I realize that I have been offline for way too long, but I promise I have a good reason!
Besides the fact that work got insanely busy, I spent the last several months focusing on having a baby and if you are reproductively challenged, that can mean a lot of work.
Last July, Jeff and I embarked upon our journey of IVF. I was so moved by the outpouring of love and support I received after sharing my infertility struggles, that it only feels right to share this part, too. I know some of you are going through similar situations and I thought about how a lot of people don't talk about IVF once they do it. I thought it might be helpful to give the details on what to expect throughout the process. Being that it is such an in-depth process, this is going to be a long post, so bear with me.
To my surprise, the way to making a baby started with two weeks of being on birth control (I know it seems counterintuitive) to stabilize my ovaries and get my reproductive system nice and calm. I think this was one of the more challenging parts for me, as the birth control pill has always turned me into a mad woman.
The next step was starting my personal cocktail of drugs. I remember going into the pharmacy and walking out overwhelmed, and quite honestly frightened, with two grocery bags full of pharmaceuticals to last me a couple of months. There's so much that you have to take and at my dr's office they just give you everything up front, so you don't have to keep coming back. What's involved? Several different types of shots that stimulate your ovaries to produce more than just one egg, progesterone supplements, estrogen, claritin, baby aspirin ... and the list goes on.
At first I started out with two injections a day (which we chose to mix into one, so I'd only have to take one shot daily), but by the time day five or six rolled around I was taking three shots a night. It was exceptionally tricky because I was not one of those women who could give them to herself. Jeff became a master at it, but he had to be away for a week, so my girlfriends stepped in to help -- and in some cases, their husbands -- thank you ladies (and gentleman) so much!
I really wasn't that freaked out by the shots, as we had done them before with IUI. But by the second week of injections I was really exhausted, as I was spending two hours in the car, daily, driving back and forth for blood work and ultrasounds. Once you are on the injections, they monitor your estrogen and progesterone levels via blood work and the size of your growing follicles via ultrasound. Although the pelvic ultrasounds were not a highlight of my day, I did love my time with Helen, the lady who administered them. We always laughed, as she'd give me a note pad, making a joke or two as she called out how many follicles I had on my right ovary and how many on my left. I'd get excited as I wrote the numbers down, circling the largest ones, hoping they'd turn into good eggs. I'd call Jeff right after "we have three 17's, two 15's, three 13's and one 19!" Getting good quantity and quality follicles made me feel like an A+ student. It was progress and when you are going through this process, you always look at the ways you're moving towards your goal.
It goes without saying that during this stage I also had several meltdowns. I'm so thankful for my acupuncturist Mu, whose treatments kept me calm during this tricky time. My doctor was adamant about not overstimulating my ovaries, so my drug protocol was not too out of control, but by day nine I had had enough and it just so miraculously happened that I got the call that day that "it was time!"
|I took this picture just outside of my dr's office on the day we took our trigger shot|
That night we took our final shot and 36 hours later I went in for the egg retrieval. This was the part that frightened me the most. I don't like going under anesthesia and I had no idea of how my body would react to getting poked and prodded, as I had heard horror stories about women who got hyperstimulated. Not to mention, that when you wake up you have all of this anxiety about how many eggs they retrieved. I remember them wheeling me into the operating room and moving me over to the table. They couldn't knock me out before that, because for legal reasons, the embryologist had to come in and ask me my name before they could start. I looked up at the lights and then slowly started to take in the surgical room and the bravery I mustered up as I left Jeff was starting to wear off. My dr put his hand on my leg and said "everything is going to be great!" I took a deep breath and I was out.
I have to interject here and say that I honestly would not have been able to go through this entire process without Jeff. It's times like these that make you realize what your marriage is made of - it's the ugly parts, the scary parts - and Jeff was who he always is - incredible. He held my hand, brought me milkshakes, and told me everything would be okay and it was.
