Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All About Us...

My name is Carrie Ann Oscarson Rhodes, and my husband is Todd Rhodes. We are 34 and have been married for eight years. Todd is a business analyst at Wingate Web in Draper, and I am a part-time faculty member at the LDS Business College where I teach Interior Design.

We live in West Provo in our little white house with black shutters and a red door. We have one terrible dog, Fiona, and 6 wonderful chickens. We like to garden and travel together. We are happy people who enjoy our families, friends, and life in general.

For those who are interested... here's our little history:

I am not generally a hopeless romantic. Yes, I enjoy Jane Austin and Elizabeth Gaskell books and movies, but I knew better than to expect magic while dating. Little did I know, that my life would change completely and entirely with one kiss…

I met my husband, Todd, at a party in Park City at a friend’s “cabin”. He was the roommate of a boy I knew, and while I didn’t remember his name that night as we played hackysack in the barn (it was the mid 90’s OK? I was even wearing overalls…) I thought he was cute. He offered me a ride home that night, but I didn’t want to ditch the girls I came with just to go home with some guys… ya know? We always wonder what would have happened if I got in his car that night…

Well, I ended up dating his roommate and he even dated mine, but the point is that for the next 2 years we were friends. He consoled me throughout the breakup with his roommate, and I consoled him throughout the breakup of his old freshman sweetheart. Pretty soon, we were hanging out every day and the group got smaller and smaller until it was just us.

One summer’s eve, we were up late watching a movie, and by some inexplicable force (seriously, what happened next was strictly against my policy…) …we kissed, and I have never been the same. It was as if Todd stepped out of some “only-a-friend” costume and was revealed for the first time. I never wanted to stop kissing him. (And the feeling was mutual.)

Things moved quickly from there. The first time we said “I love you” was in September on a trip with his company (we were chaperoned) to Lake Powell were we stood under a full moon on the lake shore and nervously shared our feelings. I couldn’t believe I was falling in love with “that guy Todd I used to hang out with.” We came home from the trip and set a date for our wedding that night. We got married on February 19, 2000 on President’s Day weekend (so romantic), and enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon in New Zealand.

Eight years later, and we love each other more and more. Todd and I are best friends. Our dear doctor asks us every time we meet, “Are you still friends? Do you still like each other?” He knows that infertility can put stress on a relationship. But Todd and I have grown closer through this situation.

We are a team. We even have a name: Team Rhodarson. We talk, we pray together, we try and figure things out, and there is no blame assigned, no fault finding. We are in this together. I could not have picked a more supportive and loving friend to go through this with. How could I have been so smart at 25? I don’t know, but I am grateful.

We appreciate the support of friends and family through all of this. I could not ask for more supportive, helpful, and loving people in my life. I am grateful for my sister, Sarah, who has taken it upon herself to be our champion… and master organizer. What a service she is providing! What an angel she is to us!

We are grateful for all of you who have made contributions to this cause. It is humbling to be the recipient of charity. And this is true charity. People have contributed out of the most unselfish kind of love…

We hope that this blog will help you get to know us a little better, and answer some of the questions you might have about the Baby Rhodesbud Fund. We want this to be completely transparent. If you have a question about money or where it is going, about costs, treatments, etc., we want you to ask it. We promise complete honesty and lots of updates.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Story of Our Infertility…

About a year after we were married we decided to start our family. We had both graduated and we both had jobs we enjoyed. Todd was working for a great web start-up and I had a dream job as a designer traveling all over the Caribbean. (If you are squeamish about details you can stop here or skip to the end… but I’m going to lay it all out there…). The first month we “tried” I got pregnant. I missed my regular period, but miscarried around the 8th or 9th week. I was pretty na├»ve and didn’t know what to do about it. I finally went to the doctor when friends and family convinced me that I had miscarried, but it was too late to determine much. I would have gone sooner, but I am a tough-it-out sort of girl who is used to a lot of pain and discomfort revolving around “lady issues”.

