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IVF test results

My phone is ringing off the hook with calls and texts, from loving friends and family so eagerly anticipating the news of our pregnancy test results. So, we thought this the easiest way to update the masses. Unfortunately, the test results came back negative. We’re so sad and disappointed as you can imagine.  Although we don’t understand why this has happened, why the embryos didn’t “stick” we will continue to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  Thankfully we are not alone, and we have Our Father who is “…close to the brokenhearted…” (Proverbs 34:18) as well as tons of people who have and will continue to support us through this process. Thank you!

Todd, Jen, and Darby





It is done


Wow, that was easy!! Walked in with a slightly full bladder, one of the items on my check list this morning, left with two embryos somewhere inside my uterus. Yep, that’s right! I said “two”!!! That’s not a peace sign Todd’s throwing in the pic above!! They grade the embryos and although ours were great, they weren’t “AA” grade. With my age and our “AB” grade, the statistics of pregnancy for a single embryo transfer were much lower than transferring two. In less than 5 minutes, the procedure was finished. Now we trust and wait!

If we can trust God with 13 years of cancer, lots of chemo, 3 bone marrow transplants, a house, a child in the midst of it all, Todd being sterile and much more, we can certainly trust Him with the outcome of these two embryos! 🙂 Looking forward to this ride He has us on regardless of the outcome!

Will keep you posted!

Jen and Todd

Egg retrieval

Egg retrieval was successful and recovery was pretty unpleasant. Per the MD, the operation went smoothly, though they were a tad surprised with the number of eggs obtained.  A total of 62 eggs to be exact!  (the record is 65).  Well no wonder I was in a whole world of hurt afterward. My abdomen swelled to about 5 months pregnant with a fluid weight gain of 6 lbs. I thought and was told I’d be feeling better by the next day, which wasn’t exactly true.  It took about 5 days to start feeling back to normal and a little over a week to lose most of the fluid.

Out of the 62 eggs retrieved, 42 of them were mature enough to fertilize through a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).  I grabbed the following explanation of ICSI off the Northern California Fertility Medical Center’s website…”The specialists use powerful microscopes and precise equipment to select individual, healthy sperm cells and place them directly into the egg, instead of merely combining the prepared eggs and sperm in a laboratory container and waiting for fertilization to take place on its own. This maximizes the number of successfully fertilized eggs, regardless of the general quality of the sperm.” Out of the 42 fertilized embryos, 35 survived and were frozen at the two pronuclei (2PN) state.  A pronucleus (plural: pronuclei) is the nucleus of a sperm or an egg cell during the process of fertilization, after the sperm enters the ovum, but before they fuse. The appearance of two pronuclei is the first sign of successful fertilization as observed during in vitro, and is usually observed 18 hours after  ICSI.  Ann, the embryologists with over 30 years experience, said “this is my most favorite time to freeze the embryos because once they are thawed, they act as if they’ve never been frozen before.”  Here is a picture of what they look like.  Although this isn’t a picture of our embryos, the embryologist did send us pictures of all 35 in the mail.  Really neat and so strange at the same time 🙂

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The plan for now is to wait until my next cycle.  Around this time they will bring me in for an ultrasound, have me use ovulation predictor kits, and when the “light is green” they will implant around day 14-16 of that same cycle.  They call this a “natural cycle”,  letting my body guide the process rather than using medications to assist.  This time frame will more than likely be around the beginning of March.

Now that the worst is behind us, we’re feeling pretty good 🙂   Although it was initially disappointing to not implant the embryos this cycle, it really would have complicated the process even further and been harder on my body.  I’m so grateful for the “rest break” physically and emotionally during this next month, and I’m so encouraged and at peace to know that all things are in God’s control, even teeny tiny embryos and abstract things like hormone levels 🙂

Next post….Results on Todd’s bone marrow biopsy scheduled for Mon 1/28. Will keep you posted 🙂

Feeling like a salmon…Glub…Glub…

I’ve completed 12 days of fertility shots which looking back weren’t that bad, although there were many days I just wanted it all to be over.  I had a lot of anxiety when reviewing all of the side effects especially when I began feeling them.  God and I had many conversations about this anxiety, and I began to learn that He meets me where I am at, giving me peace as I slowing gave up that control.  Thank you Lord!

