Sharing my IVF journey and the long and painful infertility battle that led to three rounds of IVF, lots of heartbreak but eventual success!
My IVF Journey
It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I first shared my Infertility Story with all of you. Since then, it certainly hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. You know the saying “Time flies when you are having fun”. Ya, not the case at all here unfortunately. In my last post, I left off after our fifth failed medicated cycle. We went on to do what felt like an obligatory sixth cycle. It resulted in the same thing as every other medicated cycle, a big fat negative.
By sharing my story publicly, it felt like a huge weight being lifted off of me. So many amazing women reached out to me sharing that they too have struggled with conceiving their children and others just offered their support. I have always been open with family and close friends about our struggles, but opening up in such a public way was something entirely different.
At this point I was mentally prepared for IVF. As hard as it was to believe that I was “one of those people” who had to resort to such drastic measures to become pregnant, I was ready to do whatever it took.
I got started with the process in September of 2016. The first step was signing contracts and forking over lots of money. One of the many significant costs of IVF was medications. I was scared to see how much they would end up costing. I had heard from other women that they paid between 3 to 7 THOUSAND dollars just for their meds on top of the $12,000+ the cycle costs. I knew I had good insurance though, so I was hoping for the best. I checked with multiple pharmacies around the country and my regular pharmacy, Fairview Specialty Pharmacy in Minnesota, was the most affordable. I highly recommend them to anyone who orders lots of medications because they do the best job of finding you every possible coupon and they ship them overnight for free!
At the end of the day, tens of the thousands of dollars in medications ended up costing me less than $1,000. I know it’s sad that so much money seems like a bargain, but compared to what most couples end up spending, it definitely was! I am so grateful that I have the job and insurance that I do while going through this process.
I was familiar with big boxes of medications arriving on my doorstep each month for my previous medicated cycles, but IVF meds made those previous cycle’s meds pale in comparison and look like child’s play! Two huge boxes arrived on my doorstep and after I unboxed it all and arranged it on my kitchen counter, I took a moment of pause. The sheer amount of medications, needles and syringes took my breath away. Was I really about to pump all of this into my body over the course of just a few weeks?!
Before I could get started with these medications, I had to make an appointment with the nurse in Fargo. She had to teach me how to mix and inject myself with these various shots. The idea of mixing and drawing my own shots terrified me. In previous cycles, I only had one shot each cycle and it was pre-filled and ready to go.
After getting over the initial shock, excitement at a new opportunity set in. I happily injected myself with shots and I took my pills each day like clockwork. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I initially thought.
My husband basically only had two things to do in all of this IVF prep, cut a check for $12,000 to our clinic (which didn’t include any of the costs of monitoring ultrasounds and blood work) and provide a backup semen sample. Instead of having to make a six hour round trip just to deposit some sperm, they actually shipped us a deposit box. This was and still is so bizarre to me that you can mail a semen sample, but you have got to love modern conveniences!!!
One morning I dropped the big insulated box off at UPS. As I was standing in the tiny little UPS office in our small town, ready to ship my package, an old man came into the office and stood behind me in line.
I had the box all labeled and ready to go and the lady working behind the counter asked me what was inside. Ummmmm…. “a human specimen”. LMAO I am such a dork, but that was the first appropriate answer to pop in my head. I am sure my face was the color of a tomato at this point. She told me I needed to be more specific…dammit! “Sperm” She looked slightly surprised, but went to work processing the package.
I paid my bill and got the hell out of there. I immediately called my sister and we laughed our asses off. I can only imagine what that poor old man behind me was thinking of me shipping sperm in the mail! The conversations they must have had at coffee break the next day…
Next up, we received our medication/egg retrieval outline and it was time to get down to business!
