January 17, 2014

Our Elf on the Shelf

It's absolutely hilarious to me how much controversy there actually is surrounding this little Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. On one side, you have people who think it's shameful to buy this retail product and shove it down the throat of the Christmas season when there's already enough focus on materialism and things other than Jesus' birth. On the other side, you've got people like me, who have awesome children who make the Christmas season so much fun simply through their unadulterated joy as they experience it all and take it all in.

That's what our Elf on the Shelf meant to us this year. This was the first year that he appeared in our home, and the girls absolutely loved him! In case you're not familiar with the Elf, he (or she) comes with a story book explaining that he's a helper sent from Santa to watch the children of the household during the day. He then slips away, through Christmas magic, back to the North Pole to give Santa a report on whether the children have been naughty or nice. He goes away while the kids are sleeping and returns each morning in a new spot. The children are then supposed to find their elf so that they know he's keeping an eye on them. The story says that the kids have to name their elf, and our girls picked the name Dee. I have no clue where they got it, but it works!

So, Dee made his debut at our home a few days after Thanksgiving this year and, per his story, he left us while the girls were sleeping on Christmas eve. I just wanted to do a post on all of his shenanigans...which were actually really mild. Some of these elves are extremely naughty! While the pictures of these naughty elves can be hilarious, I really wanted to make sure that our girls were seeing their elf as an example of good or playful behavior--I didn't want to encourage mischief. 

They loved waking up each morning and searching for Dee. Once they found him they'd come and wake me up and drag me downstairs to see what he was up to. The whole thing was so magical for them, it definitely brightened the holiday season for Matt and I. Watching the girls experience this was so much fun and I can't wait for next year when little Dee returns!

We first found Dee in the girls room on their bunk bed ladder! We read his story that night for our bedtime story, and the girls were hooked!

Dee sleeping in the tissue box

Dee working on his naught/nice report to Santa

Dee reading his story to Minnie Mouse

Dee playing with the girls' boots

The girls had a sleepover at Granny's house and Dee showed up there the next morning! Boy were they surprised to see him there!

Dee wanted to have breakfast with the girls so he set out bowls for everyone

Dee wanted to make sure that the girls saw this movie this year--it's one of Dee's and Mommy's favorites!

Dee left a note for the girls reminding them that Santa is watching and that they need to remember to obey their mommy and daddy, especially at bedtime. He also left them some pre-Christmas gifts--books about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!

Dee took a ride on the girls' train set

Dee made cookies! He was testing out Mommy's recipe to make sure it was Santa-ready

Dee checks his email

Dee and Minnie Mouse had a picnic in the living room

Dee wanted to share the story of Jesus' birth with the girls, so he pulled out the family Bible

Silly Dee--he got stuck in Rapunzel's box the morning after our family Christmas party

Dee checking out how well he could see Santa's route in the sky through our bedroom window

Dee taped himself up with all of our holiday cards on the front door

There's lots of construction happening on our street right now, so Dee wanted to go for a ride on the girls construction trucks

Dee, and Santa Claus, are Utes fans!

Dee took Minnie Mouse for a drive

Dee showed up at Granny's house again!

Dee reminded the girls to check their stockings on Christmas morning 

Dee was feeling nostalgic--he's going to miss these girlies while he's gone!

October 2, 2013

Sophie and Olivia Turn 3!

I asked the girls back in July what they wanted to do for their birthday party this year. They both agreed--they wanted a monster party! At that time, they were really into watching Monsters Inc, and when we took them to see Monsters University, that just sealed the deal. So, at the beginning of September, I got busy planning their monster party. 

Things came together slowly, but surely, and I'm sure it was torture for the girls seeing all of their decorations and party things around the house but not being able to have fun with any of it yet. I kept reminding them, "these are for your birthday party, you can have them on your birthday" and that sort of became a mantra around here. 

We had their party this past Sunday, on the 29th, which was their actual birthday. Their Aunt Stephanie had flown in from Florida the night before to be with us, so we waited on her! :) We had a blast and our little house was filled to the MAX with friends and family who came to celebrate our little monsters. We had treats and games and had coloring and monster-mask-making stations for the kids to enjoy. I think the grown-ups enjoyed watching all of the kids go at everything, and after it was all over we were all thoroughly worn out, which meant that it all went very well. 

The girls enjoyed themselves and loved every minute of their long-awaited party, so it made all of the prep worth it. Let's see what they have in store for me next year!

September 20, 2013

Baby Girl Sewell Has a Name!