At our initial appointment, the doctor indicated that I would be a “good responder” to the medications.  So, he put me on a low dose, and boy, was he ever right!  “You have too many eggs.  I can’t count them all,” he said this past Wednesday.   He estimated 15-20 eggs on either ovary, and he anticipated being able to retrieve around 30-40.  YIKES!!!  Of course we won’t need 30-40, and prefer only one to really take hold, but as the process continues not all of the eggs will survive.

So far I’ve experienced a mild form of Ovarian Hyperstimulation syndrome, where the ovaries become very swollen and painful.  At times I feel like I’m 9 months pregnant, where my stomach feels like it has shifted up into my chest, making it difficult to breath and constantly making me feel full.  I also have to sleep on my back as my sides make me feel top heavy when lying on my sides.

This past Friday they said, “You’re ready!” My eggs were 18-20mm large and ready to be retrieved on Sunday (tomorrow).  I told the doctor I felt like a stinkin’ salmon.  So many precious eggs.  Maybe I should swim up stream!! 🙂  Here is a picture of all of my salmon eggs (left and right ovaries)….


Tomorrow I will arrive at the fertility clinic at 6:30 am to be prepped; meet the md, embryologist, and anesthesiologist, start an iv, etc. The procedure is scheduled for 7:30am and will last 15-20 minutes given the number of eggs I have.  I guess it is usually 10 minutes long normally.  Yesterday, a phone call from the clinic informed me that my progesterone levels came back too high that morning and implanting the eggs during this month would not be wise as it would result in a failed pregnancy.  I guess my body just happen to be just a day or so off and there is a big concern for desycronization of the embryos when implanted.  So, they will retrieve the eggs tomorrow, inject them with Todd’s thawed out sperm, and the crycopreserve (freeze) them all on Monday.  In February (date yet to be determined), they will implant them!

Prayer requests:

The thing about Mild Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome is it can get worse… once they retrieve my eggs, those follicles the large circles that “housed” all the eggs begin to fill back up with fluid from my body.  If the ovaries continue to do this I will begin to retain all of the fluid around my abdomen leaving the rest of my body dehydrated. So, pray that my body will adjust well in the days to follow tomorrow’s procedure and that there is no worsening of these symptoms.

Todd came down with pneumonia this past week and has been down for the count. He’s been on strong antibiotics which have made him feel much better, though he continues to be easily fatigued (which quickly happens with our 3 year old munchkin!). Praise the Lord, my mother flew up to take care of me during these IVF events, and to watch Darby so Todd and I can recover.  Thanks mom!  You’re the best!! Pray for quick healing for all of us, and lots of patience and energy for my mom 🙂

Thanks to all for caring and showing your support via emails, text messages, and phone calls 🙂 We totally appreciate it!

More to follow…

IVF here we go…

Here is an update on where we are in the IVF process.

At this point, I’m  up to date with all the pre-workup stuff such as paperwork, labs, and classes. Today, an injection training was scheduled.  I learned all about poking myself with short and long needles, ugh!  This is probably one of the most not so delightful parts of this process. I don’t mind the injections as much as the anticipation of the impact these medications will have on me physcially and emotionally. Hormone injections will begin around Jan 3 and last for about 8 weeks, with the bulk of them administered during the first 14 days of my cycle.

Yes, the count down has begun!  In two weeks the IVF ball will begin to roll! Between now and then, there are two items on the list to accomplish.  All of the nine medications must be purchased by next week to ensure they are here and ready for administration on the first day of my cycle. You’ll never guess the cost of just one of these “specialty” meds!!! My jaw dropped when quoted approximately $3500 for one medication.  Thankfully, after several phone calls to four different specialty pharmacies, as well as coupons, discounts, and specialty programs offered to individuals paying out of pockets, the total cost was down to around $2400 for all of the medications needed. This is a huge praise!

