Cover photo
Melissa Hall


Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
An even dozen eggs! I am amazed. That is one from every mature follicle I had

The fertlize tonight and our first report is tomorrow
Jessica Duncan's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoSarah Lester's profile photo
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Appointment today was pretty positive. 6 follicles per side that are juicy and fat, and each has two small ones.

Waiting for a call telling me what to do, but the expectation is that we trigger tonight sometime, check tomorrow to be sure it took and do the egg retrieval Thursday.

But it isn't confirmed yet, just a strong suspicion
Rugger Ducky's profile photoAdella Wright's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoMelissa Hall's profile photo
8:30 tonight we trigger. 8:30 am Thursday is the harvest. So excited!
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Doctors appointments took all Wednesday morning but were worth it. The genetic counseling was helpful. I know it is supposed to be but I have a college background so I didn't expect much and I was pleasantly surprised by how knowledgeable and adaptable Erin was.

The slow down was with Dr Chang she got called to a c section just as our appointment was about to start then she gets out and gets pulled again to evaluate another patient in labor.

But she was worth it.

She has experience with people who have my condition having babies. Also she is a pragmatic sort with a deep well of understanding on what can go wrong but with a reasoned eye on the likelihood

I am pretty happy with that.

Today was the day 5 monitoring appointment for the IVF cycle. My estrogen levels have gone from almost 200 on day 3 to almost 300 on day 5 and we say about six developing eggs that were between 10 and 12 mm overall good progress so I start the agonist in the morning to prevent ovulation while we keep up the stimulation until at least Sunday ... They are looking for as many 18mm or so follicles as possible

So on to a new step, that is pretty exciting
Gretchen S.'s profile photoMelissa Hall's profile photoAyoub “Alex” Khote's profile photoMargaret Hall's profile photo
I am so happy you have this doctor
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Yesterday we got the all clear for the next round of stimulation. Atrial follicle count was 21 so everything looks good.

This means being home for injections between 7 and 9 every night for the shots as of Sunday for ten to fourteen days. Or we figure out how to keep the meds chilled and do injections out.

I am excited about another trip around but also a little anxious.

Here is hoping for a good harvest
Gretchen S.'s profile photoJon Hiesfelter's profile photoChristina Talbott-Clark's profile photoMelissa Hall's profile photo
Oh another thing +Christina Talbott-Clark​ is timing.
There are a lot of idocycratic reasons but another is mundane.
The best biological time to make a baby in as close to NOW as we can manage. The best emotional and logistically is after Dana has surgery.
Doing frozen embryo transfer means we can do both of those things. 
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
After Dinner

Every night between 7 and 9 I get meds.  This is what setting up that process looks like- a messy coffee table.

It also means not doing any of the things because I need to take my meds and while maybe I could do a lunchbox with an ice pack and shoot up in the bathroom, I am paranoid about storage conditions.

I am comfortable giving myself the injections, they just need to go in the fatty space under my belly, not in a muscle.  However this is not something I do alone.  It has become something of a ritual for Dana to read the instructions for mixing the drugs to me and narrate the process.  It probably sounds tedious, but I really love it.  It turns what could be a lonely task in to a ritual we do together.
Dana Fried's profile photoJessica Duncan's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoAyoub “Alex” Khote's profile photo
It's great to have it as a ritual together :)
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Nothing to eat past midnight because tomorrow morning a giant needle is going to be plunged in to my body and human ova will be sucked out.

I am deeply excited about this prospect.
Misha B's profile photoNoah Friedman's profile photoGary Walker's profile photoMelissa Hall's profile photo
It is done!
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Sunday was another look in at the egg production line. It looks pretty good but not quite as ripe as they think they can get them I had one cadre that was about 10mm and another trending to 15mm so I go back tomorrow morning for another peek at the production. Hopefully I will trigger tomorrow night, but it depends on what the crop looks like.

Triggering matures eggs and they try to retrieve 35 to 36 hours later, just before ovulation would otherwise occur.

Right now I am doing a shot in the AM to suppress ovulation so everything can be timed together as much as possible
Melissa Hall's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoRugger Ducky's profile photoMeera Barry's profile photo
I love hearing that you're having such a positive experience!
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
This morning is all appointments. Day 3 blood draw, genetic counseling, then high risk obstrictian
Sarah Lester's profile photoMartha Lowe's profile photoChristina Talbott-Clark's profile photo
I hope it went well!
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again

Yesterday was my day 5 lab and ultrasound.  And I had some big follicles.  In fact they were kind of too big.

We got a call from the Doc later- the plan is to end the drugs, reset and go again.