I made the four hour round trip to Fargo every few days to monitor the growth of my follicles with enthusiasm. I watched as my ovaries, normally the size of walnuts, swelled to the size of softballs. The ultrasound tech counted 36 follicles at my very last checkup. Needless to say I was a bit uncomfortable at this point. It literally felt like I was walking around with two big water balloons sloshing about in my lower abdomen. I had to give up golf because I was ordered by my doctor not to do any twisting or bouncing. My over sized ovaries could get twisted and potentially have the blood supply cut off to them which is terrifying. This also meant I couldn’t sit on the lawnmower for 3 hours every few days to mow the lawn either. The hardships I tell you… 😉
The good news was that I responded wonderfully to the medications and had high hopes of success! Some women only end up with a handful of eggs to work with and aren’t left with any good embryos at the end of this long process.
The only downfall to responding so well and producing so many eggs is that I became at high risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. My estrogen had climbed too high with all of the follicles produced, so I had to change my trigger shot to Lupron instead of the standard HCG. The reason this trigger isn’t standard protocol, is because the medication makes your estrogen and progesterone plummet. You need those hormones to sustain a pregnancy, so I would now have to take intramuscular injections of progesterone, three progesterone suppositories and multiple estrogen tablets each day after the embryo transfer until 12 weeks of pregnancy to replace those hormones. I expected this result with my PCOS though, so while it was disappointing, it wasn’t a surprise.
I gave myself the trigger and headed to Maple Grove the next morning for the anticipated egg retrieval. I waddled into the waiting room with my overgrown ovaries. They hooked me up for the IV and my husband and I waited to get started. It would be just the beginning of so much impatient waiting on my part!
My husband was called off to contribute a fresh sample. The mailed sample was only a backup that would be thawed in case he couldn’t live up to the pressure on the big day. Luckily that wasn’t an issue. He returned after his painless part was done and finally the time had come for me to make my way to the retrieval room with the nurse. My husband stayed back in the prep room and was able to watch a live feed ultrasound of my egg retrieval.
They started my IV of medications including Fentanyl and I immediately relaxed…a little too much perhaps! I tried my best to pay attention to the monitor showing the doctor extracting the liquid in each follicle with a vacuum system. My eyes were buggy from the drugs and I struggled to concentrate. The doctor transferred the liquid from the follicles through a small window into an adjacent room where the embryologist counted off out loud how many eggs they found. I was drifting in and out of consciousness from the anesthesia and couldn’t keep track. I lost consciousness after 16.
I woke up as the procedure concluded and they informed me that they retrieved 23 eggs. I knew, given my PCOS, that not all of the 36 follicles would contain eggs and that some of them would just be cysts. I was hoping for a minimum of 20 eggs so I was satisfied with the 23.
The embryologist performed a procedure referred to as ICSI on my eggs, by taking a microscopic needle and inserting one of my husband’s sperm into each individual egg. This procedure is done to increase the fertilization rates and increase your odds of having more viable embryos. Things like this really make me pause and take note of the amazing medical advancements that allow women like myself a chance at having children!
After the procedure concluded, I was checked to make sure I didn’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia and we were released. I was still a little bit sore from my swollen ovaries, but was feeling reallllllly good from the Fentanyl. My husband drove us the 3 hour ride home and I felt like I was still floating on a cloud the whole way from the fantastic medications.
That night I had to give myself my first dreaded Progesterone in Oil shot. This shot is notorious in the IVF world as being very painful. I was told that someone else would have to give me this shot every night because I couldn’t do it myself. It has to be injected into the muscle of your upper buttocks.
I am surprisingly flexible for a big girl and more importantly determined. I had an aunt who is a LPN and lives just a minute away and a next door neighbor who is a nurse practitioner. Either of these ladies would be more than qualified and willing to help me out with the shots seeing my husband is a needle phobe, but I don’t like relying on anyone but myself. I numbed the shit out of my ass with an ice pack and drew the thick oil into the syringe. I laid down on my bed and twisted my hips around. I had the needle ready, holding it at my numbed injection site. It took me about five minutes before I gathered enough courage to shoot this big fat needle into my ass. After it was done, I was completely relieved because it was virtually painless. It wasn’t near as bad as everyone made it out to be!
