MY IVF Journey - so far
In August 2017 we walked into fertility center #1 and had our consult for IVF. We thought we would walk in, start the hormones, get a lot of embryos, choose a boy, and be on our way by December of that year.
I guess our naivety got the best of us, or perhaps it is better defined as hope? Whatever it was, that was the beginning of this most recent IVF journey. We did our egg retrieval and ended up retrieving six (even though scans showed 13). We were then left with three embryos, tested those, and got one "normal" female embryo. One was all we needed!
In December 2017, we did our first transfer. Then we flew to NYC for vacation (yes, during coldest winter recorded in years!). We waited, but I didn't rest like I now know to do. Although I didn’t workout, we took zero precautions other than abstaining from sex, which is pretty much all we were told to not do (and also not travel to Mexico).
I did my bloodwork in Chelsea at a local LabCorp. We heard back after touring the Museum of Natural History all day; it was a BFN (big fat negative - term used in the IVF world).
I was sad, confused, and a bit discouraged, but of course I wanted to try again right away! I talked to the nurse and she said for me to just get my period and then we will start hormones again. That was that: no consult, no trying to figure out what happened. It was just their protocol I suppose (this is where I begin to wonder about this fertility center’s way of doing things).
We jumped back in and had the same results after the egg retrieval except this time we had one "fair" male embryo and one "good" female embryo. The day of the transfer, April 2018, we found out our doctor wasn't going to be there. Granted, we never saw our doctor once during the countless appointments from January until April, so what did it really matter right? A very nice female doctor came in to the transfer room to introduce herself, and then quickly suggested we transfer both embryos (which we hadn't even thought about doing until that moment). We had 5 minutes to decide if we should do this or not. She seemed to be leaning towards transferring them both, so we did.
Eleven days later we received another call with yet another BFN. I was devastated and so hopeless.
We talked to the nurse (not the doctor for whatever reason) again and we decided to try IUI this time. IUI is where my follicles are stimulated with estrogen hormones, similar to those used in IVF. However, with IUI, as soon as you have 1-3 follicles at a mature size (usually 18-22mm checked via transvaginal ultrasounds) the sperm you are using (my husbands in my case) is inseminated into you at the doctors office using a syringe. You lay there for 20 minutes and you hope for the best during a 2 week waiting period. With IVF, once you have AS MANY mature eggs as possible you go in to the surgery center where the doctor surgically removes each mature egg. From there, the eggs are inseminated in a petri dish and for five LONG days you wait to see how many actually became embryos. Once this is complete, the suggested thing to do is to further test these embryos by taking a biopsy of them and sending this to a lab where they can see if the embryos are chromosomally normal. Once this step is complete you (hopefully) end up with at least one good embryo which is then able to be transferred into your uterus after starting hormone therapy for what is called the “transfer cycle.” The embryo is already 5 days old when placed in your body (in this case) which makes the wait time to find out if you’re pregnant or not only 11 days. IUI is MUCH less expensive than IVF. It usually ranges from $3,000-$7,000 where each full round of IVF (meaning hormones, surgery and transfer) ranges from $20-$35. SO we figured at this point we were not getting pregnant with IVF so lets try what worked for us seven years prior when I brought my twins into the world. (and let’s let our bank account rest a bit).
I waited to get my period (per usual) and we started injections, again. Every visit to the fertility center #1 was with a different nurse, but I figured they all talked to each other and reported back to the doctor, who hopefully made the final decisions. Maybe I should have asked more questions, but sitting there with my legs spread open every other day since September made me feel a little less human and a little more at the mercy of these people. I felt like I had to trust whatever they were saying since they were the experts, right?
"Good luck, and save the medications in case you need them next time." That's how they said goodbye to me the last visit before the insemination. My heart sunk. I don't want there to be a "next time"! This has to work, I thought… it’s been almost a year!
I shoved those feeling aside, as I had been doing this entire year, and put on a smile. "Thanks, I will" (“Thanks I will, BITCH” is what I really wanted to say at that point). I digress...
We arrived for the insemination about a week later. It only took ten minutes. It was Mother's Day that day, so we went to brunch. I thought to myself, this must be a sign, on Mother’s Day I get to create a new life!
Eleven days later, while in Hawaii celebrating my twins 7th birthday, I didn't get a call. I got my period. I called the nurse.
After over 1,000 injections and blood draws, two surgeries, and countless hours in the waiting room, Nick thought it was time for a break from IVF. He suggested six months, I said two, we agreed on three. That was that.
