to hit it hard with my organic, vegan, high raw diet tomorrow. In fact, I’ll make it a little extra high raw for the next couple of weeks so that I can continue to gently cleanse and heal my body from my fertility treatment.

I started my miscarriage today (bleeding). And, to my surprise, I have no pain or cramping. Fingers crossed it stays nice and easy.

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Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Juicing Frenzy – Time To Clean "House"

by Kristen Suzanne in green juice, Mini IVF

I’m embarking on a juicing frenzy that started on Saturday to heal, detox, and lose a little bit of excess fat. My body has been through a lot during the months of June/July and it’s time to clean house. Two of the drugs I was on for weeks were estrogen and progesterone (both fat soluble) – plus I was on other fertility drugs to develop my eggs in June (Yaz birth control for a few days to schedule my cycle, followed by menopure injections and oral clomid tablets). As a result, I’ve put on some icky toxic weight that I’m eager to release. Now, before people start commenting, “But Kristen, you need some fat to help get pregnant…”

Yes, I know. I will maintain a healthy weight. But, I also know my own body, and when I put on unhealthy fat and cellulite in a short amount of time, I know I have some toxins in me and I’m eager to flush them out… sooner than later. I can feel it.

I think it’s prudent to get as healthy as I can before the next treatment (details about my fertility adventure here). Knowing that I likely have some of these drugs stored in my fat, a juicing frenzy and liquid diet should help release them (sorry, but I can’t call it “juice feasting,” because it never feels like feasting no matter how much juice I drink… a real feast, for me, includes chewing – LOL). Plus, it should help my natural hormones get in sync faster, too, which is important before embarking on the next embryo transfer.


I’m drinking LOTS of freshly made green juices all day, but that’s not all. Here is a complete list of what I’m doing to heal my body before the next cycle with Mini-IVF:

1) LOTS of fresh, alkalizing, organic green juice (some have a splash of coconut oil or olive oil to better assimilate certain nutrients, and to get my calories up)
2) Red raspberry leaf tea
3) Kombucha (not a lot – 1 bottle every 1-2 days – it’s fun)
4) Miso soup (1-2 cups a day; some is soy-free, and all are organic)
5) Dry brushing before my showers
6) Rest for recovery
7) Sweating: getting some exercise at the gym and walking in the desert heat (I’m not going crazy though)
8) Stretching
9) Massages from my husband to help release toxins
10) And, I’m still taking pre-natals, probiotics, chlorella, DHA, and wheat grass tablets

I’d like to go 5-days for now, but I’ll start with 3-days and see how it goes. Today is day-3 and the process has been so-so as far as ease. I love food so it’s hard to give that up. But, having the variety of: miso soup (very healing), tea, kombucha, and different green juices is definitely helpful. Oh, and having a jar of watermelon juice every day is delightful and so very helpful with getting through the day (although I’m all out of it now – boo hoo!). But, don’t get me wrong, there are times that I already want to scream, “I want some f*#king food!” And, here’s a tip… don’t watch the Food Network channel when you’re on a liquid diet… it’s pure hell. Honestly, I don’t know how you 92-day juice fasters/feasters do it. God love ya!

Anyway, I’m staying flexible. I haven’t started bleeding from the miscarriage yet, and my restricted diet might have something to do with it, or maybe my body is waiting for the full moon. We’ll see; I’m just taking it day by day for now and healing. It feels really good.

I started on one of my goals (from this post) of researching vaccines. I started by reading Jenny McCarthy’s book, Mother Warriors. I figured it’d be a good primer for diving into such an intense topic and I’m glad I did. I flew through the book and picked up some pointers on a couple vaccines and treatments of autism. It’s easy to predict I’d be a fan of her book though because so much of it is about how diet can help some kids recover from autism… and I’m a big fan of using foods to heal. I’d be interested to hear some of your experiences or plans for vaccinations if you’d like to share in the comments section.

Today, I’m diving into working on my birth plan.

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Fertility Adventure – The Full Story

Ever since I told the world about being pregnant a couple weeks ago, I’ve received a huge amount of email from women who are trying to get pregnant, have been trying for a long time, or are thinking about it in the future, and they want to prepare. Until recently, I wasn’t sure it made sense to blog about the private and sometimes emotional details of my experience, but as a result of the strong response from so many women, I’ve decided to share the full story, in the hope that it might help anybody out there who is having problems getting pregnant or who is planning to put off having a baby until later in life.