What was painful, was the waiting game that had now begun. We would receive a voicemail message 2 days later with our fertilization report and be informed of whether or not we would be doing a 3-day or 5-day transfer. If your fertilized embryos aren’t doing well and starting to die off, they would do a 3-day transfer. The reasoning is that your womb is a much better incubator than the lab, so if you only have a few viable embryos left shortly after retrieval, then you may as well hurry up and put them all back. Obviously, we didn’t want to hear that we had to do a 3-day transfer, because that would mean our embryos weren’t very good quality.
You might be wondering why anyone would want to do a 5-day transfer if your womb is a better incubator. The reasoning is that they can weed out the bad embryos that die off over the next few days and transfer only the best possible embryos, resulting in better success rates.
I knew that my nurse usually left messages in my IVF voicemail box around noon, so at about 11am I started calling and checking my voicemail like a crazy person hopping to hear good news. I finally got the voicemail and we found out that our embryos were doing great and we were scheduled to do a 5-day transfer…on my birthday no less! What a completely amazing birthday gift after all these years.
Now we needed to make the difficult decision of transferring one or two embryos. I had educated myself about the risks of twins and was willing to take that chance. I would be thrilled to have twins, but more importantly I knew with my PCOS there was a good chance some of my embryos wouldn’t take. Therefore, we would be transferring 2 embryos.
My birthday came and we made our way to Maple Grove, MN again to do the transfer. The transfer is the easiest part of this entire process. It is the equivalent of a pap smear in terms of how invasive it is. My doctor did a quick measurement of my cervix and gently maneuvered the two best embryos in place. Now it was up to the embryos to do their thing and bury into my uterine lining.
Meanwhile, we were anxiously waiting another important phone call. The next day they would let us know how many of the remaining 11 embryos were good enough to freeze for future cycles. This was hugely important, not only for the sake of finances, but for the emotional security of having a backup plan if this first round didn’t work. My magical number in my head was that I wanted at least four to freeze. This would be enough for two more frozen cycles.
We got the call. We had exactly FOUR embryos that looked great and would be sent off for cryopreservation! While I was slightly disappointed more didn’t make it, I was grateful to have the ones we did.
At this point, I really started to think about the reality of things. We started out with 23 embryos. That is 23 lives that were created. Only six of them survived and would even have a chance of making it to full term. 🙁 There is a lot of grey area in reproductive technology and it makes you look at things a little differently than most people. My husband and I had decided early on that if we had any extra embryos leftover at the end of this process, we would donate them to a couple who were unable to create any themselves.
I didn’t have a blood HCG (pregnancy) test scheduled for another two weeks and I knew I would never make it that long without peeing on a stick. I had done my research and it seemed that most women who got a positive after IVF typically got it 5 or 6 days after their transfer.
On the fifth morning after transfer, known as 5dp5dt in the IVF world, I peed on a stick. My heart raced as I waited the five minutes. I have played this game so many times before, but there was so much more at stake this time. There wasn’t just the $13,000+ at stake, it was starting to be the end of the line for me. IVF needed to work!
The 5 minutes had passed and I began analyzing my cheap pregnancy test. I squinted and looked hard…and I thought I saw the faintest of lines! I took a picture and increased the contrast and saturation as far as it could go and I could in fact see a little something. I became cautiously excited. It was still a little too faint to have faith it wasn’t just an evaporation line. The next morning I repeated the same process. This time the line was a bit darker and clearly visible to the naked eye. There it was, almost 3 years later, I was FINALLY pregnant again!!!
My husband was out in South Dakota for a contract he was working on and I wasn’t patient enough to wait for him to come home a couple days later to deliver the good news. I called him right away and told him we had a positive. He was ecstatic!
I continued peeing on pregnancy tests like a crazy person a couple times a day to make sure they kept getting darker. I noticed early on that my tests weren’t getting dark very quickly. This began to cause me some concern. I almost skipped out on the Family Feud auditions with my family because I was in such a funk. The last couple days I was getting what seemed like lighter tests and I was sure I was having a chemical pregnancy. This shit was causing me far too much anxiety at this point.