I started to feel a little better as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. After all, this was all on me, I felt. I’m the one with the infertile issue, I’m the one that has to "work" to make this happen, and I was tired of failing. I was also tired of being afraid of losing another embryo, a potential baby. So this break allowed me to shield myself for a few months at least.
I would work on fixing my thyroid, which was a mess because I have Hashimoto's disease and because of all the hormones I had been on for ten months. I would give my ass a break since it was numb and bruised from all the progesterone shots, and I would get back to my girls and me.
But the anger filled inside of me and the guilt soared. I felt like I had lost a year of my life. I shoved that aside, as I was used to doing, and found an acupuncturist. She changed my life that summer. I also decided to get my yoga certification with Core Power Yoga! That helped the summer go by tremendously. I had to take a lot of yoga, study, and practice teach which took up a lot of space. Between my girls and yoga I really didn't think about IVF much (at least not on a daily or hourly basis). When I started teaching Yoga Sculpt I felt like I really found myself. I finally felt like maybe this was the reason this baby hadn't come yet. So summer felt like a big accomplishment in a lot of ways.
When three months were almost up, my acupuncturist said I was healthy and my hormones were back to normal (normal for me, anyway). I called the nurse at fertility center #1 to set us back up with a consult. Turns out we didn't need a consult, she would call in the injections and I could start in a week. Wait, what? Just like that?! It didn't feel right; shouldn't we see the doctor? We haven't seen HIM in almost a year and we've failed now three times!
That's when I knew it was time to move on. We were being treated like everyone else; it was becoming a well-oiled machine. We came in, gave our $30k, and hoped for the best. We did that twice already, we did it again with IUI (although it was more like $5k for that), and now they wanted us to give another $30k and send us on the same path.
We quit that fertility center. They didn't seem to care – no one even followed up with me! Seems pretty wild to me, but then again I always felt like just another project for them, another dollar sign, another part of their machine. We learned a lot… it’s not really anything I really cared to learn, but we did. We became more proactive and assertive and found my current doctor who I LOVE (and who I see EVERY visit unless its only blood work).
This time we met with this doctor for two hours! He wanted to do a hysteroscopy on me (and was shocked I had never had one) to make sure everything looked normal in my uterus (this is a procedure where they biopsy my uterus and send a camera in there to look more closely). Thankfully it came back normal, but we insisted on moving forward with IUI rather than IVF. We were spent out to be honest and thought we could try IUI several times rather than throwing it all into one round of IVF. The doctor was not in favor of this because I had (and still have) a lot of follicles even without hormone stimulation. But Nick and I are hard-headed and to be fair had been through hell with all the IVF stuff in the last year so we went ahead with IUI anyway.
Maybe it was God’s way of saying I told you so, but on my last check in before the insemination we had to cancel the cycle OR move forward with IVF with the eggs I had. I had ten mature eggs so the doctors were afraid of an “octomom” situation happening. In other words, the doctor was right... maybe it's because I hadn't had much experience with an actual doctor or maybe its because the other FC didn’t seem to care about the egg count, but I thought we would be fine doing IUI. I was so mentally and physically exhausted though that cancelling the cycle was just not an option. We had also spent a lot on injections so we continued with IVF. We used the eggs I had and hoped they would be good enough since we didn't do any IVF stimulation.
I went in for surgery in October, and we got eight eggs! Nick and I continued on our own path and decided that we would not test these eggs through PGS testing (basically we would not be finding out if they were good eggs chromosomally speaking. The doctor advised against this since we could run the risk of a miscarriage by not knowing if the embryo had all the right chromosomes, but at that moment that seemed so far-fetched to us!
We did the transfer on December 4, 2018. I felt SO different during these 11 days of waiting. My boobs were SO sore, I had cramps, I was napping, and peeing so much! But I was trying to stay cautiously optimistic (that seemed to be everyone’s favorite term for this waiting period).
We got the call and I threw the phone to Nick. He found me sitting in the closet LOL where he told me we were pregnant!!! I had never felt that amount of joy (other than when my girls were born) in my life. We did it! We finally did it!
We changed our upcoming travel plans from Mexico (where the Zika Virus was prevalent) to Hawaii, and it was the most relaxing vacation ever. We came back and heard the baby's heart beat! We cried so many tears of joy and finally brought the girls in to see the ultrasound and told them we were having a baby in August! Both of my girls cried; they had been so worried about me because they just kept seeing me go in and out of the doctor’s office for over a year, not knowing why. That was the most amazing moment for me; to see the emotions come out of seven-year-olds this way was incredible to witness (again so beyond thankful we have them).