We kept trying, and didn’t mind getting in a lot of practice! But nothing happened. Here’s the part where I look back and think, “What SHOULD we have been doing? What signs were we missing? Why did it take me so long to figure it out that we were having problems?” But you know what? We were just living life. We are not the kind of people to focus on our problems; we just keep going forward. It sounds silly, but we didn’t realize that we might be infertile. We had faith that it would happen when it was supposed to happen. We both kept working and enjoying each other and the many nieces and nephews that began to fill our family.

Finally, in the fall of 2006, we saw a fertility specialist, Dr. Richards in American Fork. He put us in touch with a Dr. Slater from a fertility clinic in Idaho. She comes down here and works with Dr. Richard in a sort of satellite extension of the Idaho Reproductive Center in Boise. Dr. Slater did an ultrasound and found that I had cysts in my uterus. So after two hystero-salpingograms it was discovered that my right fallopian tube was completely blocked AND I had a good-sized uterine cyst. In October of that year I was driven to Idaho by my dear mother and my dear Aunt Jan and it was all taken care of in a 2 ½ hour outpatient surgery by Dr. Slater and her AWESOME team. (It was a really positive experience… I love Dr. Slater and the people she works with.) My right tube was blocked by some scar tissue of indeterminate origin and they removed it, and the cyst was easily removed. They checked my body cavity for signs of endometriosis (endometrium cells from the uterus that can “escape” and lodge onto other organs causing pain a major cause of infertility). I didn’t have endometriosis. We thought everything was going to be fine, and I was actually a little nervous that we would get pregnant right away and things would all go too fast.

Well it didn’t. I few more months passed and nothing happened. So my wonderful general practitioner, Dr. Steven Berry (who, with his wife, went through 7 years of infertility before beginning their family with adoption…) suggested I try artificial insemination (putting the sperm directly into my uterus with a catheter) along with Clomid, a drug that stimulates follicle production. On the 4th try, we got pregnant.

I remember looking at the positive pregnancy test in utter disbelief. Do you know how many of those I have taken in my life? And NONE of them had EVER been positive! I walked out of the bathroom and told Todd; he had the same cautious and stunned reaction. But neither of us cried or jumped for joy… it was a restrained happiness.

I went to the temple that morning and I remember sitting in the Celestial room and saying a little prayer of thanks. I can’t describe my emotions at that moment, they are beyond words, but it might help to understand that I knew that my Heavenly Father was aware of what I was going through. He felt close, but I did not experience the joy I was expecting.

My biggest mistake was going to the bookstore afterward and purchasing “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. I was just too excited to “participate” in that universal female experience: pregnancy. I should have waited.

The next day I traveled to Texas to witness the graduation of two of my brothers-in-law as they accepted master’s degrees in business and architecture. I was proud of them, and wanted to be there to support my sisters and their families on these happy occasions. Unfortunately, I began to bleed while I was there. I called Dr. Berry, and his nurse encouraged me to go to the hospital to get my hcg levels tested for the next two or three days. This was impossible to do in Texas due to being out of state and out of coverage etc. It just wasn’t feasible. Besides, I didn’t want to put a damper on the celebrations and take up family time by being driven back and forth from the hospital. Lame.

So that was a little sad. We had come the closest yet in 6 years. We tried one more round of artificial insemination after that, but my motivation fizzled. It is an invasive procedure and I was tired of having my legs up in the air while my doctor impregnated me.

It was during this time that I really came to appreciate how “free” conception CAN be. People just go into their bedrooms and have sex (or if you prefer… make love). They don’t even have to go to their bedrooms. It happens anywhere a sperm and an egg can meet, and that can be up in the canyon, in a tent on the beach, in your kitchen (heaven forbid), in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse… just about anywhere. But for us… having sex involved a team of people, and catheters, and iodine, and KY… oh, and money… lots of money.

Taking breaks can be important when you are trying fertility treatments. It takes its toll. So we took a little break. I even took a break from full-time work to let my body “de-stress”.