Next up was the HCG test. They would test my levels at 14 days after transfer and again at 17 days after transfer. They want to see the HCG level doubling every two days to ensure it isn’t a chemical or ectopic pregnancy. My first number came in at 274. It was low…
I was disappointed with the number and began guarding my heart preparing for the worst. But in the next breath, I very quickly started to convinced myself the first number didn’t mean much and what was really important was the amount it increased by in two days. This is what everyone in the IVF world says after all.
The next number came in and it was 1,230. I was thrilled! That was a beautiful rise, doubling more than every two days. Thank goodness, finally some good news!
After having a good rise in HCG, my nurse went ahead and let us schedule an ultrasound. They allow you to schedule them as early as 6 weeks with IVF, one of the very few perks. I knew from my research though, that at 6 weeks lots of people don’t see the heartbeat just yet. At 7 weeks, almost everyone sees the heartbeat if there is one. I decided to wait the extra week so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy wondering if we had just gone in too soon.
In the mean time we told our parents that we got a positive. They knew that we were undergoing this procedure so it seemed silly to keep it a secret from them. It was fall at this point, so my mom made us caramel apples to congratulate us with. Who wants cake when you can have homemade caramel apples?!
After what seemed like months, but was in fact only a couple of weeks, the day of the ultrasound was finally here. I took the day off of work, because I knew no matter how this went, I wouldn’t have the focus and concentration to get ANY work done. We made the 30 minute drive to our morning ultrasound with my stomach in knots. I was day dreaming about the possibility of there being a heartbeat and the sheer joy that would bring…or maybe even the possibility of there being TWO heartbeats! I was also preparing myself for the worst given my initially low HCG results.
My husband and I were called back to the ultrasound room and I did my thing getting ready. I had done so many ultrasounds up to this point that I can’t even count them all anymore. It was second nature at this point. The nurse began the process and my head was plastered to that screen. She started making her way around, looking for the pregnancy.
The single black hole struck me like a pile of bricks on my heart. I had seen this before and I knew exactly what it was. Another blighted ovum (miscarriage with no more baby in the placenta).
In a meek voice, I asked the ultrasound tech to confirm what I already knew, “There isn’t anything in there, is there?”. She gently responded, “no”. I truly tried to hold it together, but I just couldn’t. The tears began streaming down my face and I started shaking from sobbing so hard. I couldn’t believe after all of this, here we were left with the same heartbreak as before.
I cried the entire ride home and for the remainder of the day I mostly just laid on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I was angry, I was sad, I was empty.
I texted my parents and sister to deliver the bad news. I couldn’t bare having a conversation with anyone. I ignored their returned phone calls later that morning. That evening, after my parents had a chance to process the news themselves, they stopped by our house unannounced. My mom brought me Reese’s peanut butter cups and my dad brought me hugs and tears. It was exactly what I needed.
Over $13,000, 6 months of preparation and all my hopes and dreams were crushed. With this further disappointment I started to question whether or not this would truly ever happen for us. I had nothing to show for this intrusive process…except for 4 frozen embryos on ice.
Those 4 frozen embryos are what got me through some of the hardest days. Knowing that I could do another frozen transfer after this miscarriage passed left me with a shred of hope. Instead of having to go through the grueling process of stimulating my ovaries and retrieving my eggs, I could just do a simple transfer.
I went off all of my injections and medications and my body started to pass everything a few days later. The good news was, this miscarriage didn’t drag on in agony for two months like my last miscarriage. This time it only lasted around four weeks and was less emotionally painful. Knowing what to expect made things so much easier for me.
Things had cleared up and I was geared up to do my next cycle. I was instructed to head to Fargo to get another Sonohystogram done to check my uterus out before starting any medications. This is standard protocol before every IVF cycle. I had done it last cycle and knew it wasn’t a big deal.
There was a problem this time though. My uterus hadn’t cleared out all of the contents of my miscarriage. There was some of the placenta adhered to my uterine wall. My frozen cycle was suppose to start in a matter of a few weeks so I was immediately devastated. I was certain this would delay the process another few months.