So now we wait
Sarah Lester's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoAdella Wright's profile photoMelissa Hall's profile photo
+Adella Wright 
I am glad we went with circling back around but I totally get that impulse!
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
Overclocking your ovaries, a user's guide- Part 1

(This is almost all just my amateur explanations of the medical process, I love that this is something we can do, but this isn't that personal and it is a slapdash explanation by someone with no special expertise, it might not be the best use of your time and I in no way begrudge you a TL;DR)

Warning- this voids your warranty and requires professional assistance and equipment.  It is not recommended because you risk bricking your ovaries.  All of the mods discussed here are model dependent and need to be adjusted to your situation.  The ovaries used in this example were near end of life cycle, people using newer models will have to adjust techniques significantly.  There are less extreme modification options for people able to run more reproductive cycles.

If you find yourself in possession of a pair of ovaries you might find that their usual leisurely schedule of oneish egg a month is insufficient for whatever reason.  In that case you might want to encourage a large batch of eggs to mature in a single cycle. 

This is not strictly in their specs, but with the help of some experts and some hormone adjustments you might be able to do it.

But before we start talking about how to do the mod we should run through the basic functions first.  This is stuff you might have learned in sex-ed, but if you are from the US they might have just spent the time scaring you about STIs instead of talking about human biology out of fear that actually understanding the menstrual cycle might somehow lead to premarital sex, so it is useful to start off with a review.

Ova (that is the singular of ovaries, they do usually come in a two pack, but lets just focus in on a single unit for now) come pre-loaded with oocytes.  They are stored in an inactive, pre-reduction form called a dictyate where cross over has occurred but not reduction and a lot of mRNA is still lying around and is even actively imported in some cases from the follicle cells.

The oocyte is developed using a hormone cascade - mostly Lutenizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FH) that rise gently and tell the oocyte that now is the time to do its thing.  The oocyte that is thus awakened does the reduction division that makes it a gamte and then tosses off a polar body to create an egg - loaded with twice the cytoplasm and half the chromosomes and ready to launch.  The developing egg raises estrogen levels which initially result in a positive feedback with LH.  The estrogen results in a spike which creates another spike in LH and FSH that signal that the egg is ready for release.

So to make a lot of eggs - well it is a little like doubling a recipe.  Basically we want to induce many of the atrial follicles that have little oocytes to decide that this is the fateful hour where they bring that cargo to maturity, and then we want to time  it so they grow at about the same rate and reach maturity at about the same time and swoop in to collect them surgically before the final release.

So the first phase is just starting off properly- that means shutting down production so that we can take it over.  There are a lot of options for this, but I used birth control pills which are a little clunky but cheap and don't involve shots.

 The next phase though?  THat involves shots.  You need to put more FSH and LH in to the system to get more eggs out.  How much is  one of those things you need an expert for, they will look at hormone levels and follicle counts and take in to account your age and come up with a dosage, there are charts, but this is a step you really do need an expert for.

My doctor prescribed Menopur and Gonal-F. If you ever think you might do this I suggest skipping the next two lines concerning how these drugs are made, you don't need to know and you might not thank me for it.  Menopur is made from the urine of post-menopausal women because they still make LH and FSH their bodies, being basically out of useful oocytes just don't care.  Gonal-F is made in cell cultures from hamster ovaries and is pretty much straight up FSH.  

After a few days at the initial does you have blood drawn to look at the change in estrogen levels- an increase is a sign of egg development so that is a sign it is working.

This is where I am now, I just got my first labs back and my estrogen levels look good (good enough to back down a little on the Gonal F) so I will break here and do part two later

Overall the process is just fascinating!  
Melissa Hall's profile photoNila Jones's profile photo
Cool! Sounds like you body is taking to the new regimen :).
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 

It is easy to feel like this is a exercise in logistics, there are so many tiny details and a long list of things to do, but that isn't the only thing involved.

Like any couple thinking about a family we have a lot of feelings going on.  I will try not to speak for Dana, but her feelings matter a lot when talking about mine.

I know that sometime I was supposed to go through a period of not wanting babies, I think I missed the memo.  It was just always something I expected to have become a part of my life.

It wasn't until I was almost 30 and found that when I tried it wasn't happening that I ever questioned that.  This was with my first husband Paul, and while we talked about it going in for testing just seemed a way to drive ourselves crazy with the possible promise of treatments we couldn't afford.  It just seemed like it was time to accept that babies were not a thing.  Later after Paul's death I thought of it in terms of being grateful to not be left with an infant too (but sad that I didn't have that part of him with me)

Time passed and relationships have come and gone and in general it has just not been on the table.  Leaving me in this awkward place where it feels like I just - I somehow forgot to have kids.  It isn't that simple of course, but it also isn't all that complex.

And then I find out about the whole Euhler's Danos thing.  So any babies I have I risk passing on this disease to.  It was kind of comforting to know that at least I had something besides "just kind of didn't happen" as a reason for my not having kids.

So when Dana and I met?  Well we talked about babies on the first date, no expectation of that being with each other of course, we were supposed to be just playmates.