Let’s go back to last summer (2008). My husband and I decided that it was time to start preparing our bodies for “trying” to have a family. I remember it like it was yesterday. Our goal was to up our game considerably, taking our diets to a new level and really prepping our bodies, and becoming as healthy as we could be for the 6 months prior to deliberately trying to conceive. Gone were the glasses of occasional organic wine and dark vegan chocolate. Gone were the spontaneous visits to Starbucks for the very occasional treat of a decaf soy capp. Arriving were more green juices as well as taking hair/body care products and home cleaning products to an extra super green and healthy level. I had my amalgam fillings removed. I took a month-long detox potion for removing metals and mercury from my body. I consumed milk thistle to really clean my liver (along with plenty of icky dandelion root in my green juices). I stopped coloring my hair and I started taking prenatal vitamins. I started researching pregnancy and reading books like Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth. Etc Etc…

The thing was…. as I was preparing for this, I started to become extra eager and excited to move our December Game Plan up a few months. So, after waiting a month or so for the metals to leave my body (I didn’t want anything bad showing up in breast milk if I could help it), we decided, what the hell… let’s “stop trying to prevent pregnancy” right now (but still make it a very casual endeavor). Of course… once I was in that mindset it was hard to slow things down. I went ahead and bought a Clear Blue Easy Fertility monitor. I mean, after all, we might as well start tracking my ovulation… the research I did states that it can take a couple of months to get to know my cycle anyway. The first time I saw that cute little egg on the monitor, I was like, “Honey!!!! Let’s try to make a baby!!!” It was show time! Suddenly, our mindset changed to “let’s really try and get pregnant.”

The following month I started my period. Bummer. Naively, I thought it’d take the first time. Naive indeed. Grossly naive. Suddenly… I was on a mission. I kept telling myself after that first failed attempt that it’s perfectly natural to have it take a little while. Meanwhile, my clock is ticking (I was 32 years old at the time) and I was thinking ahead and practically salivating for the next opportunity of ovulation. A couple more months went by without any success. By then I was really wondering why. I seemed to ovulate fine. My periods were pretty regular (every 28-30 days), and I was in excellent health. With each passing month, I started to get really sad on the day Aunt Flow came to visit. I won’t go into the details of how devastating it can be, but you ladies out there who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive know exactly how intense the blow feels. It knocked me down a couple of times.

But… I am a resourceful person, so I started doing research on “fertility diet” and seeing what I could come up with to help the process. To most people, it would be perfectly natural to wait almost a year before taking any next steps or being concerned, but I felt the need to move things along. I wanted to know I was doing everything I could to improve our odds. Enter: lots of vitamins and supplements. Around the time of November and December, I started buying all kinds of vitamins and supplements. Yes, our diets were full of nutrition, but I wanted to make sure I was covering all of the bases. I put my husband on a number of different things to improve semen and I started taking extra vitamins to help overall female fertility. Another month went by with no success.

December comes and was closing to an end when I came across a fertility book on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that I devoured in one sitting. I found more supplements for us to take and I started adding a little lightly cooked vegan food to our diets. Next step: acupuncture. I found an acupuncturist who specialized in fertility and I immediately made us appointments. Again, I knew at the time that I might be doing all of this prematurely, but I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting around and waiting. After all… it’d been a handful of months by this time and I wasn’t getting any younger.

We decided to have a semen analysis in January to rule out any potential problems. I wish we had done this in the beginning because it’s an inexpensive test and, in our case, it didn’t yield very good results. My husband’s count was fine but there was a potential problem with the swimmers’ morphology (shape) and motility (swimmyness). Long story short… this seemed to be the reason we were struggling with fertility. Well, at least now we had something to work on. I learned that it takes 72-90 days for sperm to generate, meaning anything we did to boost my husband’s numbers wouldn’t take effect for a few months. Hmmm… wait and see. Meanwhile, we started our acupuncture treatments (weekly) and the doctor put us on Chinese medicine (herbs) to enhance the different aspects of my menstrual cycle as well as help improve the motility and morphology of the semen.

I knew we had to give the Chinese medicine some time to work. They like you to give it at least 3 months. I was happy to do so, because I wanted more than anything for our fertility adventure to be as natural as possible. Plus, I’d read so many great things about TCM. Three months came and went. No pregnancy.

It got harder and harder each month. At the point that I had a plan for something new, like I did with the TCM, my heart was much lighter because I knew we had options. But, when each option didn’t pan out… it became another crushing blow. It’s an emptiness and sadness like none other. I found that with each menses, I experienced a harsh grieving.

So… I went back into research mode. I wanted to keep giving the TCM a chance to work, but I was very impatient. You see, I want 2 kids (heck, maybe 3) and I know that the older I get, the harder it will be. Once a woman reaches the age of 35, the chances of success decrease. By this time, I was 32 1/2 and starting to freak out. If I were to get pregnant by age 33, then be pregnant for 9 months, then deliver and breastfeed… then try to get pregnant again… it could take another many months… and on and on. Suddenly I’m 35 or 36 and could be struggling to have a second baby (we were already struggling to have the first). Hence, I started checking into other options. I went for an HSG (hysterosalpingogram: basically an xray of my uterus and fallopian tubes) to rule out any possible complications with my girlie bits. My HSG was normal.