A few hours after crying my eyes out in my car on my way home, my nurse from Maple Grove called and informed me I could do a D&C the next day and still be on track for the frozen cycle. I was thrilled! Finally a little bit of good news.
My husband and I headed back to Fargo the next day. I thought I would be getting some of that good Fentanyl again so I was excited for that silver lining. 😉 Unfortunately there wouldn’t be any Fentanyl this time. They put me completely under with anesthesia and a breathing tube. I remember being wheeled into the surgery room and then it was all black until I woke up in the recovery room with a sore throat. Thankfully I take anesthesia well, so I was released shortly after.
The procedure was completely painless, I never even popped an Advil. I was in a bit of a daze from the anesthesia on the way home but that was all.
My miscarriage was finally complete after the D&C and the bleeding commenced again.
After my first failed round of IVF, which resulted in a miscarriage and D&C, round 2 was here and I was ready to get started. The excitement, however, was nowhere to be found. It just felt like the same old routine of popping pills and giving myself shots. I know the statistics and the fact that it takes many women 3 rounds of IVF before they are successful, but for some reason I really thought I’d be one of those lucky people who it worked for on the first try. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I found myself ordering more expensive medications and cutting another check for $2,600 to our clinic.
One of the positives through all of this is that my husband and I have the most supportive parents and sisters anyone could ask for. They are practically as emotionally invested in us getting pregnant as we are! My sister has been my confidant through this entire process. She has cried with me in the depths of heartache and shouted with joy right along with me in the peaks of excitement. She was also annoyingly optimistic most of the time… but I really don’t know what I would do without my amazing family.
I made a tough decision to keep this cycle a secret from my parents. My intent was to keep it a secret from my husband’s mom and sister as well, but he has a big mouth and told them. I lied to my parents and told them we couldn’t do the January cycle because of my D&C and we would have to wait until March. I did this in hopes that we could actually have some element of surprise after all this infertility bullshit, if it did in fact work out.
It feels like so much has been stolen from us at this point, surprise being one of those things. The idea of being able to truly surprise my parents with a positive ultrasound picture brought me some excitement in the process.
I made my way back to Fargo to check that my uterine lining was progressing appropriately. Everything looked good, so I was scheduled for my frozen transfer. I decided to transfer two embryos again. I figured that after our first failed cycle with two, why not take the same chance. The cynical part of me thought, I would rather go through two failed frozen transfers than four.
I had started on Lupron injections to suppress my system a couple weeks prior and now it was time to start back up on the Progesterone in Oil injections. This time they seemed to be doing more damage to my back end with bruising and bleeding. No beuno. Let me tell you, it is not very much fun when you inject yourself with this loooong needle, but you hit a vein and have to start all over drawing a new syringe of oil. It’s even better when you do it twice in a row in one night, UGH!
I headed to Maple Grove for my much anticipated frozen embryo transfer (FET). This time I told my husband to stay home and not worry about making the trip. This was for a couple of reason. First of all, it is the most basic process and only takes like 15 minutes. I am not the kind of girl who needs someone to hold my hand for these types of things. Secondly, and far more importantly, I wanted to stay in the Twin Cities for a long 4 day weekend and hang out with my sister and niece. My husband had work to get done and I had shopping to do. Also, the twisted part of me thought it would be funny if this did end up working, that I would be able to tell my child some day that their dad wasn’t even in the room when I got pregnant! 😉
I arrived to my doctor’s office and waited with baited breath to get the embryologist’s report. I was called back to the transfer room and informed that my two beautiful embryos (6aa & 6ba) thawed perfectly for the transfer. There is a real risk that the embryos can die or be severely damaged during the thaw process, so this was a huge relief. My remaining two embryos could be saved for another cycle and would be shipped back to be cryopreserved until I needed them.
The two embryos were transferred into my triple stripe 8.5mm uterine lining. Everything looked as good as it possibly could. My one embryo was literally graded as being perfect with the other being close behind!