And as Dana and I failed to have something that wasn't serious it became a bigger thread.  By the time we were getting married- well we knew this was something we wanted to try to figure out.  After the engagement Dana's offer from Google seemed to make the choice of at least trying assisted reproduction clear.  Unlike a lot of employers Goggle offers at least some coverage of fertility treatments.

I admit I had mixed feelings.  I am old in parental terms, my little sister had a baby where she was high risk because of "advanced maternal age" and here I am thinking about it?  I always said I wouldn't because the risk wasn't mine.  But maybe there is a way to manage the risk a little this way.

The bigger issue was the whole EDS issue.  I haven't had official testing (600 with insurance, I didn't have it at the time) so Dana and I got 23 and me run and then downloaded the data and ran a Promethese report.  It didn't find any of the known point mutations, not a surprise since I have a tentative type 3 diagnosis anyway and there isn't a good marker for that most of the time.

I tried to talk Dana in to looking in to donor eggs, but she feels strongly about wanting my babies. She says I have more to offer than just a disease.  I hope she is right.

Talking to our doctor helped me in a lot of ways.  I was able to explain that for us the goal was to have a healthy baby and higher risks of no baby at all was something we were willing to take as a trade off.   She set up our plan with that in mind, thus the embryo screening before implantation.

I still struggle sometimes with feeling like all this fuss is reasonable.  Maybe I would be a better person if I just accepted the limits of biology, but realistically I would not be around at all if it hadn't been for medical science.  Just taking the cards I am dealt and not trying to improve my hand- well it isn't the way I deal with most things but it is a lot harder to accept that I CAN do that when it comes to reproduction.

I never doubted that I could and should use birth control, heck I was on it before I needed it because of endrometrosis.   Hacking my reproductive system to no get pregnant, to not have periods, to change my hormone cycles to prevent migraines, none of these things gave me pause.  I thought that I was over the idea that I should give in to nature and let my reproductive system make choices about my life.

But life has a way of finding the place where you are a little bit hypocritical and slapping you hard with it.  Or at least that happens to me more often than I wanted to admit.

I was comfortable with the idea of manipulating reproduction to stop it, but the idea that I could and maybe even should manipulate my reproductive system to make it go?  Somehow that was way harder and made me feel guilty and unnatural.  

But like a lot of things once I took a good long look at those feelings I was better able to let them go.  If my body really is my own than I should be able to hack it to the extent science allows to get it to do what I want, not just to get it to not do things. 
Kimberly Chapman's profile photoNila Jones's profile photoMartha Lowe's profile photoChristina Talbott-Clark's profile photo
Given that the kid doesn't get a choice in the matter of existing, I think having a child is more selfish than not having one.

But I'm okay with that.
Add a comment...

Melissa Hall

Shared publicly  - 
The Story So Far

I made the appointment with the fertility clinic before we got married.  I got a recommendation from someone in Seattle and just called up.

I was shocked at how easy it was.  Granted the paperwork stack they emailed me was medium-hard for a new patient but not so bad.  I filled it out, put it in the important paperwork safe and didn't think more about it.

We got to Seattle on August 7th.  My appointment was the 19th.  +Dana Fried was out of town for her orientation week but I expected it to be no big deal.

I was wrong.  I left with a prescription for birth control pills, instructions to take them on day three of my next period and a promise to follow up with a calendar for an egg collection cycle.

I got the date the next day, I would start drugs for egg collection August 30th.

There are some unusual reasons- The lab is being remodeled so this was the only slot left, my cycle happened to be in line and we wanted to do pre-implantation diagnosis so I could do embryo creation and implantation at different times because the embryos need to be frozen for genetic analysis anyway.

So that is how I ended up back at the clinic two days later for an Atrial Follicle Count.  This is basically just a ultrasound of your ovaries where they look for the little circles of ripening eggs.  This was a little nerve wracking because this is where I find out if my body just looks too old for me to have a shot.  I go in hoping for more than 5, anything less and doing this at all is bad odds.  She counts the left- and it looks like about 5, I have a moment of relief while she moves the wand and counts the right- 9 more.  That is almost better than I dared hope for and a pretty clear green light.  I call Dana- who is still in Mountain View at the Marshmallow launch party and tell her.  It is a moment of mixed excitement and terror.

Dana comes home and the next morning we walk to the clinic together to sign a bunch of consent forms.  The paperwork and logistics are a little terrifying.  The rest of the week is a swirl of paperwork and phonecalls.  Friday I go in for a suppression check to make sure I am ready to go, it all looks good (and weirdly the follicle count is up to 18?!) and later that same day a giant box of scary drugs shows up and I put some of it in the Fridge.
God Emperor Lionel Lauer's profile photoLex Larson's profile photoNila Jones's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photo
9! Go follicles go!
Add a comment...
Melissa's Collections
Basic Information
Pithy is not my thing.
Bragging rights
I have largely managed to avoid specializing.