We then flew out to Tulsa, OK to visit my grandparents who recently were moved to a nursing home. I wanted to tell them in person as I was seven week along and everything was in order; everyone was overjoyed.
The day we were coming back home, however, I got really sick. I didn’t remember ever having this bad of a cold, with a fever and a non-stop cough. We went in for our last scan at fertility center #2. This was supposed to be our "graduation" day where we would then go to my regular OB following this appointment. I had already made my 10-week appointment with the OB. We didn't know the gender this time since we didn’t test the embryos to see if they were normal so we were very excited for that gender reveal in a few weeks!
But a few minutes later my world crumbled, again. This time I couldn't even breathe. Nick held me so that I didn’t fall off the chair. My legs were still in the stirrups, my pants were on the floor. I was having a miscarriage, the baby had stopped growing.
We left the doctor’s office through the back door. They called in the pill for me to take to be able to miscarry at home, I bled for hours. I was told to try to catch any mucus and place it in a jar so that they could potentially test the mucus to see why I miscarried, although the doctor was and still is very confident that it was because the embryo was not normal.
A week later I went in to see how everything looked, I still had a lot of particles in my uterus. I had to take the miscarriage pill again, this time I bled all night long. I went through 4 pairs of pants, I bled through the sheets and I still tried to capture particles for them to test (since I hadn't caught enough apparently). I didn’t sleep and in the morning I couldn't walk because I had lost so much blood.
The next three months were torturous. I had to come in every week to see if my levels were dropping. My HCG levels (the pregnancy hormone) were very high and unfortunately there is nothing anyone can do to make the levels drop quickly. I just had to wait, and if you've ever gone through this you know the waiting is the worst.
Finally in March my levels were at a negative. I was elated! We had two embryos left (which we defrosted and tested and re-froze) and one was normal. The doctor wanted to do another hysteroscopy to make sure my uterus was back to normal. He put the camera in and was about to scrape. He stopped and told us we needed to have a D&C (A dilation and curettage procedure, is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated so that the uterine lining (endometrium) can be scraped with spoon shaped tool to remove abnormal tissues, in this case left over tissue/matter from the pregnancy).
I was devastated… this had to have been the longest miscarriage in history.
I had the surgery a week later. I had to wait another month before we could start injections for this next transfer. We went to NYC (if you haven't noticed I'm obsessed so we go a lot). It’s my happy place, and it helped me to be there. We came back ready for this transfer. I got pregnant last time so it had to work again, and the embryo was normal this time.
Injections came, the transfer was "beautiful" according to the nurses, and we waited again. This time we got a call, another BFN. Once again my world crumbled. Notice the pattern? Mourning another loss again. I didn't think my heart could survive this one. We also didn't have any eggs left. I would have to start over. I threw my hands up and said "I'm done."
Nick all of a sudden became my voice of reason. Granted he had always be on board with whatever decision I made but he knew how badly I wanted this. So we talked and agreed that we need to give this another shot (no pun intended but hey why not). "We need to do everything the right way, the doctor's way, and I know it will happen,” he thought.
So that’s what we did. My injections started to stimulate egg growth and they added another injection halfway through the process to make the eggs stronger. I had the surgery and had 12 eggs retrieved! More than ever! Of course we knew they don't all make it, but it was a good number to start with. We ended up with six fertilized eggs! We tested them this time (although we didn't want to know the gender), and we ended up with three good normal embryos! So now we knew, this was going to work. Nick started talking about a fourth baby! I was so excited, so sure, and so was he.
We did the transfer in early August. This was our fifth transfer. Everything went well. ALL of my symptoms came back; in fact they were stronger than ever before! My ass was so numb and in so much pain but it didn't matter. The physical pain never seems to matter during all of this; its funny I feel like my pain tolerance has risen so much. Anyway, I was sure.
We got the call. This time the doctor was on the other end so I knew right away it was a BFN. My world collapsed again.
So here I am now, today, fall of 2019. Waiting to go through an MRI of my uterus and another hysteroscopy because now we want an answer. Now my faith has sailed away and I know I can't mentally and emotionally endure another loss. So in the meantime I thought maybe I could connect with someone, even if it was just one person to make them feel like they aren't alone. Which led me to my little pink computer. Funny enough this has been therapeutic for me! Not to sound selfish but its been nice to get this all out. There is SO much more to say, so I’ll keep writing. I’ve realized that this is my journey and in the end I'll look back and it will all make sense (I hope). But for now I have to embrace the beauty behind it all, embrace my growth and my new outlook on what is best for ME. But also by sharing, hopefully I can make one other person feel like their journey can be a beautiful blunder too.