I truly thought I could hold out longer this time until I peed on a stick, but there was no such luck. I had done the calculations and based on the fact that these embryos were a day older than last cycle, I could actually pee on a stick one day SOONER! So there I was, four days after the transfer peeing on a stick and holding my breath.
5 minutes later, I made my way back to the bathroom and began to analyze the test. There was no need for photos and edits to be made to see the line this time. It was faint, but it was most definitely there!
While I was excited for a minute, it was with some serious reservations. I had clearly been down this road before and positive pregnancy tests don’t really mean a whole lot for me anymore.
This is where I will start to sound like a legit crazy person… I had kept all the pregnancy tests from my first failed IVF cycle. I kept them to compare to my next cycle and hopefully see that they were stronger this time. I know, I know, if I were a normal perosn who could get pregnant, I would think I was batshit crazy at this point too. 🙂 #NoShame
The good news was that the lines WERE getting darker than the last cycle.
The bad news was that only a few days later I started spotting a very tiny amount. 🙁
While I knew there was the possibility that you can spot without it meaning your pregnancy is compromised, I didn’t have a good feeling about it. I had been through too much at this point to be optimistic about anything. This time around, I didn’t have any symptoms. I would try and remind myself that I didn’t have near as many hormones in my system like I did from all of the egg retrieval drugs last time, but that didn’t make much difference.
I waited in agony for my first HCG test over a week away. I struggled to focus and concentrate on just about anything else. My energy and give-a-damn was pretty well depleted.
In the mean time I decided to finally book a vacation to Europe for March. I had held off up until this point, because if this was a failed cycle, our next possible frozen transfer would be in March. The vacation and cycles would be overlapping, which was an issue. Seeing I got a positive pregnancy test though, I decided to pull the trigger and book the trip. I was so sick and tired of our lives being put on hold because of this damn infertility!
I hesitated for hours to click the schedule button. It felt like booking this trip was sealing my fate and jinxing this potential pregnancy. Surely if I made plans over the next cycle at my clinic, something would go wrong and I would need to be in the country… :/
14 excruciating days later, it was time to do my blood work to test my HCG levels. Last time my level was at 274 at this point and the median for successful pregnancies is typically around 1,000 but there is quite a bit of variation among women.
At 10am I had my voicemail. I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest as I waited to hear the number. The results were in, it was 855! This was great. While it is very much in the normal range, it was so much better than last time. This gave me hope.
The next test wouldn’t be for another four days. The weekend went by surprisingly quick and I was at the hospital Monday morning for my next blood draw.
I figured seeing the first test was reported before 10am, this one would be similar. I started checking my IVF voicemail like a crazy person at 9:30am. 3 hours later I still hadn’t heard anything! Let me tell you, this waiting shit is not my cup of tea.
I called my local lab and asked if they had sent my results. They said they JUST sent them over. AKA they didn’t follow my doctor’s instructions to send them immediately. So infuriating.
The results were in. Based on the four day wait, I needed the number to be at least 3,000 to feel good about it. It was 3,600! WOOHOO!
Now onto more waiting. In 2 weeks I would go in for my 7 week ultrasound.
I managed to keep myself busy for the most part and tried to distract myself from the wait. Some days it worked, others it didn’t. At the end of the day, the time eventually passed and the big day was finally here!
I went to the ultrasound with my husband and as I laid on the bed waiting for the tech to get set up, my mind began racing. This could actually be the first time I ever hear a heartbeat and see a tiny baby on the ultrasound. What a completely exciting thought!
The tech was ready with the transvaginal ultrasound and she began passing back in forth taking different measurements and photos. As she would pass over the gestational sack, I though I saw a hint of something inside! I was DYING for her to hurry the heck up and get to the main event already!
As she focused in on the gestational sack, there was clearly a yolk sack and a fetal pole! This is more than we have ever had before. She measured the yolk sack and honed in on the fetal pole. As she did this, it became quite evident that there was a flicker of a heartbeat! Oh my god, my heart was racing so fast with excitement, anxiously waiting for her to tell me what was going on.