We have settled on a name for our baby girl! I wouldn't say that it has been a painstaking process, but it wasn't a piece of cake either. The most important aspect of choosing a name for this baby for me was to pick something that would mesh well with the girls' names. I couldn't have a Sophie and an Olivia and throw in an Ashley or Barbara or something like that. Nope. They had to go together and once we found some names that fit into the Antique Charm/Timeless category (yes, we used the Baby Name Wizard--thanks again, Emily Kriech!) all we had to do was narrow them down. There were some that I preferred, some that Matt preferred, and we even broke with our category and added a few extras to our list. But the one name that fit into our category that we both liked enough to call our child by it forever was.....


So, when we meet our little girl this February, we will name her Audrey James Martella Sewell.

Most of you know the story behind Sophie and Olivia's middle names, which are Michael and Sean, respectively. If you don't know the story, you can read about it in this post. In keeping with what I think is a wonderful tradition to honor my children's father(s), Audrey will get Matt's middle name as hers. Sophie and Olivia were given the surname Martella at birth, but when Matt adopted them, we changed their last name to his and moved Martella to a second middle name position. Since Audrey is Sophie and Olivia's full biological sibling, we've chosen to honor Sean in her name by giving her the second middle name of Martella as well.

Not everyone gets a full name that is packed full of meaning and I consider it a blessing to be able to give my girls names that will carry meaning for them all of their life.

Now that this joyous task is completed, I'm going to sit back and relax. Haha. Just kidding. The girls' 3rd birthday is coming up next weekend so I'm going to get ready for that...then on to Halloween and then my favorite time of year--Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Sweet Audrey, we're so excited to have you join our family soon! Maybe you'll be my blue-eyed child? A momma can dream, can't she? :)

Oh, and your big sissies say "hi baby!"

September 18, 2013

Baby GIRL Sewell

September 18, 2013-This morning I went in for an ultrasound at my OB's office. I'm 18 weeks along today which means I have roughly 5 months left before our baby is here. The ultrasound went fine and the baby looks great! We confirmed that we're having our third girl! She's measuring just a few days ahead of schedule, but that is welcome news for me since Sophie and Olivia were so small when they were born. 

Matt and I were both hoping for a boy, but we both know that we are good at raising girls so this little one will fit right into our family, no problem. The girls are excited about having a baby sissy, and I don't think it will be as much as an adjustment for them as having a boy would have been, so I'm thankful for that too. Plus we have a plethora of girly things to get us started with this little one, and that's a huge benefit! 

We have a few names picked out and on our list of frontrunners but we haven't decided anything at this point. I'm ready to pull the trigger but Matt wants to take our time...so we'll get there eventually. We'll be sure to announce our selection as soon as we get it nailed down! We don't even have any silly nicknames to call her...I guess we're lame like that.

I think that most of you knew I was pregnant before this point, but in case you didn't...surprise! Haha! My first trimester was...very first-trimester like. I had lots of fatigue, lots of nausea, lots of vomiting, and almost no comfort or peace for a good 3 months. Those horrible feelings are fading though, and I'm starting to feel very second-trimestery! I have my energy back, which is great since I'm getting into the thick of my busy season for work, and I'm able to keep up with the girls much better than before, and I know they appreciate that.

Being pregnant while chasing around toddlers has been a whole new experience for me, but I've had amazing help from my family and my wonderful husband so we've all made it through unscathed so far. 4 months down, 5 to go! Baby Girl Sewell, we'll see you soon!

Baby Sewell--Pregnant!

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

June 2013-Since my last post, we decided to go ahead with a frozen embryo transfer using the third and last embryo produced from my first IVF cycle with Sean. We had our required appointment with the psychiatrist and the conversation basically went like this:

"It's nice to meet you two. I don't really know why you're here."
"Us either."
"Okay well let me sign this off for you, and good luck with your cycle!"

Yep. I'm just glad to have had validation from at least ONE professional handling our case.

After we got started with the cycle (meaning I had begun meds to prep my body for the transfer) I learned from my saline sonogram that the uterine polyps I had had removed a mere 6 months prior had returned. This meant that I would need a small surgery to remove the polyps...so I did that. It went fine, but the emotional toll it took on me was strong. I just wanted to get going with this cycle and as if dealing with critical and judgmental doctors and staff hadn't been taxing enough, I was all of a sudden dealing with new (albeit, mild) fertility issues of my own that had never existed before. It was frustrating to say the least.

