Our Fertility Journey Every Detail of what I can Remember

 EVERY DETAIL I COULD REMEMBER

IVF is all about timing. All of it. Your life is run by a strict calendar, a timer & an alarm.

I would tell you it’s also about trusting the process – even though you are WELL AWARE of what could go wrong.

You’re suppose to stay on top of every appointment, pill, injection, and procedure – and somehow stay very well rested, hydrated and not AT ALL stressed out. (um that’s kind of impossible if you ask me)

One of things that has been the most challenging through this journey is listening to people who I know mean well deep down but often come across as insensitive and judgmental to you. For example ever since my husband and I got married…its the when are you going to have kids question? or to this day..why don’t you have kids..you need to get on that!!

Please Please Please I beg of you..truly think about what you are saying to these amazing and strong women. You have no idea what their story is, their struggles, the road they are on. And for some going through fertility treatment, they are already second guessing every decision they make. Even when they have spent TONS of time praying through this and seeking wisdom… even when they know this is the right step for their family – they question if somehow they are acting too fast (even after YEARS of “letting go of control”) or maybe this isn’t the right thing to do.

Here is what you can do… Tell her about your experience PERSONALLY. And share whatever words you have that are going to show her that you support her, are praying for her, and know that in God’s perfect timing & in God’s perfect way – she is going to be so blessed with a child… and hey, while you’re at it – how about commending her for her bravery. Trust me, no one would CHOOSE IVF if there were another equally best option for her family.
IVF can be scary. On a lot of different levels. Be a support. Be positive. Know she did her due diligence before coming to this decision. And after all, this is her family. She needs your support – or she needs your silence.

 

My goal in this blog is to share my journey – from one important event to another – and to pass on a few things that really helped me along the way.

Quick recap in case you don’t know our story: my husband & I have been trying to start a family about a year into our marriage. I have been on birth control since I was 16 years old due to not starting or getting a period and never got off of it until a month before we were married in October 2015.  In May of 2016 my doctors office felt that it was time to start trying different ovulation medications because the problem seemed to be me not ovulating which led to the diagnosis of PCOS.  We initially tried Clomid and Femerra along with timed intercourse for 6-7 months.  Didn’t work. We then began testing. My husband did a semen analysis..all was good. We did genetic testing..all was good. I did a minor procedure where they check to see if my Fallopian tubes were blocked..all was good . All was pretty much normal. And it looked like the challenge was just that I didn’t ovulate and therefore every month an egg was not being released from my ovaries. I was referred to Shady Grove Fertility Center in Rockville. Based on my challenges they felt IUI was not even worth trying since my eggs don’t drop. For those that don’t know what  IUI is (intrauterine insemination) – they put the sperm IN the uterus so that it is as close to the egg as possible when it drops.  These procedures include pills, injections, timed procedures and DAILY suppositories for weeks.

We moved on to IVF. We began in January of this year. I am very fortunate to have insurance that covers three IVF cycles for every live birth 100 percent through my state insurance. This is not the norm for  many and often people are financially strapped when taking this on.

HOW IT STARTS {my version anyway}:

When you start your period – you begin birth control.

Opposite from what you would think to try to get pregnant!! RIGHT!!?

I’ve been OFF of birth control since we were married because I’m trying to HAVE a baby not prevent one! LOL!!! The irony.

You are taking birth control because you have to SHUT THOSE OVARIES DOWN. They can’t be doing ANYTHING on their own. You are about to pump your body full of incredible medications that WILL help your body produce these eggs – and the timing must be PERFECT.

So those ovaries need to be silent.

Once you finish your active birth control pills – its go time. I began this initial process in January and took the pills for 18 days.

The Next Step…

STIMULATION PHASE: 
You are now stimulating your ovaries. Think of it this way: you are taking your normal ALMOND size ovaries – and you’re about to grow them to the size of ORANGES. Yup. You feel it. In any NORMAL month in a NORMAL woman’s body – she produces ONE egg.

You’re about to produce WAY more than that. It varies depending on a LOT of things… (age, PCOS, hormone levels, dosage of meds, etc) but my body had multiple follicles..like well over 35 on each side. Again the issue wasn’t the eggs, the amount of follicles..it was getting one to drop during ovulation.

The stimulation meds I took were called Gonal F and Menopur.

These shots were done in the stomach daily. My first go at this I ended up having to stop the cycle in January due to my hormones levels rising way too fast. They had to adjust my meds the next go around and we took my levels very slow to get the eggs to the size they needed. My husband was such a trooper and did all my shots. I just couldn’t stab myself in the stomach daily.

 

 

I started Follistim & Menopur injections first. These are 2 stimulating medications. Sub-Q, meaning you pinch an inch around your mid-section and stick the short little needle in. Menopur burns. Icing the area before Menopur helped me a ton.

During the STIMULATION phase you are going to your doctor frequently. For me, this was every other day for an ultrasound & bloodwork. They need to be sure your ovaries are responding to the medication (almonds to oranges is the size they go to)  and they have time to adjust medications or lower dosages if needed & not have to interrupt the entire IVF cycle.

My cycle took much longer then most because I ended up having so many eggs in each of my ovaries. I think at one point I had over 50 in each ovary. (Crazy right?)

I eventually added Centrotide to my injection protocol. So, now, we have 3 pokes each day.

Your ovaries are doing their thing. You are producing lots of follicles (follies) which hopefully contain eggs. But… they need more time to grow and mature. The Centrotide makes sure you don’t ovulate too soon – before the egg retrieval, that would be a huge bummer. This new drug makes sure your ovaries hold on to those eggs and let them cook a little longer 🙂

You continue your frequent ultrasounds – where they measure your follies each time. When they have grown to a certain size – your doctor will then schedule your egg retrieval. You will be told WHEN to inject a new drug – your trigger shot. This is usually 36 hours before egg retrieval. It helps your follies to release your egg(s).