As she started to talk though, my excitement began to quickly fade…
The fetal pole was measuring at only 6 weeks + 1 day, which to me seemed significantly behind. Also, while we could see a heartbeat, she couldn’t for the life of her pick it up on a reading. Again, not good news. She remained ambivalent about our situation and my heart began to sink as I read what I felt was concern on her face.
At the end of the day the results would have to be sent to the radiologist to be officially read. Then they would need to be sent to my doctor for them to deliver the news.
My local clinic didn’t get the results to my office before they closed, which seemed to be a regular occurrence with them and incredibly frustrating. That meant I had to sit and stew the entire weekend over the fate of this pregnancy.
I began researching. While I found a few positive outcomes with women who measured behind early on, overall it seemed that the majority of women who faced this issue ended up miscarrying only a few weeks later. Here we go again! 🙁
Monday morning, I began obsessively checking my IVF voicemail hoping to hear from my specialist. Around 10:30am, my patience wore out and I gave them a call. I ended up talking to my nurse and she seemed confused by my worry. She explained that according to their calculations, I was only 6 weeks + 5 days pregnant. Therefore the ultrasound only measured 4 days behind and that this early on, it is only a matter of millimeters difference. Apparently, it is very easy to measure things off a bit and as for the heartbeat, she said that it is very common not to be able to pick up a measurement this early. The fact that they saw it flickering was a good sign though.
The next day, my nurse ended up calling me back and letting me know she touched base with my doctor and that he wasn’t concerned, but he would let me do another ultrasound in two weeks to confirm viability. This meant even more waiting in limbo, but I was happy to have something on the books. I would be almost 9 weeks by the next ultrasound, so things would be much more definite.
The two weeks came and went, just like every other two week wait in the journey. Painfully slow at times, but eventually the time would pass.
I had high hopes at this point and expected the best. My husband and I were called back into the ultrasound room and we began the process that I had done countless times before. As soon as the ultrasound tech started, I knew it was bad. The fetal pole was still tiny and there was no longer any flicker of a heartbeat. I knew it was over.
We had to go and talk with one of the doctors for them to deliver the bad news. I think those 10 minutes sitting in the OBGYN waiting area crying my eyes out were some of the most painful. To make it even worse, when I was finally called back, the nurse and doctor cheerfully entered the room and said everything looked fine. Umm no it didn’t people! The cluelessness of some doctors about early pregnancy really baffles me. By 9 weeks, there should most definitely be a heartbeat and with IVF they knew my dates were exact.
Well it turned out that there was a lack of communication somewhere along the line and this place had no clue that I had already seen a heartbeat 2 weeks earlier. I had to explain this to the doctor through my tears and frustration. After she got the full pictures, she agreed with me that this wasn’t likely viable.
I begged the doctor to let me get a D&C right away. After all, we were leaving for our trip to Europe in just a few days and the last possible thing that I wanted on this trip was to go through a miscarriage. She agreed and scheduled me for the next opening on Monday morning.
On the two hour ride back home, I knew I had to let me parent’s know what happened. Keep in mind at this point they had no clue I was even doing a transfer. I literally had a bag full of balloons and an instant photo printer to print the ultrasound picture sitting in my back seat ready to surprise them with what I anticipated would be good news. It turns out those weren’t going to be needed. Instead lots of cuddles with my husband were in order.
Speaking of surprises, my sister was also anticipating good news for me and had planned a surprise trip with her daughter to come visit me for the weekend. Given the bad news, she asked if I still wanted her to come before heading out. I thought about it for a bit but then decided that it would be a nice distraction to hang out and see my adorable niece. It was precisely that.
When I arrived back in Fargo on Monday morning, they did another ultrasound just to triple check that there wasn’t something still viable in there before proceeding with the D&C. I appreciated this as it put my mind at ease that this was 100% non-viable and I wasn’t making a mistake with the procedure.