As most of you can probably guess… I’m not an advocate of drugs. I used to take quite a few in my teens and early 20s for migraine headaches but all of my headaches pretty much disappeared with my raw vegan diet. Ever since, I’ve done everything I could to avoid drugs (prescription and over the counter). I stopped taking birth control about 8 years ago. Even though I traditionally have a painful day-1 of my period, I tough it out with a heating pad (and sometimes tears). I don’t want drugs anywhere near me.

Well, after our lack of success in getting pregnant, suddenly I was open to hearing other options. I started researching assisted reproductive technology and decided that we should try an IUI (intrauterine insemination). We found a reproductive endocrinologist in Tempe. He actually told us that our only real chance of getting pregnant due to my husband’s sperm would be to undergo IVF: In vitro fertilization. That’s where they take out many of my eggs – using lots of drugs to stimulate the production of them – and they inject them each with a sperm from my husband. This injection process is known as ICSI (pronounced “ick-see”).

I was devastated, to say the least. We had gone in to see the doctor to chat about IUI, which is a minor procedure. I was not even ready to entertain the idea of IVF. So, the IVF was a big blow because that would require LOTS of awful drugs, and an increased chance for twins (I don’t really want twins), and a lot of money… it could cost as much as $20,000 for just one try… and the odds of it working are about 50% depending on various circumstances. Ouch. Once they retrieve my eggs, then any future IVF attempts would be about half the price, but still… thousands and thousands of dollars.

I started crying. Right there in the doctor’s office, sitting across from him at his desk. He swiftly whipped out a box of cheap Kleenex. I had actually startled him with my crying. He was all business up to that point. Stating statistics and odds of conception based on our semen numbers without much explanation as to the procedure itself. This just left a bunch of questions in our minds, but he said there was a class we would take where we would get all of our questions answered about IVF and then some.

In my head I was thinking, “Are you kidding? A fucking class? Is there a quiz at the end? I want my questions answered now. Why am I paying you $300 for a consultation? A 5-minute look at my uterus and to tell me that based on my husband’s numbers we need a $20,000 procedure to have even a chance at building a family?” I didn’t say any of that, of course, but in hindsight, maybe I should have. So… off we were shuffled to the next room where he looked at my uterus. That turned out fine. The doctor saw one of my follicles developing nicely for day 8 of my cycle, which is probably where that cycle’s egg was going to come from. We left the doctor’s office, with our heads reeling with all of this new information about possibly having to pursue IVF. I was a wreck.

Because my husband does indeed have some good swimmers (just not as many as we’d like), I decided that I still wanted to give the IUI a try. It was so much easier of a procedure and way less expensive (less than $1000). My doctor wanted me to take drugs to increase our chances (drugs to stimulate more eggs as well as a trigger shot to release the eggs so they can time it precisely). I said no to the stimulating drugs for multiple eggs and yes to the trigger shot. We had the IUI in April and I was instructed to take a pregnancy pee test two weeks after the procedure. It was negative. The anguish was swift to hit me in the chest and gut, I didn’t even have time to think. The hard thing this time was that we used a doctor. We took it to another level and it still didn’t work. The emotional pain was so hard. Up until that time, the past 8-9 months were a roller coaster ride. Up two weeks, down a few days, up a little a few days, then just damn shaky – you get the idea. I wasn’t sure I could take any more. But, in the end, I knew I could… I wanted a baby so badly.

By then, I’d had some time to think about the IVF option, but I was totally freaked out by the drugs and the price. We started researching the shit out of it and came across many interesting little-known options. Our research took us to a blog where a woman was writing about all of the different fertility options around the world. She had contacted many of the clinics and asked for details about their procedures and pricing, which she posted on her blog. Thank heavens for this lady. It was on her blog that we learned about a cutting-edge facility in Guadalajara that seemed very promising. Not only did this clinic offer the traditional IVF for MUCH cheaper (about 25% the price of the Phoenix doctor’s IVF, and using newer technology), but they also offered a procedure called Mini-IVF™. The Mini-IVF is similar to IVF but it’s a much simpler procedure (more holistic in approach), fewer drugs, has similar chances of it working as compared to traditional IVF, less chance for twins or multiple birth, and is less expensive than even their traditional IVF (only ~$2500 per cycle)!

