Our Journey with IVF

It  has been a whirlwind since September! The Birdies for Babies event was a great success. We ended up with 72 golfers and a ton of people who came out to support us at the reception. We are so grateful for everyone who contributed. This part of our lives will never be forgotten!

Once the event was over we waited until October to start our first IVF round. On October 25 we began our cycle which officially thrust us into the world of IVF. It’s a unique process and I now have a new appreciation for women and couples who have gone through the process (and some multiple times) before us. Since that date in October we have been on an emotional and physical roller coaster of the likes we’ve not seen since Eric’s cancer diagnosis in January. Being new to the IVF world we were not sure what to expect however we quickly caught on! Here is a run down on what we’ve been through over the last couple of months:

October 25 – Our cycle begins – I call Advanced Fertility Clinic to let them know we are ready.

October 31 – I am scheduled for a hysteroscopy or “mock transfer” to make sure I don’t have uterine polyps which could interfere with implantation. During a hysteroscopy the doctor inserts a series of rods from smaller to larger in order to stretch cervix which allows the doctor to access the uterus with a small camera. In my case this procedure was extremely painful; to the point that the doctor asked halfway during the procedure if I wanted to come back and repeat it under anesthesia. We decide to push through – after all, we knew there would be more pain to come. Might as well keep going! To our delight the test is negative for polyps and my uterus deemed ready to go. (It’s all very clinical isn’t it?)

November 1 – 11 – We are asked to start high doses of Vitamin D since my levels are so low; one 50,000 IU tab for three weeks. I start taking one baby aspirin a day. We also order over $1,500 in medications including (Follistim, a follicle stimulating hormone, progesterone in oil, progesterone capsules, Estrace, an estrogen pill, Medrol and Doxycycline, both antibiotics to prevent infection, Crinone 8%, another form of progesterone taken vaginally, and HCG, Human Chorionic Gonadotropyn or “the trigger shot” which is taken when they are ready to begin retrieving eggs.) For the past several weeks we have been storing donated medication called Cetrotide which is used to stop eggs from releasing to early. We are overwhelmed when we receive a box through FedEx. In addition to the meds the box contains a sharps container for the BILLIONS of needles they sent us. Ouch.

November 14 – An ultrasound is scheduled to see where my follicle count is prior to injections. We get a count of 44. An extremely high number for someone my age. Yeah!

November 16 – Medications begin! The needles are so tiny and cute. I decide to use my stomach as a dartboard. Seems the easiest to do. I start with Follistim in the evening 216 iui.

November 17 – Continue Follistim (Morning dose and an evening dose). The pen is easy to use!

November 18 – Continue Follistim. An ultrasound is scheduled for November 19

November 19 – Our ultrasound confirms that follicles are responding well. Eric is by my side. We are asked to decrease the Follistim slightly. We take a shot of low dose HCG – 6 iui

November 20 – Follistim continues and I take a total of 225 iui. HCG dose remains at 6 iui.

November 21 – Another ultrasound is performed. The ultrasound tech says my follicles look like “beautiful flowers”. 🙂 We drop our dose of Follistim to 75 iui. We take 7 iui of HCG and one cartridge of Cetrotide at 10 p.m.

November 22 – Another ultrasound! They are watching very close now. I’m told to take 150 iui of Follistim, 7 iui of HCG and another round of Cetrotide.

November 23 – Ultrasound! I take 150 iui of Follistim, 8 iui of HCG and one cartridge of Cetrotide.

November 24 – Ultrasound! Man this is getting old – but all for a good cause! My follies look amazing. Eric and I ask for a “photo” of our potential future babies. The tech obliges. We get the call later in the day that we have been waiting for – we are asked to take one more dose of Follistim 150 iui and our “trigger shot” at 8 p.m.! Here we go. The egg retrieval will be exactly 36 hours later. . .

November 26 – I wake up early to make sure I take my progesterone capsule in time as instructed by our team. Vaginally. Really? We drive to the clinic filled with anticipation and joy. Is this really happening? My follicles look great! I feel the bloat as they are so large. How many eggs will they get we wonder. We arrive to the “back” of the clinic. We feel special now that we’ve ‘graduated’ to this step! I’m asked to come there with a full bladder; no picnic in the park let me tell you. We’re ushered into a small waiting area with a few chairs, a gurney and a small table. The nurse comes in and explains that they’ll walk me into the procedure room and put me under anesthesia. The process will take about 10 minutes or so and then I’ll be wheeled back to the room to rest for about an hour. Eric in the meantime gets “relax” with some movies, coffee and magazines! What a deal. I drop off to ‘sleep’ and a moment later am back in the waiting room with Eric waiting to hear how the retrieval went. We’re told they found 25 eggs! WOW – I guessed 13. Eric guessed 27. A few minutes goes by when a nurse pops her head back in and says they found a 26th egg. We rest up, pray to God, take a bunch of crazy photos, cry a little bit and text our families the amazing news. We pray some more. The nurse gives me instructions on medications I’ll be taking post retrieval and sends us on our way. Our parts will be combined later tonight – and we’ll find out the next day how many are fertilized! I stay at home the rest of the day. The evening brings horrible cramping and pain. I’m doubled over and thanking God I didn’t go back to work. Tonight I take one Doxycycline to prevention infection. I also take one dose of Medrol. Baby aspirin continues.