People often ask us (and there are more who wonder and don’t ask) whether we plan to adopt. We have considered it. I don’t necessarily believe that adoption is a foregone conclusion to infertility. I know what it feels like to receive an answer to prayer, and I have not received the answer yet. The “path” of adoption has not been illuminated for us yet. Don’t get me wrong; this is frustrating. Our good friends adopted the MOST beautiful, charming, hilarious, handsome baby last year, and it has been hard to see them build their little family that way and not wonder why it doesn’t feel right yet for us. But I feel like we will know when the time is right for us.

I see now that earlier in our marriage and in the infertility saga, some of the more expensive procedures were not options for us then. The opportunity to try IVF (in vitro fertilization: extracting the eggs and combining them with the sperm in a Petri dish, allowing the eggs to fertilize and to split into at least 4 cells, and then implant them back directly into the uterus through a catheter…) came this summer.

Again, we chose to work with Dr. Richards and Dr. Slater and their wonderful NP Anne-Marie. The whole team was great. I began to get ready by taking daily shots of hormones to produce lots of follicles (normally a woman produces one follicle per month… a follicle contains one egg). The day came for egg extraction, and I had 19 follicles ready to go. Dr. Slater told me (when I woke up) that 9 of the 19 follicles were endometriomas (follicles filled with endometrial cells instead of an egg… apparently, I have endometriosis in my right ovary which was impossible to determine before, but not a reason why we are not be able to conceive). Todd provided his cells and for the next two days the other 10 healthy eggs “incubated”.

When it was time to implant the eggs Dr. Richards informed me that of the 10 eggs, 6 had been fertilized. They “grade” the quality of the zygotes to determine their viability. They only want to implant healthy, good-quality cells, obviously. We had one grade A, one AB, three B, and one abnormal zygote. This was really good news because only 20% of Dr. Richard’s patients have A grade zygotes; most have B and C grades. We pondered our options and decided to implant the three best (the A, AB, and one B… there was only a 6% chance of triplets, but Dr. Richards doesn’t like to implant more than 3 at a time so that women don’t have to make a hard choice later on in a pregnancy).

We were hopeful because we are really good candidates for this procedure. We are both healthy, and there is no explained infertility (although we obviously have challenges with the cysts and the endometriosis). Waiting was the hardest part. We were really hopeful.

After the first HCG blood test I looked up what my results meant online. My results meant that I was not pregnant. My second blood test was not for two more days. During that time I cried a lot (lots of hormones were still coursing through my body…), but I still had a small flame of hope that the second test would show that my levels were rising and that life was struggling within!

But, alas! We got the second set of results and had to face the fact that we had just spent $12,000 for nothing. Bless Dr. Richard, Dr. Slater, and especially Anne Marie the NP. It was Anne Marie who had to call us and give us the official news. What a job! She was so kind, I appreciated her tact and sensitivity.

This is where I wish we had had a little money set aside. All I wanted was to get out of town. I needed a change of scene, and I think it would behoove couples who are facing this outcome (or even a positive outcome) to get out of town and spend a couple of days alone together. We went camping and without the distractions of TV and cell phones or any civilization for that matter, we had the tough discussions of “What now…” and “What do we really want…” and “How are we going to get ourselves back on our feet financially…”.

After consulting with our doctors, we decided that we are still good candidates for this procedure. A couple can expect positive results after an average of three IVF treatments. If after three tries a couple does not conceive, then most doctors will counsel them to try something else (although couples are free to try as many times as they want… the cost is usually the main barrier).

After much consideration (including fasting and prayer), we have decided to try the IVF procedure again. The Baby Rhodesbud Fund was created, and is run, by my sister, Sarah, to help us reach the financial obligations to do so. 100% of the funds raised will go toward future treatments. None of it will go toward debt resulting from past treatments (that is our responsibility).

We are hopeful that IVF will help us have children. Thank you for your love and support.