The second task which needs to be accomplished by the end of this month and no later than the first week in Jan, is to provide the full amount to the fertility center for the single cycle of IVF.  Currently, we’ve raised close to $6400!  Can you believe it?  We’ve had so many generous contributors.  It’s been awesome to see God provide little by little over the last two months. Our target amount is $15,000.  So, we’re a tad under 🙂 though trusting that God will show us the best way to proceed.

If you are one of the individuals who has communicated your desire to help us out financially, you can do that by clicking on the yellow “Donate” button on the left hand side of this blog.  We’d so appreciate it!  Every little bit helps! If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, feel free to contact us to make other arrangements.

Smith 2012!

Wow, I can’t believe it is December!  I don’t know about you, but 2012 has flown by for us! We’ve had our fair share of busyness this year and we are hoping it will slow down, although we don’t see that happening in the near future. We look back and wonder what we’ve done this year, and why it has gone by so fast.  Here is what we’ve been up to…

January:  Our very own “Mimi” spent some good quality time with Darby while she continued to look for a job.  We were so happy and sad for her to rejoin the work force in January after spending so much precious time with Darby. We miss you Mimi!! 🙂

_MG_1395 Todd was invited to be on the board at The Greenhouse,  a non-profit, 501c3 organization located in the Gardenland Northgate neighborhood of Sacramento, California.  They offer after-school tutoring, mentoring, spiritual development, and leadership development for under-resourced youth. He’s kept busy, but has really enjoyed every minute of it. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Greenhouse, check it out at www.thegreenhousecenter.org.  Jen was asked to be on the vision team (kinda like a board of deacons) at our church, Sanctuary Covenant.  They have been really busy preparing for a move to Clunie Hall in East Sacramento come January 2013.  We’re super excited and look forward to what God has in store!!

During this month, Darby was officially potty trained.  Diapers during naps and bedtime, but throughout the day panties all the way!!  Such a big girl!!

February: Todd and a bunch of guys went to a family owned cabin in Kings Canyon for a Men’s Weekend.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of eating, gas, and guns. He had a blast! _MG_1697

March: SHINGLES came back around for a second time with a vengeance.  Poor Todd was out of commission for a few days, though in pain for several weeks. I’ll spare you the pictures 🙂

April:  Our efforts to began Urban Homesteading (partially joking here :-)) started with plans for our front yard garden and the purchase of 3 baby chicks. Boy, have we learned and laughed a lot over the last year.  Ask us and we’ll give you plenty of stories:-)_MG_1897

Meet Laverne (top) and Shirley ( bottom), and well, I don’t think we ever named the black chick in the middle.  It died within 48 hours.  We then picked up, Squiggie, at the local pet supply store…What a spaz!!!

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May:  Baby chicks were getting bigger and Darby enjoyed loving on them:-)


Here is a before picture of the front yard after a few bomb treatments to kill the grass.

Yard before

And the front yard after (minus the plants :-))….

Garden 2

June:  Before we could go on a trip to CO for a church training conference, we had to get the chickens out of the house ASAP.  Not only were they growing at phenomenal rates, but they smelled and were getting their dander all over the kitchen table each morning.  You can imagine how eager Jen was for the chickens to be out of the brooder!! 🙂 Todd found chicken coop plans, “The Taj Mahal” to be exact and built it just in time.  What amazing skills!!!Chicken coop

While down  in So. Cal to visit Jen’s family, we made a trip to Manhattan Beach for Darby’s first taste of the glorious sea air, warm sand, and cold ocean waters.  She LOVED it!!!

Darby at beach

July: We had so much to learn about gardening on a much larger scale compared to our 5′ x 20′ garden in our back side yard the year before.  At this point, there were gads of produce coming out from every nook and cranny we were giving it away, and meeting new neighbors in the process.  It was awesome!!