November 27 – I am in massive amounts of pain from the surgery. After all, 26 follicles were punctured and aspirated. Makes a lot of sense to me. I stay home another day. I get the call from the nurse that 16 of our beautiful eggs were fertilized.  The doc says we are good for a day 5 transfer which means our fertilized parts will be much more developed by the time we get them. Now the big guns come out. Progesterone in oil is a bitch but it has to be done. The needles are ridiculous and I’m not sure what to expect. I’m NOT looking forward to it. 8 p.m. rolls around and we prep for the shot. Eric gets the syringe ready and I prepare my backside with ice. We watch a YouTube video to make sure we’re doing this the right way. I lay down on the couch and prepare for the worst. A second goes by. And another. And I’m wondering what the hell Eric is doing back there. “Are you done,” I ask with a cringe? “Yep, all done,” he says. Wha? It’s that easy? I could get used to this. (Think again sister. . . just wait.) If all goes as planned I’ll be taking this shot once a day for the next 12 weeks. I also begin Estrace patches. Three every 48 hours. These annoying little suckers come off  in my sleep, and cause me much stress. I dump the patches and opt for the Estrace pill (3x per day). We adopt “All for a good cause” as our mantra.

November 28 – THANKSGIVING! I’m feeling much better except for the fact I have this lump on my backside and it feels a little sore where the progesterone was injected. At least I’m better to the point I can make stuffing and cranberry sauce for dinner at Moms. Eric focuses his energies on making a delicious roast. One that he has never cooked before. Hmmmm. All goes well and we gather at the Gregory household around 2 p.m. Steph, Chris, and our nephews show up around 3 p.m. We’re nearly ready to eat. And boy am I hungry! We have a lot to be thankful for this year.  Doxycycline (twice per day), Medrol (once per day), Estrace (3 times per day) and Baby aspirin continue. Progesterone, and Crinone are administered in the evening. The shot is given on the other side tonight and boy does it HURT. Mom, Steph and I decided to go Black Friday Shopping as if I didn’t have enough excitement for one week!

November 29 – I’m glad I’ve taken these extra days off from work. I need to rest and relax. Estrogen, aspirin, Medrol and Doxycycline continue. Progesterone in oil is not my friend. No one is my friend. My emotions are all over the place. Eric is sad he has to do this for me but I think he is secretly loving this! 🙂

November 30 – We’re one day a way from our ET (Egg Transfer) experience! We can hardly contain ourselves. We have  no idea what to expect and what will happen. I ask Eric to make sure we take a video. Doxy and Medrol are stopped. Aspirin continues as does Estrace and Poopy Progesterone in Oil.  December 1 is TOMORROW. Our big day!

December 1 – We have to be at the clinic at 10:30 a.m. Today is much better than retrieval day. I don’t have to arrive with a full bladder and I don’t have to go under anesthesia. Today is when we welcome our little blastocysts! We’re having a Womb Welcoming Party! Upon arrival we enter our same waiting room and wait for the nurse to draw blood. The blood work she says is to check estrogen and progesterone levels. A cushy, warm lining is important! I am prepped for transfer and Eric and I walk back to the same room we did the retrieval in. The room is hot and a bit humid like a sunny beach in Florida at midday. Apparently embryos like the heat. After a few preparations, the doctor informs us we have two embryos he’d like to implant HOWEVER, he is gives us the option to implant three due to our age and a few other factors. Eric and I huddle for a brief moment and agree to three hoping we’ll get one beautiful baby out of the deal. (May the odds forever be in our favor!) The doctor obtains the blasts from the embryologist and deposits them in a small dish which he moves under a high-powered scope. Eric hangs back to videotape the TV which features our three tiny blastocysts. We can hardly believe they belong to us! In just a split second they are scooped up by a thin needle attached to a catheter and gently placed in what we hope will be their home for the next nine months. The process is surreal, inspiring, exciting and anxiety ridden. Again we pray that our little blasts will find their way around. Ushered back to our waiting room we hang out for another hour or so before we leave. We fawn over the photos of our embryos and send a flurry of texts to friends and family to update them on our progress. When the hour is up we exit the door from where we entered. We walk to the car and Eric opens the door. I take a seat knowing I hold special cargo; the ride home we fill with comments about God’s grace and about how blessed we are.