The philosophy behind Mini-IVF is an emphasis of quality over quantity. Fewer drugs are needed in this method because they don’t stimulate as many follicles to produce eggs; thereby getting better quality eggs. The particular doctor who does this in Mexico was trained in the United States at a clinic called The New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York. In addition to the Mini-IVF option, Mexico (and New Hope Fertility in NY) also offered a much better technology for storing the unused eggs that are retrieved and fertilized, and these embryos can then be used in later transfers, if desired (or needed!). They use a flash freezing process for freezing the embryos called vitrification. It has a 98%+ survival rate versus the common slow freezing method which most places around the country still use (giving only about a 55% survival rate). The doctors at these clinics were famous in their field and had invented many state-of-the-art techniques, so these clinics were really ahead of the curve and this new form of IVF was much more attractive overall. My heart didn’t feel so heavy as all of this new information started coming in. I started to feel hope again. My spirit started to lift. The question was: Should we go to New York or to Mexico?

We decided on Mexico. It was least expensive overall (especially when you consider travel, hotel, food, etc) and the Guadalajaran doctor’s emails (in flawless English) were the most thorough, frequent, timely, friendly, and informative of any healthcare professional I have ever interacted with. I got the kind of personal attention from the doctor that you only see in the movies… and he was not even officially my doctor yet! Yes, we were headed to Mexico for a month, for the next leg of our Fertility Adventure!

And just then, swine flu broke out. We opted for New York instead.

SO! … with apologies to anybody with whom we didn’t tell the Big Secret to (which was almost everybody)… THAT is why we were in New York for the month of June. We were there to make a baby!… Literally. :) (Our cover stories were true too, incidentally. We conveniently also had business to do in the Big Apple.) It’s probably pretty obvious why I wasn’t forthcoming with this information. It’s truly personal. I’ve had an incredibly challenging year with respect to all of this and I simply didn’t know if it was smart to share it for my emotional well being. I had to do a lot of soul searching as to whether I wanted to put so much of my personal life out to the world. But, when the process worked(!), I was so overjoyed. I thought to myself, “This might really help someone else. I should tell the world.”

Even though this blog post is extremely long… there are a lot of details that I’ve left out (such as how the actual procedure was). Well, I actually took some photos and video of some of that stuff… not the actual procedure, but, for example, the interesting story about my first self-injections, with a HUGE f*cking needle, — it turns out the pharmacy gave me the wrong needle, one that looked like it was meant for a horse! I may post it… anyway, at this point, I’m happy to share with you as much as you’d like to know, either publicly or privately. Feel free to comment below or email me directly.

Basically, the clinic and the staff were great. The doctors are brilliant and I felt like I was in the most capable hands in the world. I may write another post with more details about the clinic and experience if you’re interested. I’m bummed that I had to take some drugs (but not as many as with traditional IVF) and, yes, I still have to take some (perhaps throughout the first trimester… believe me, I’m drinking a ton of green juice to help alkalize the acidic effects they may have). The cost was much less than traditional IVF here in Arizona (even with the NY trip).

And, most importantly, you know the trip was a success. There was a lot of doubt that we’d even get to have a “fresh” transfer (transfer while we were there in June), because typically the fertility drugs cause the uterus lining to thin out too much for immediate implantation. However, my uterus measured to a thickness that they were willing to try. I was glad. And, it worked. (Future transfers have a higher chance of success because 1) the uterus is even thicker when it’s in a normal, non-drug induced cycle, and 2) before they freeze the embryo, they wait until it grows to day 5 – meaning it’s going well – and the fact that the embryo survives freezing and thawing means it’s strong. The fresh transfer I had in June was with an embryo that was 2 days old.)

We successfully retrieved five embryos, one was transferred, leaving four to grow to day five before freezing. Three of them made it to that stage. Woo hoo! This means that if this pregnancy attempt doesn’t work, we have more embryos left. And, if it does work, then we have more chances for a future baby (using an embryo that had an egg retrieved from a young, 33-year-old person, me). Side note: I think it’s amazing that women who want kids but who want to wait until they’re older can retrieve and freeze eggs (or fertilized embryos if you have a partner) at an age that isn’t too old. This dramatically increases the chance of pregnancy… it’s the age of the egg that counts, not the age of the mom!

Here is the very latest update: I’m afraid I have some sad news to report. Today, I went for my third week of blood work to test my pregnancy hormone, my progesterone, and my estrogen levels. The numbers aren’t very good. There is a chance I’m still pregnant, but I better prepare myself that I might have lost my little Monkey.

Yes, it’s a difficult day, obviously. But, honestly, I can’t dwell on it. I’m so happy to have had as much success as I’ve had with the Mini-IVF process and it gives me hope. If we go back for another treatment, the chance for success is even higher. This is the closest I’ve been to having a baby and I’m so grateful to have been this close. We’re almost there (even if we have to try again). Looks like we might be back in New York in August. I have to keep doing things as normal this week (acting as though I’m pregnant, just in case) and take another blood test one week from today, as well as get a sonogram, to confirm whether I’m pregnant or not.

If you’re interested in learning more about Assisted Reproductive Technology, I highly recommend checking out New Hope Fertility’s website and reading the following book, How to Get Pregnant.


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