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Garden in July


Oh, and we learned one of many lessons when raising chickens that month….One being, when they start flying over things, it’s a good time to clip the wings.  When you don’t, one chicken can fly over the next door neighbor’s fence and be attacked/killed by hunting labs.  Hence starting over with baby chicks in the house once again, ugh!  Now we have 5 chickens.  We’ll have eggs coming out of our ears next spring!!!  Meet Zora (looks like Zorro), Wilma, and Cocoa (from left to right).

baby chicks second attempt

August: Our little Miss Helper was expressing her independence in lots of charming (a tad of sarcasm) and fun ways:) She decided that thumb-sucking was no longer necessary and dropped it all together.  Not sure if the conversations about seeing Dr. Joel (the dentist) had anything to do with it. 🙂Little Miss Helper


September:  While Darby was living it up with Nana and Baba in Sac, Todd and Jen took a trip to see our good friends, Kevin and Linda Swanson in New Jersey.  We walked our tails off all over NY!  What a neat time!  What very special friends!!

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About mid-September, one of the two chickens of laying age, laid her first egg.  It was a pretty neat experience and in our personal opinion, tasted far superior to store bought eggs.  Now, if Laverne would follow suit, that would be great. 🙂

October:  Family photos in October.  Our friend Amy was having some mini photo sessions and we jumped at the chance.  Jen’s parents were planning on being in town the same weekend, so it worked out so well. Thanks Amy! We love them!

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Toward the end of October, we enjoyed picking pumpkins from our garden and carving funny faces on them with fun friends, Brit, Sophia, and Ezra.  We love you guys! 🙂

Fall Fun

November: Wow!  A lot happened in November….Darby turned 3 years old on Thanksgiving Day!  A fun breakfast and present hunt was scheduled that morning, followed by lots of Thanksgiving preparation in the kitchen.  We had all the fixings, of course, though later that evening Darby was upset to find we were having pie instead of strawberry cupcakes and candles 🙂

rain boots surprise

Bike surprise

The day after Thanksgiving, we planned the 2012 Turkey Baster Olympics.  What the heck is that you may ask? See our post on it http://wp.me/p2uRh-lE

The day after that we had Darby’s birthday party with a few close friends.  Strawberry cupcakes, candles as well as lots of sugary toppings were on the menu.  Darby was happy!

Darby's 3

December: This month has been a whirlwind.  Jen picked up some extra shifts at work, continued helping out with preparations for Sanctuary’s move to Clunie Hall, and a long list of to-dos for IVF preparation as well (These details will be in the post to follow). Todd has been busy with several large projects at work, Greenhouse board activities/ to dos, and construction projects for church and Greenhouse.

All in all, we’ve had a great year, and we are so thankful for God’s provision in our lives in so many ways… a year of limited thoughts about cancer, our health, our sweet little girl, our church family, our family and friends, etc.

We end this year seeking to learn more about how to slow down in this fast pace culture, to enjoy the simple ways of living, and to remember daily why we are here and what we’ve been created for, so that we can share the freedom we have in Christ with others.

Merry Christmas!!

2012 Turkey Baster Olympics

Happy Thanksgiving!  We hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday.  Boy, do we have a lot for which to be thankful.  Yesterday we hosted our first Turkey Baster Olympics.  Although the goal was to raise funds for our IVF endeavors, we really wanted to be with family and friends, have fun and give thanks to the One who has provided all that we have. All of that, and more were accomplished.

About 30 people came out to participate in, what we’ll say, were interesting and unique events, all centered around the IVF theme. The Eggs and The Swimmers competed against each other – two rounds for each game.

The games consisted of a turkey baster ring pass between partners, baby block stacking (A shout out to Rob Crandell’s craftsman skillz.  Thanks to  you!), and sucking up m&ms (eggs) with a straw and placing them in bowls (petrie dishes).  The most popular games were the raw egg toss, and the turkey baster finale which included a vat of tapioca pudding (I’ll bet you can imagine what this represents) and turkey basters. What a blast these games were to participate in and especially to watch.


In the end, we had three definite winners, and the bronze, silver and gold were handed out.  Thanks to all who came and partipated, as well as to those who were with us in spirit!  The 2012 TBO raised a little over $1500, which brought us to our current total of $5,000.  This is incredible news and such a blessing!  Thank you, all!!  Here are a few extra pictures to share…..

Keep a look out, because in the next week or so we’ll be working on a post which will include details regarding the next steps in the IVF process. We want to keep you guys in the loop. 🙂