We eventually got to egg retrieval on April 4, 2017. The initially had me do a trigger shot called Lupron. We went in for the retrieval. My doctor had called me the day before and said that based on my bloodwork it is possible that the trigger didnt work. Sure enough another set back and when I woke up from the retrieval the eggs were not ready to come out. I was devastated. We triggered again that night..this time with a different trigger shot called Ovidrel. Retrieval was reset for April 6, 2017. This time retrieval was a success. We got 9 eggs out.

EGG RETRIEVAL:

I was sedated for my egg retrieval. Kris was able to go WITH me . No food or drink from midnight the night before – usual surgery prep stuff. We got to the clinic before anyone in the normal office was there.

From there it was all pretty basic and smooth.

Change into hospital gown + hair net + booties

Take vital signs

Start IV + fluids

Then they took Kris to do his part 🙂 and give a fresh sample. Because as soon as they retrieve my eggs – they fertilize the healthy ones.
They took me back, my fav doctor was doing my retrieval, so I never felt nervous. Just excited. The last thing I remember is them asking me to “SCOOT OVER” from my pre procedure to the procedure bed… and then apparently I was out. The procedure itself is quick – probably 15 minutes.
The next thing I remember is being back in that waiting curtain room & waking up feeling loopy in all my hair net glory.

I was given all these instructions and was told I had to lay very low for the next couple days.

All in all -for me, the egg retrieval wasn’t a big deal. I felt uncomfortable – but that was happening because of stimulation and my ovaries being so ginormous. No pain.

The embryologist called me the next day & told me only 2 fertilized normally! And then a few days later we were down to one!

Initially we were scheduled for a fresh transfer but the doctor felt it was best to do a frozen transfer.

AFTER EGG RETRIVAL:

This is where my body felt the most uncomfortable. After egg retrieval, I laid low for a few days, and then I was back to normal. I wasn’t doing any workouts that involved twisting or anything too intense at all. The day after egg retrieval I began Progesterone injections & Estradiol shots.

The stimulation injections are NOTHING. Well there not too bad once you get use to it.  Progesterone is an intramuscular injection. That’s the daddy of all injections. And it’s an OIL… so its thick. Lucky me, my husband did all of them for me. I even had my girlfriends help me out when we were away for the weekend.

I didn’t ice my booty before Progesterone because its an oil – and I felt like that may make it even tougher for the oil to get into the muscle. My husband warmed the syringe of Progesterone by holding it for a little while in his hand.

Injections into your muscle every single day – the soreness & some bruising is going to come, eventually. I think this routine helped me to hold off on the soreness for a while, though.

I ate some specific foods during this time & to prepare for egg retrieval. I don’t think its that important though. I am a big believe in God’s plan and I do believe when God is going to create a life – He’s going to do it. The day of egg transfer I did pre and post acupuncture along with eating pineapple five days after transfer.

EMBRYO TRANSFER:

This procedure was  Not a big deal. Set up like a pap smear. I had to have a super full bladder – helps with proper placement of the embryos. I did a pre and post acupuncture that day.   My favorite doctor, again, was going to be doing the embryo transfer. We transferred my only embryo –we of course were hoping for more to freeze.

The embryologist brought the embryo into the room and gave them to the doctor. {All I could think of is PLEASE DON’T DROP IT!!! haha} The doctor put in a little catheter up into my uterus and with an ultrasound over my tummy – I watched the little white flash on the screen as the embryos went into the correct spot. . The white flash we see on the ultrasound is actually the fluid – the embryo is much too small to see.

People in the fertility world may call you PUPO now (pregnant until proven otherwise). you do have to make every decision based on the fact that you ARE pregnant – for the safety of your embryo.

The WAITING PERIOD: 

Depends on your clinic & your doc – but after your transfer you are just kind of on your own until your first blood draw. This is new because you are used to going to your clinic every other day. You do your Progesterone injections & change your Estradiol every three days… and take good care of yourself.

You probably FEEL pregnant because you have been pumping your body full of pregnancy hormones for WEEKS now – but you just don’t know. You have cramping – but you’ve just been through many procedures & your ovaries may still be giants.

I visualized.
I prayed.

I cheated and ended up taking a test at day 9.

The ups and downs.

There is so much that any IVF patient could choose to complain about – but for me personally, I choose to only tell my husband about the negative stuff. I know what a privilege it is for us to be doing this. Yea, some people NEVER have to worry about any of this – but some people do. Either way, the purpose is for a child – and that is worth it. So protect your mindset & positivity – because that is EVERYTHING.

We ended up getting pregnant this first go HOWEVER we lost baby at almost 8 weeks. Out of all the struggles of this journey..this by far has been the hardest part. We were so excited, so hopeful and couldn’t believe that we had gotten here. We of course knew that miscarriage is more common early on in the first trimester and about 20 percent end in miscarriage due to genetic abnormality. After taking 6 tests-all positive, three rounds of blood work-all positive, we were excited. We got to see the heartbeat at 5 weeks which was a little low, first cause for concern. I ended up going back in a few days later because I was anxious about the heartbeat. Babies heartbeat went up so I was thrilled. The following Friday  my husband and I went in excited to see the heartbeat and our worst fears came true. Heart rate had drastically dropped and there was no way baby was going to make it. I was angry, disheartened, sad, disappointed. I ended up going in for a D&C the following Tuesday. I wont give you the rest of those details, certainly not a fun experience.

As the days go by, I continue to pray for peace, comfort and hope that we will have our baby one day.

Thanks for your support & encouragement.

Most of all, I hope this helps someone. I hope this relieves a little bit of the uncertainty and stress. And I hope that you know you are not alone.

 

Caitlyn