I continued on my IVF meds after the surgery was done and after a couple more checks, we got the go-ahead to start the next steps of the cycle. This involved taking more drugs. I learned that since my last IVF cycle, they had come up with a new way to deliver the progesterone that I would need so instead of sticking gigantic needles in my buttcheeks every day, I got to experience a much less painful delivery of the medication.

The meds made me crazy sick and hormonal, but at least they got me to implant day. On June 3rd Matt and I went in for our frozen embryo transfer. They gave me some lovely sedatives, thawed our little one, and completed the transfer. Matt had to leave out of town for business later that day...the whole time frame was so crazy, but when he got back that weekend he suggested I take a pregnancy test to see if anything was happening yet.

Sooo I did it again...I tested a whole week early. I couldn't help myself! The test was positive! Baby Sewell Due February 2014 (hopefully just one this time!)

Baby Sewell-Moving Forward

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

March 2013-After getting the go-ahead from our fertility doctor at our last appointment, we then started to look forward to what the next steps in this whole process would be. I was diagnosed in January with an ovarian cyst, which are totally commonplace for many many women, so the first thing was to make sure that by my next cycle the cyst had gone away on its own. I went in for an ultrasound to check its progress last Friday, March 15th and all was well! Yay!

Now we deal with signing paperwork, paying off billing, and I have begun a 30-day regimen of active birth control pills to prevent ovulation from occurring naturally. I'll have a saline sonogram in a couple of weeks to make sure that my oven is bun-ready and then if everything is proceeding as it should, I'll begin the cycle officially by starting estrogen and progesterone. We're aiming for a mid-May implant (frozen embryo transfer) and we should know by early June if the cycle has been successful! 

This is all on my mind all of the time but we've been distracting ourselves with house-hunting for the past few weeks and that has worked really well. Since we decided to build, I'm sure I'll keep busy with planning finishes and checking in with the construction progress. Matt will keep busy with work, and hopefully the girls will start getting excited to have a new sissy or bubba soon! I'm so ready to add to our amazing family and to do it in this way--it just couldn't be more perfect!

Little Baby Sewell, We're Ready for You!

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

February 2013-When our doctor came into his office to see us yesterday he immediately led with the fact that he recommended we use the frozen embryo we had in storage and wanted to know why we had decided not to use it. We let him know that we have a maximum on our fertility benefit with our insurance (again, we're so blessed to even have insurance covering this) and we were very nervous about the low (30%) chance of successfully conceiving using a frozen embryo versus the slightly higher (50%) chance of conceiving with a fresh cycle. He explained to us that for couples who have no infertility issues and who attempt to conceive at the exact right moment in a woman's cycle, the natural chances, best case scenario, for conception are only 15%. Using the frozen embryo provides a 30% chance of success, which is twice the rate that it is in nature. Those are actually really good odds for someone in my case who is young (25) and who has no fertility issues. While the fresh cycle does provide a 50% chance of success, the cost is more than double what it is for a frozen cycle. After considering all of this, Matt and I decided to proceed with the frozen embryo transplant. By doing this, we will still have enough left on our benefit for another attempt at a fresh cycle if this one doesn't take, and it's likely that we will produce excess embryos during that fresh cycle and will be able to attempt another frozen cycle if it comes down to it.

Our doctor did not explain why he had hesitated allowing us to proceed, but I think that he wanted to talk with us about the potential of using our frozen embryo. The frozen transfer is much less invasive, is much easier on my body, requires fewer medications and is less expensive. The drawback is that there is a lower chance of success with the cycle. Luckily, the office had not done anything with our frozen embryo yet (we signed the release papers a couple of weeks ago) since our doctor had asked them to hold off on processing it until our consultation. They confirmed that our embryo is safe and sound.

He did tell us that he has not spoken with all of his partners in the practice yet but that he did speak to his most conservative partner who told him that he has no reservations about allowing us to proceed with the frozen (or fresh) cycle. He let us know that it is policy for patients to undergo a psychiatric consult prior to starting a cycle using a third party transfer (this is still weird to me, but whatever). His nurse (one that I had previously worked with on my last cycle who is awesome! yay!) gave us the number for the psychiatrist that their office refers to and we have an appointment with her schedule for the end of March.

Essentially, we have begun our cycle! In about a week and a half I will begin one medication for the cycle and we'll be off! We plan to do our embryo transplant around May 15th! Our nurse said that as long as we are cleared by the psychiatrist before they thaw our embryo we are good to proceed. I have no doubt that we'll pass that with flying colors!

Little Baby Sewell, we're ready for you!

