No one starts out trying to conceive (TTC) thinking about IVF. When my husband and I decided it was time to get pregnant, my daughter from a previous marriage was 9... and she was a birth control baby, so at 34 years old, I expected to be pregnant in no time at all.
However, my journey wasn’t so easy. After almost two years of trying naturally, a tube removal, three failed IUI’s, and a suspected ectopic that resolved itself, later, my doctor told me it was time to try IVF.
The process is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, but even with an only 40% chance of success, I didn’t care... my heart ached to have a baby with my husband, and I would have done practically anything.
There are many different protocols, mine was pretty standard and this is how it’s supposed to go:
This is how mine went:
That first time of giving myself a shot in the thigh was pretty traumatic. My husband was at work and I called him for some moral support. He wasn’t much help “just stick it in your leg,” so I hung up on him. I then kept putting the needle at my skin and chickening out... thinking to myself that this was crazy! I finally managed to do it, by squeezing my thigh and slowly and easily adding more and more pressure until the needle finally went in. Really? It was a piece of cake, didn’t hurt, it was just a mental hurdle. After that, in a weird way, I looked forward to my shots... it was like a daily reminder of what all this was going to bring us... a baby.
Lupron is nasty stuff. It pretty much forces your body into early menopause. Side effects vary, but for me... I was moody, bloated, gaining weight like crazy and the HOT flashes... OMG... the hot flashes. I would wake up soaking with sweat. I would be going about my day and a hot flash would hit me from nowhere. And, lucky me! The dosage I was on wasn’t enough to keep my body from ovulating on its own. It is extremely rare for someone to ovulate while on Lupron...”impossible” was what the nurse said when I asked a month or so before. Yeah, NOT impossible.
After my cycle was cancelled, there was a bit of a panic waiting for my period. On doctor’s orders, my husband and I had sex (ya know... to clean out the pipes) the night before I found out I was ovulating on my own... 14 eggs ovulating on their own. Odds were slim, I only had one tube and the doctor thought it probably didn’t work, but the possibility of getting pregnant with a football team was a scary thought! And, like a true infertile couple, we had the conversation...”should we have sex again?” Maybe we could catch one (or 5) of those eggs and get to skip the rest of this awful process. We decided to not take the chance.
Turns out, we didn’t need to worry. My period came 5 days later when my hormones crashed. If there had been the beginnings of a football team, they had nowhere to implant.
I started the protocol all over, with the exception of skipping the birth control pills. After two weeks of Lupron injections, I went for an ultrasound.... I had over 10 estrogen producing cysts. Cancelled again.
It had been four months trying to get through one cycle of IVF. Depressed doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling. I was a fat, depressed, hormonal, hot (literally) mess. However, I was a fat, depressed, hormonal hot mess that wasn’t giving up. I just wanted to get through the entire process once and I didn’t care how many tries, or how much money it took to get there.
I waited another cycle and started the protocol all over again, with an even higher dosage of Lupron. My doctor guaranteed I wouldn’t be ovulating early this time. The problem? I was only going to have six mature follicles. Six may sound like a lot, but just because six are retrieved, doesn’t mean that six will fertilize. And normally, all that fertilize don’t turn out to be embryos that are suitable to be transferred. My RE only transfers blastocysts... that’s a 5 day embryo. My odds of having two blastocysts out of only six eggs weren’t so great. I almost cancelled myself. Wouldn’t that have been funny....
The day for my egg retrieval finally came! I took my prescribed valium for the 100 mile drive to the clinic…praying there was no accident on the Interstate to make us late and miss the window for retrieval. By the time we got there, I was high as a kite and giggling my head off. They took me into the procedure room, hooked me up to IVs and gave me a twilight sedative and off to sleep I went. They sent my husband to a room with some magazines so he could do his business.
The actual retrieval process is pretty gruesome, I think. Basically an ultrasound guided needle goes through the vagina wall, finds a follicle and sucks out the contents, along with the egg. I’ve read about this being done in other countries without sedation and, yeah, no way... just the mental picture of that hurts. It’s amazing what women will put themselves through for the chance of having that precious little bundle. Anytime my husband needs a reminder of what I went through, the phrase “needle through vagina wall” shuts him up pretty quick! Heh!
I was pretty sore for the next couple of days. And bloated. With egg retrieval came the risk of Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and it can vary from a nuisance to slightly dangerous to deadly, in extreme cases. I was instructed to eat and drink food with lots of sodium to help flush extra fluids out of my system. I also had to weigh myself daily (yuk), any gain of over 3 pounds and I was to call the doctor right away.
The morning after egg retrieval, the doctor called my husband with the fertilization report. They retrieved eight eggs. Six were mature and five fertilized normally. All in all, that was an excellent result for us. Waiting the next four days until transfer day was pure torture. I thought I would get an update along the way as to how my little embryos were doing... but no such luck. I called once and was told if there was nothing to transfer, they would call me the morning of the transfer and let me know. Torture!!
The morning of the transfer, I was scared to death of the phone ringing...and certain that they’d wait until after we made the 100 mile drive to tell us that we had to just turn around and go home. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. The doctor came in and showed us a picture of two perfect blastocysts... the results after five days of my eight eggs. My husband got to sit in and we watched via ultrasound the embryos being transferred into my uterus. It’s really pretty amazing.
And then? We get to wait again. My pregnancy test was going to be in 9 more days.
Everyone that is TTC knows the pull of the stick. POAS is its own science. However, when it comes to IVF, it’s a bit different. The shot of HCG to force ovulation stays in your system for a while. It varies for everyone. It can be gone as soon as a week or stay as long as 12 to even 14 days. That meant for me, at 4dp5dt (four days past five day transfer or nine dpo) that positive that was showing up on the stick was just more uncertainty. Was I pregnant? Or was there still HCG from that shot in my system? Same question for the positive on 5dp5dt.
The morning of 6dp5dt, I had my answer. Negative.
However, that afternoon, I started feeling not so hot. One thing they tell you is that pregnancy can make OHSS worse. And even though my bloating wasn’t bad enough that I needed medical attention, the fact that I was starting to feel bad was a clue and I had to get home and POAS as soon as possible.
Positive! I then grabbed the negative from that morning and squinted at it. Although it had definitely been negative within the time limit, after drying I could see the faintest of lines.
The next morning, 7dp5dt, positive again! And darker! The positive on 8dp5dt meant I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I called the nurse to confess I’d been POASing early. Could I please go for the blood test today?!
The beta results for 8dp5dt (13 dpo) was 93. I was pregnant! But now, we got to wait again... and wonder... was it just one? Or two?
I was pregnant with twins. I lost Baby B at 9 weeks 4 days. My perfect daughter, Peyton, was born at 38 weeks 6 days gestation, weighing 6 lbs 3 oz and 19 1/2” long.
IVF was such a blessing for us. Sure, it cost us $20,000 and turned me into a lunatic for a relatively short period of time, but just being given the chance was worth all of it. Every. Single. Bit.
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