A month after my miscarriage I started up again with fertility treatments right away. I ovulated, did an IUI and didn’t get pregnant. After that we hit one setback after the next. The treatments that had worked to make me ovulate months prior weren’t working anymore.
It had been 13 months of treatments and 25 months of “trying” (although I was nursing for 12 of those month). I had only ovulated twice, had one IUI, and gotten pregnant once. The best word to describe my feelings at this point was annoyed. I was annoyed that fertility treatments were STILL running my life. I was annoyed that I was STILL ditching Henry all the time to run to the doctor. I’m a stay-at-home mom so I can hang with Henry all day, not so I can drop him off at a babysitter and go to the doctor. I was annoyed that I was STILL begging babysitting from my friends all the time. Yes, I could have hired a babysitter, but I didn’t want to. I hate the idea of passing Henry over to hired help so I could run off and try to get another baby. Having friends watch him seemed like a gentler, more manageable approach. I could never have done all this without my friends. They have all been so willing to help at the drop of a hat this past year. I really, really, really couldn’t/wouldn’t have done it without them. I owe Reghan, Courtney, Jessica and Maeve a LOT. Henry loves to be with all of them and their kids/cats, so leaving him with them put my mind at ease.
During the past 13 months with my doctor, he hadn’t been very interested in moving to IVF. He was willing to do it if I wanted and thought I was a good candidate, but he didn’t think it was necessary. My problem, not ovulating, is the easiest fertility problem to solve and IVF is sort of a drastic step for someone like me unless it’s a last resort. I was anxious to be done going to the doctor all the time, shooting myself with needles, and taking medicine that made me feel crazy and had other annoying side effects. IVF seemed like the best option to just get it over with so I could move on, as awful as it would surly be. How long could we bang our heads against the wall with treatments that weren’t working? Plus after a few rounds of IVF I was planning on quitting fertility if I was pregnant or not, and I was ready to be done. At some point you just have to quit, and after you do IVF (however many rounds are reasonable for you) and STILL aren’t pregnant, it’s definitely time to move on.
Early in December I was totally over it. I saw no reason to keep leaving Henry for nothing now that we were back where we started. It didn’t seem like the right way to be spending my time and money. I called my doctor’s office and had a complete meltdown with a nurse on the phone. She was suggesting that I avoid IVF and just keep going with the same thing that hadn’t worked for the past 13 months. “You are so close! You react well to medication!” I wasn’t close at all, I was back at square one, not ovulating. I yelled at her. Like, actually yelled. She set up an IVF consult with the doctor.
There are many different kinds of IVF. Mine could have been a lot worse, and it is for most IVF patients. Lucky me! This was my process:
- Dec 14: Birth control. Start two weeks of birth control to prepare my ovaries for stimulation.
- Dec 18: Baseline ultrasound. All ultrasounds I refer to are internal ultrasounds. This is to make sure everything looks good and my body is ready to begin ovarian stimulation.
- Dec 22: Trial transfer. This is sort of like a test run for the doctor in which they mimic the actual embryo transfer. The purpose is to measure the uterus, and see if there is any difficulty getting the catheter where it needs to go. It helps the actual embryo transfer to go as smoothly as possible. They inserted a catheter into my uterus, took their measurements and the whole thing was over in about two minutes. It was not comfortable, but not painful.
- Jan 3-14: Stimulation. Two weeks of stimulation via injection (a drug called Follistim) to make my ovaries grow a bunch of eggs. This injection is a tiny needle and goes in my stomach.
- Jan 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15: Blood draws. During the two weeks of stimulation, I had my blood drawn eight times to monitor my hormone levels. If they get too high because of all the drugs, you can be at risk for hyperstimulation and other complications, so they have to monitor it closely. I luckily had mostly really good nurses, but I had two days of a brand new nurse who did a terrible job. Terrible! See bruises below. Poor girl felt so awful and was really embarrassed.
