A real story about IVF.
Infertility…..It’s such a dirty little word, or at least it can feel that way sometimes. I don’t think you can ever really be prepared for that diagnoses. I know I wasn’t, my husband wasn’t. I knew there was something wrong, but until I woke up from my first laparoscopy, and heard the doctor say we wouldn’t be having children without medical help, I didn’t really think it could be that bad.
In total, we have had four IVF cycles in the last year. You may go through several different medical procedures and years before you get to the point of trying IVF, or like us, you may come to that point rather quickly. Either way, starting the IVF journey is a huge, scary proposition.
The very first step in all of it is to educate yourself. Do your research, find a doctor and clinic you are comfortable with and who will work with you as an individual, not as just another patient to run through a cycle. You will have to consider cost, distance, timing, family situation, and all sorts of other arrangements. Keep a binder; for notes, appointments and medical information. Start building a support network…family, friends, and others who are going through or have been in a similar situation. They don’t have to be doing IVF necessarily, just those that have been through infertility, those that have had medical help (IVF, IUI), those that have adopted. No two infertility journeys will be the same. Build a support group of people that are going through it at the same time and those that can hug you and tell you what it’s like on the other side of it all.
An IVF cycle is so dependent on various factors, that no two are alike…You will get over your fear of needles and injections, because that is one constant. You will likely learn to give yourself most of your subcutaneous injections, and if you are a real trooper you will learn to give your self the intramuscular injections in your hips or thighs. I was never this strong, my husband had to learn to give those. Depending on your prescribed cycle and infertility diagnoses, you may start off with days or even weeks of daily injections, and maybe patches, at some points I had up to 5 injections a day. These will always be done at the same time every day.
All these hormones are going to make you feel like a stranger in your own body. Some will make you gain weight, some will make you lose weight, some will give you headaches, some will make you break out, some will clear your skin up…It’s kind of a just wait and see situation. Get use to that…you will do A LOT of waiting. During the last week to week and a half of injections you will be in your doctor’s office every other day or every couple of days to have vaginal ultrasounds and blood draws. I personally wore dresses most of the time, they didn’t add any pressure to my belly, which was sensitive, and they meant I didn’t have to undress as much for the ultrasounds. You lose a lot of inhibition in this process, it starts to feel like everyone sees you up in stirrups.
Once you’ve done your days or weeks of daily injections, you get to do the BIG one. This injection is done exactly 36 hours before your egg retrieval, and because this must be timed just right…you may do it during the day or in the middle of the night. This shot, the trigger shot, causes ovulation to begin, and makes it possible for the doctor to retrieve all those precious eggs that you have worked so very hard to produce. This is generally done under anesthesia, and you may wake up feeling fine, or you may wake up feeling like you have been danced on by an elephant. I’ve had it both ways. Plan to take it easy for a few days. Once you wake up, they should be able to tell you how many eggs were retrieved and how many were mature.
This begins another long process of waiting. You should find out the next day how many of your eggs were fertilized. Depending on your clinic you may get daily updates, or they may come on scheduled days (ex. Day 3 and Day 5). IF you are doing a fresh embryo transfer they will generally do this on days 3 or 5 depending on how well your embryos are doing. If you have chosen to do preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) they will generally take a biopsy of your embryos on day 5 or 6 and freeze them at this point. Then you get to wait another week or two to find out how many of the healthy-looking embryos are chromosomally normal. Once the PGS testing results come back in, they will schedule your frozen embryo transfer (FET). Leading up to your transfer, you will begin the progesterone in oil (PIO) intramuscular injections, progesterone vaginal inserts, or a combination of the two. These will last until you either have a negative pregnancy test or if you have a positive, until you are around 9 weeks pregnant.
Once you transfer, whether fresh or frozen, you will generally have a two week wait (2ww), although some clinics do a 7-9 day wait, if you have transferred an older embryo (6 day). Honestly, the waiting is the hardest part of the whole process. At the end of your two week wait you will have a blood draw (another one, yay!) to check your HCG levels. Then you wait again, the amount of time for this wait depends on the clinic. I have had everything from a 2 day wait to a 2 week wait for the second HCG results. If the second results come back as doubled from the first results, you are pregnant! If not….it is time to take a deep breath, regroup, and start on plan B, C, or Y. You may choose to do another cycle right away, remain child free, just take a break, or start looking into adoption. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s right for you and your partner. People are going to comment on your choices no matter what, some will say it to your face, others will talk behind your back.
IVF is not an easy process. It will take so much out of you financially, physically and most of all emotionally. We did four rounds of egg retrievals, and three embryo transfers, with a total of 7 embryos. Some couples have embryos left to freeze and try again another time, we had over 40 eggs retrieved, no embryos reserved, and one healthy pregnancy. With all of that, I would still say we are INCREDIBLY blessed. I flew across country from the West Coast to Mid Missouri for our last two retrievals and successful embryo transfer and was in the airport headed home to my husband when I finally got the “Your Pregnant!” phone call. My husband and I would do it all again, even though it was one of the toughest times in our lives.
There are going to be times you are incredibly hopeful and other times you cry from the very bottom of your heart, not understanding why you and not someone else, why can’t it be easier. Those thoughts don’t make you a bad person, just human. Whatever you do, don’t live in that place. Happily ever after isn’t a straight, easy path, but the struggle is what makes you strong and what makes it that much more valuable.Whatever you do, don’t live in that place. Happily ever after isn’t a straight, easy path, but the struggle is what makes you strong and what makes it that much more valuable.