Baby Sewell-Making Our Case

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

February 2013-Like I give up anything I'm after without a fight. 

Although no one has directly told me to give up my plans to continue to build my family, it was a serious emotional blow when I learned that my doctors office had reservations about allowing Matt and I to proceed with our cycle.

Laying wide awake in bed last night, I realized that if the clinic is worried about the legalities of the procedure then I might do well to familiarize myself with Utah's laws surrounding assisted reproductive technology (ART).

One of our many wonderful benefits through Matt's company is that we have access to legal services. I asked Matt to send me the information I'd need to contact someone who works in family law and this afternoon I spoke with a local lawyer. I told him that there wasn't anything in particular I was worried about, from a legal standpoint, but that I wanted to make sure that I understood what my rights are and what the law says about our specific situation. After explaining my story to him he said that it doesn't sound like we'll have any trouble, legally, going through with this, but he did ask me to come in and meet with him next week. He said that he wanted some time to do a little bit more research just to make sure that we won't have an issue and he wants to go over all of the details with me in person.

I'm scheduled to meet with him this coming Monday in the afternoon before our appointment with our doctor on Tuesday.

My concern is that there will be something hidden in the ART laws here that surround posthumous conception--that might be the ONLY place we have an issue. I called our cryobank and requested copies of all of the forms Sean and I have signed regarding his banked sperm and they will be sending that to me in time for my meeting with the lawyer. This way I have all of the documents in front of me that declare me as the legal owner of Sean's banked sperm.

I'm hopeful that the lawyer will have nothing but good news, and I'm hopeful that once I fully understand what the laws here say, that I can use that information to convince our doctor that what we want to do is well within our rights, that there is nothing unethical or immoral about our decision, and that all we want to do is take the next step in growing our family. 

It's already so exhausting and I haven't even started with the needles yet!

Baby Sewell-Hopefully Just a Hiccup

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

January 2013-I have fantastic news followed by what I hope is nothing but a hiccup. Matt and I thought we were going to have to wait until next year to pursue IVF, but God has been watching out for us and we have been blessed with the means to start our cycle now!

When we had our consultation in December, our doctor explained the options that we had for trying to restore fertility to Matt. After considering his options for a long time, Matt decided that he did not want to go through with the testing and drug treatments and decided that instead, he wanted to go forward with IVF using Sean's sperm as the donor sperm. 

I called the clinic yesterday to let them know what Matt had decided and to let them know that we would like to go ahead with IVF. I received a call back today from our doctors nurse at the clinic (who has been nothing but rude and judgmental both times I have interacted with her), that our doctor is not comfortable allowing us to proceed with our cycle and that if we would like to do so, we need to come in and meet with him again and obtain his approval. She also said that unanimous approval is needed from the other physicians in the practice (I think there are 3 others) and that Matt and I will be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. That was the extent of my conversation with her this afternoon. No explanations, no nothing.

Earlier this morning, before I received the call from the rude nurse, I had contacted the clinic to request that we be assigned to work with another nurse since I didn't need the added stress of working with this beast while doing an IVF cycle. I spoke with the nurse manager who was very understanding and sympathetic. She told me she'd talk to the doctor about what he'd like us to do in terms of being assigned to someone else or working with another doctor entirely. She said she'd call me back later this afternoon.

When I got that phone call from the beastly nurse, I was heartbroken. I felt so judged and so betrayed by our doctor, who has known of these circumstances all along and knew that Matt and I considered using Sean's sperm as a serious option for us. There had never been any objections voiced until now so it came as quite a shock when we were told that he wouldn't agree to go through with our cycle. 

I did receive a call back from the nurse manager who was able to explain to me that there had been confusion as to whether we wanted to use Sean's sperm as a backup vs. primary (our intention) and that our doctor wanted to meet with us again to go over all of the details at once and to make sure we're all on the same page. I am very willing to do this, but I am still not quite trusting of his support for our situation. The nurse manager was also able to explain that it is clinic policy for couples to undergo a psych eval when they use known-donor sperm, as opposed to using an anonymous donor. I understand why this is, but I don't think that the implications that are potentially implied in this situation are pertinent to my case. Nevertheless, I will do the evaluation if that's what it takes to get started with our cycle. I told the nurse manager that I will happily agree to both of these suggestions provided our case is assigned to another nurse. She understood completely and immediately gave me the direct line for two nurses who work part time to cover 1 full-time spot. One of the nurses had assisted on my previous IVF cycle so I'm sure I'll recognize her once we start up again, and I've never had anything but a pleasant experience with anyone else in the office, so as long as I know that the rude nurse if off my case, I'll be confident things will go smoothly. 