- Jan 7, 9, 12, 13, 14: Ultrasounds. At each ultrasound they count the number of follicles your ovaries are producing and measure the size of each. I had about 20 good sized follicles at each appointment, and several smaller ones. When your follicles get to a certain size (around 18mm), they are ready to ovulate/be retrieved, so they monitor them closely to know when you’re ready for retrieval. They also measured my endrometrium lining during each ultrasound to ensure it was thick enough to receive an embryo.
- Jan 9-14: Ovulation suppression. Halfway through the two week stimulation process I started another drug called Ganirelix via injection. It tells your body not to release the tons of giant eggs it’s growing (ovulate). This injection also goes in my stomach but the needle is slightly bigger than the Follistim needle and left big bruises (see picture below).
- Jan 14: Trigger shot. This is another injection that goes in my stomach. It tells my body it can finally release all those giant follicles it’s been growing.
- Jan 14-20: Antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection during the egg retrieval.
- Jan 16: Egg retrieval. They knocked me out and stuck a needle into my ovaries while they are watching what they are doing on an ultrasound. They stick the needle into each follicle, one by one, where an egg has been growing. They suck all the fluid from the follicle into a test tube. In that fluid is an egg. Here is a good video that shows the process. They retrieved 34 eggs! That is a lot of eggs, I was really lucky.
- Jan 16-23: Hyperstimulation prevention medication. Since I had so many eggs, my doctor was worried about hyperstimulation so he started me on a medication to reduce my changes of hyperstimulation.
- Jan 16-31: Progesterone. I took this orally and vaginally twice a day. It helps your uterus be prepared for implantation and supports your uterus during early pregnancy.
- Jan 17: Embryologist called to tell me that 27 of my 34 eggs fertilized! This was great news!
- Jan 17-23: I took another drug twice a day during this time that, according to google, is supposed to assist with pre-embryo implantation. At this point I was taking so many pills I stopped paying attention to why.
- Jan 17-31: Baby aspirin. Again, I have no idea why I took this. To prevent blood clots??
- Jan 18: Swollen. I wasn’t actually hyperstimulated because I didn’t have all the other symptoms, but my stomach was super swollen. I looked like I was five or six months pregnant (see pics below) and I was very uncomfortable. I had to go buy new yoga pants because even my yoga pants didn’t fit me. I almost pulled out my maternity pants. This freaked me out because if you are actually hyperstimulated they cancel your transfer meaning you have to wait at least a month or two to have your embryos transferred back into you. Luckily my swelling went down the day before the transfer and the day of my transfer I was back to myself.
- Jan 19: Embryologist called to tell me that 23 of my eggs were still growing!
- Jan 21: Embryo transfer. They took two of my best embryos and transferred them back into my uterus. I began hoping for twins! I stayed in bed for a full 24 hours after the transfer. My mom was here taking care of Henry. I couldn’t/wouldn’t have done this without her here for him. And she cooked us tons of yummy food, and since I never cook, this was awesome.
- Jan 21: Froze one embryo. Only one was ready for freezing on this day and 20 embryos were still being monitored.
- Jan 23: Froze four embryos. That means that six of my 34 eggs turned into good embryos. I have no idea if those are good odds. Peter says that according to google that is about normal, but it seems pretty low to me.
- Jan 25: Started my period. For some weird reason I started my period FOUR DAYS after my embryo transfer while I was still on all my medications. FOUR!! That is highly unusual and there was no explanation for it. All the medications I was on should have prevented this, but for some weird reason they didn’t.
- Jan 31: Pregnancy test. Despite the fact that I knew it was negative, the doctor insisted on a blood pregnancy test.
So…this was a giant waste of time, money, and energy. Not just for me but also for Henry, Peter, my Mom, and all of my Texas friends/Henry’s babysitters. Also my sisters and my best friend who all live far away but still had to hear about it via text multiple times a day.
To be fair it wasn’t ALL a waste since we got four frozen embryos out of it, but it still felt like a waste. It is frustrating to know we have to start all over again. With four embryos we can try IVF two more times (two embryos per time) and then we’ll be done. I’m looking forward to that.