When I woke up, I started crying and telling Jeff how much I loved him and how lucky I was to have him. The drugs always make me super happy and therefore incredibly mushy, which is pure entertainment for Jeff. My dr came by and told us we had "a dozen eggs minus one." I nervously asked my dr "is that good?" and he said "Absolutely. It's what we wanted. It's about quality, not quantity." I knew other girlfriends of mine had double the amount, so I was worried. "Would this be enough? Would I have to do it all over again?" So, I took a breath and reminded myself that I really needed to be positive. My dr could not have emphasized that more. He told me that was a key part of this process. My friend Marcia gave me a mantra to say and it was what got me through the next couple of weeks. She said "you have exactly what you need." And I said that to myself every single day. I even put in on my cork board at work.
So then, we went home and waited. Ugh, the wait. Doing IVF was a true testament to patience, for I had to wait every single step of the way. Waiting to see how many follicles I had. Waiting to see how many eggs I got and how many of those fertilized. How many made it to day five. If you're not familiar with the process, you hope that your fertilized eggs make it to a blastocyst phase, which is five days of maturing in the lab. This gives you a better chance of having a successful implantation, because they watch the embryos to make sure they are developing properly - survival of the fittest. So for those five days, I waited. I tried to stay off the message boards, but in a weak moment (or five or twenty) I succumbed. I'd search "single embryo transfer" "bfp" (which is fertility code for big fat postive - there is a whole 'nother lingo out there for fertility) - I would get reassured by some, then others talked about miscarriage and round three of IVF, and I had to stop. It wasn't helping.
On day five, we went in and did the transfer and I have to say it was by far the easiest part of the process. It was super quick and painless and they gave me a valium, so I just felt good. It's kind of strange, because I got to see the pictures of our embryos and even though the dr said "this one looks really great," I wasn't sure. What did a great embryo really look like, anyway? It was sort of like staring up into the sky and seeing the clouds, and having them slowly morph into people or familiar objects. I've never said this before, but I thought our embryo kind of looked like a character from Phineas & Ferb (the valium was clearly kicking in here), but he said it looked good, so it was good. We luckily had several to chose from, but decided to only put one embryo back, which I felt a lot of pressure about. Everyone kept saying "you're going to put two back, right?" I understand why women do more, but for us one felt right and my dr leans on the conservative side if you are 36 or younger. The next thing we knew, this lucite box arrived with our embryo floating in a catheter that was suspended in mid-air. It was super fancy, which is I guess why they referred to the box as the limo. Needless to say, Jeff was super impressed with the science of it all.
|luckily I had the boys around to keep my company|
The saving grace of this was a visit from my sister to keep my mind busy for a big part of the week.
|it just so happened my brother was in town for work, too|
There was nothing left to do, I had no more say. They were either going to call and tell me I was or wasn't. Then around 3 pm my dr called and said those words I'll never forget "You're pregnant!" I immediately asked "can you please say that again?" He laughed and humored me with the repeated line. I was ecstatic. I called Jeff and was crying and probably freaked him out, but I was just so filled with happiness and so, so grateful, that I couldn't stop crying.
I had to go back two days later, so they could make sure my hcg (pregnancy hormones) levels were rising - and they were. Then I went back the following week to check again. Every step was a step closer. But, I have to say I had spent all of this time just focusing on getting pregnant, that I never thought about how vulnerable everything is in the first trimester. You have to get to a certain point before you can really go there emotionally. The following week we went in for our first ultrasound and saw the heartbeat. There just aren't any words for that. It quickly dawned on me that pregnancy, just like IVF - and I'm assuming parenthood - is just a series of waiting. Waiting to make sure they are healthy, that they are breathing, that they are safe.
We had one more ultrasound two weeks later, then my dr. announced "it's graduation time and time to move on to your o.b." It was so bittersweet, as this had been my home for the past 15 months. I knew everyone in that office by name. I felt like some of the nurses knew me better than my girlfriends did. We had a history. We had done this together. They had become my family and now I was leaving?
Luckily, I had an amazing o.b. lined up and she has already made me feel at home in the several weeks I've been with her. We went in a couple of weeks ago for our 12 week ultrasound and saw our beautiful little baby kicking away. And even though it feels scary to announce it to the world, we can actually start talking about - gasp - being pregnant!
This has been such a journey and I want to thank everyone who has supported us. We are blessed, for we have exactly what we need.