So as it stands, I have scheduled an appointment for Matt and I to sit down with our doctor again to give all of us a chance to go over all of the details. This is happening next Tuesday afternoon, so I'll have more of an update after that appointment is over with. If, for whatever reason our doctor still is uncomfortable allowing us to do this procedure with their clinic, Matt and I will certainly look elsewhere. I know if I have to, and if I look far enough, I will find a clinic that is supportive of my family-building goals and that will do everything they can to help us achieve them. This is definitely not how I expected our cycle to start out and it's certainly not the note I wanted to start out with either, but this appointment will hopefully be enlightening for both sides involved. 

Baby Sewell-Decisions, Decisions

This post is one in a series of posts I had written previously about our endeavors to have a third baby. I hadn't posted anything until now, so forgive me for the information dump. We now know we are having our third baby girl, though we haven't settled on a name yet. More to come, that's for sure!

01/01/2013-After meeting with Dr. Blauer in December, we've decided to hold off on trying to conceive at this point in time. During the appointment, Matt's medical history was reviewed (as was mine), and when Dr. Blauer gave his overall opinion of our situation, it wasn't what we had hoped for. Dr. Blauer told us about the male fertility treatments that would be most successful for us, however he stated that our chances of the treatments working are very low. He suggested that Matt have an MRI to confirm that his pituitary gland is functioning correctly, but said that he doesn't think there's really anything wrong there, and that we may need to consider other options. 

Our other options are: conceiving via IVF using Sean's frozen semen as the "donor" semen, or conceiving via IVF using the frozen embryo that was cultivated during my first round of IVF. 

After several weeks of consideration, Matt decided that he wants to go ahead with IVF, thus giving into the likelihood that he will never biologically father children. He didn't come to this decision lightly, and I trust his judgment on where he stands. He asserts that whatever children we have will be ours, no matter how they came to be in our family, and that he certainly doesn't love Sophie and Olivia any less because they aren't his biological children. 

With that decision out of the way, we have a few more ahead of us. Even though we've chosen to do another round of IVF we need to consider several factors: 
1. Do we proceed with a fresh cycle or do we attempt a frozen embryo cycle? The fresh cycle provides a greater chance of overall success (a pregnancy) than the frozen cycle, but costs about double. 

2. I am experiencing a great deal of conflict within myself as to how exactly I feel about discarding my frozen embryo should we decide to do a fresh cycle IVF round. I'm very torn between my feelings that the frozen embryo is already a life, simply on hold, versus my feelings that other benefit might be gained for my family overall if we attempt a fresh cycle instead. 

3. We need to decide whether to use the frozen embryo for an IVF cycle, whereby I would only implant one embryo, versus the possibility of implanting 2 embryos with a fresh IVF cycle.

4. We need to decide if implanting 2 embryo's is right for us, with the fresh IVF cycle, which would give me an increased chance of carrying twins for the second time in my life, or if implanting 1 embryo is work the risk of the embryo not taking.

5. We need to decide if the benefit of the greater odds of becoming pregnant by doing a fresh IVF cycle  over the frozen cycle outweigh the financial costs that would be associated with the fresh cycle.

6. We need to decide what to do with the frozen embryo should we decide to discard it and attempt a fresh IVF cycle. When Sean and I signed the paperwork for our IVF cycle, we had indicated that we would like to donate the embryo for stem cell research, should we decide to discard it, as opposed to making it available as a donor embryo for another couple attempting IVF. I think Matt and I are still leaning toward this decision, if we make the decision to discard the frozen embryo.

Right now we have all of these things to consider. Our decision to hold off on our IVF attempt has stemmed from our financial situation. We have decided to postpone doing IVF until we are sure we can afford to pay for the cycle. Even though we have amazing insurance that will cover the cycle, we are still responsible for our deductibles and our out-of-pocket maximum along with our co-insurance and co-pays. With such an expensive treatment, and even with amazing insurance offsetting a great deal of the overall cost, the out of pocket contribution that would be required of us is still large and needs to have some financial planning to back it up. 

So, for now, that's where we are. We have lots and lots to talk about, decide on, pray on, and think on, but in the meantime, we have taken the pressure off ourselves by allowing more time to save money to pay for the cycle. Unless something changes, and things always do, we'll just sit tight for now, and see where life leads us!

Little Baby Sewell, don't worry, we still can't wait to welcome you into our family, we just want you to come into our home at its best!