December 2 – We wait in agony! How are the blastocysts doing in there? Did they fall out? Will they fall out if they didn’t already? How small are they? Now what do we do? Fortunately my progesterone and estrogen numbers look wonderful. A victory! We will know tomorrow how many blasts are eligible for freezing. We both work through the day to keep our minds off the process. Progesterone in Oil shots continue and Crinone 8% begins.

December 3 – A phone call from the clinic lets me know if we have any blastocysts left over for freezing. One, the nurse says. A very good quality one. But one. For some reason I am disappointed and I immediately feel remorse. We are blessed to be here at all I remind myself. I call Eric to give him the news and we talk about what might be growing inside me as we speak. Today is hard. My fears, despite my faith, get the best of me. I wonder if our cycle worked and I cry myself to sleep. Progesterone, Estrace and Crinone continue.

December 4 – 9 – The next several days are filled with moments of extreme doubt, hope, fear, wild excitement and physical pain. The progesterone shots are doing a number on me and the pain only serves to remind all that we are going through. Most evenings, during and after the shot, I cry as Eric does his best to keep the pain at a minimum. By this time the progesterone has built up in the muscle in lumps that need to be massaged flat. It literally feels  as if I’ve been attacked by someone with a baseball bat. We struggle through our work days and come home to comfort each other through the unknown. It is out of our hands and yet we continue to worry and wonder. It’s the nature of being human I suppose. On Thursday December 5 I return to the clinic for blood work. The doctor is monitoring my progesterone and estrogen levels closely. Sometime on Friday December 6 I start to feel what I like to call “twinges”. They are minor and intermittent. They are below my belly and I notice them as being different. I am cramping as I would with my cycle about to start but the twinges keep me intrigued. I tell Eric something is going on. His face lights up and I see a smile cross his face. What is it he asks? Do you think you are pregnant? I think so. My heart does not leap however. I am cautiously optimistic. I refuse to get my hopes up so high only to see them smashed on the floor. I know it sounds drastic but this is what infertility is about. The ups and downs and all that is in between.

December 10 – TODAY is the day we have been waiting for! We wake early while it’s still dark. We’re anxious to hear the results of our first experience with an IVF cycle. Would our hard work pay off? Will we be heartbroken or walking on Cloud 9 later today? Eric heats up the car and we take off for the clinic at 6:30 a.m. for a 7 a.m. blood test. This is it. I tell Eric during the drive that something woke me in the night and told me it would be okay. I can’t pinpoint what it was, I said, but it was definite and it brought me a sense of peace. I wrapped my arms around my belly the night, cradling what I knew was in there. The blood test was routine. We were back on the road in no time, zipping towards home, towards work, towards the life we have lived together for the past 14 years. We held hands as we exited the highway. The sun shone on our faces and we began to cry together. We have been through so much this year with Eric’s cancer diagnosis and our infertility woes. We were NOT feeling sorry for ourselves but rather grateful for the gifts we had been given. We had to give this over to God and let him take over. And that’s what we did.

We head off to work and wait. Hours go by. I sit at my desk, a co-worker by my side. The phone rings and she looks at me and says, “Isn’t that your doctor?” Yes! It is. But I hesitate. I’m afraid to hear what the caller will say and yet filled with hope. I find a quiet place to answer the phone. Yes? “Hi Jennifer, this is Megan from Advanced Fertility Clinic and I have your results. I’m happy to say you are pregnant!” Her voice blurs as I take in the news. I have no words. The crush of anxiety washes over me and reappears as pure joy. I ask if I can call back. I need to call Eric immediately I say. Thank you so much I tell her. Thank you. Thank you. My tears come tumbling out as I place the call to Eric. Hi picks up and immediately asks if everything is okay. I ask him, “Are you ready to be a daddy?” The voice on the other end of the phone is one of relief and pure excitement. “Are you serious?” Eric says. This is our new reality!

Update. . .

I have to say that Poopy Progesterone in Oil will be with me for several more weeks but at this point I don’t care! We are pregnant – another beta test today, December 13, confirmed our upward trajectory towards a healthy pregnancy. We couldn’t be happier or feel more blessed. Eric’s 10 month oncology appointment is coming up next week and we continue to grateful that he has been given clean results. We now have a better understanding of where God wants us to be. We have work to do and we better get to it!

We are now officially 4.5 weeks pregnant which means our little one (or ones) are about the size of a peppercorn. As we continue down this path I will be changing my blog to reflect our journey through pregnancy and parenting. I hope you will stay with me! Encouragement and advice are welcome!

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