I woke up from the D&C with my mom at my side, but apparently things didn’t go so good this time…
It turns out that the doctor had punctured my uterine wall and had to make three slits in my abdomen for a laparoscopy to ensure she didn’t suction out any of my bowels.
Needless to say, recovering from a D&C with laparoscopy was MUCH more painful than a standard D&C. It was a feat just to sit up and down on a chair, much less roll over in bed. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get on the plane for my flight to Germany in just days. I was all around devastated with the steaming pile of crap that just seemed to keep heaping on.
At the end of the day, I was healing nicely and managed to make the trip to Europe in minimal pain. My soul needed this so desperately at this stage in the game. The idea of going back to work and sitting at my computer for 8 hours a day thinking about my 3rd miscarriage sounded like pure misery. Instead, I ended up getting to spend lots of great quality time with my German host family and then hop over to Paris for a few days of alone time with my husband. In the end, despite the stress of this trip being so close to my D&C, it really was perfect timing to get away.
When I got back home, I received the pathology report from my D&C. It turned out that the embryo that I lost had Trisomy 22 and was genetically abnormal. It was such a relief to know that my body didn’t fail me with a perfectly normal embryo. As sad as it is, at the end of the day my body did what it was designed to do and dispelled the abnormal embryo. Although it was a relief to know I didn’t loose a healthy pregnancy, it didn’t make the whole situation any less painful and disappointing.
IVF Round #3
Here we go again…
At this point I’m pretty sure everyone is sick and tired of me talking about IVF. It is just the same old crap, different day. I had two embryos left on ice that I would be transferring this round, but they were the lowest graded out of all 6 I started with. Needless to say, my hopes were about as low as they could be. I bought one 3-pack of pregnancy tests this time and knew I wouldn’t be playing the “pee on a stick” game like previous cycles. It only made me go crazy in the end.
I started up the whole routine of loosing the weight from the previous cycle and taking my meds with very little enthusiasm.
The time came for my embryo transfer and I headed to the cities to stay with my sister for a long weekend. I got to hangout with my niece which I always love! On Tuesday I headed to my clinic for transfer #3.
There was a little bit of anticipation to find out whether or not my last two embryos made the thaw. The good news was, the embryos made the thaw beautifully.
I hopped on the bed where all the magic happens and my doc popped the last two embryos in my uterus and I was on my way. He gave me an upbeat spiel about how these should truly work as long as they are genetically normal. Ya, ya, sure they will…
I dutifully started up on my daily shots again and figured it was be a short stint this time, seeing I didn’t expect these embryos to even stick.
A few days later it was Memorial Day weekend and my whole family went camping together. I had to avoid knee boarding seeing there was a small chance I could in fact be pregnant after all.
I could have tested while on the camping trip and likely gotten a result that would be pretty accurate, but I didn’t want to risk ruining the trip for myself. I held off until I got home Sunday evening. As soon as I walked through the door, I headed to the bathroom to take the test. I knew whatever the results were, that it would be final. My heart skipped a few beats as I waited…
5 minutes later I made my way back to the bathroom to find out the fate of these embryos. The line was clear as day. Here we go again!
My parents knew about this transfer so I figured it would be pointless to keep the results from them. They would be asking in a couple days anyways. I snap chatted this picture to my mom that evening. I didn’t hear a word back.
The next morning I found an excuse to call her about something else. Still, she didn’t mention my positive test. I figured at this point, everyone was just so over me and IVF!
Minutes after I got off the phone, I got a text message from my mom sending me her condolences and saying she was sorry to see it didn’t work. HUH?!
I laughed my ass off realizing she thought the test was negative. You have to keep in mind, she is in her mid-60s after all. Back in her day, they didn’t have pee tests.
I called her up and told her it was positive. She tried to argue with me that the line was faint so it must be negative. I explained to her that ANY line meant a positive and she cheered up. She then admitted she didn’t know what to say when I was on the phone so she just texted me instead. No wonder where my sister and I get our inability to talk about emotional things… 😉
Next up was the two week wait for my HCG blood work. My first cycle came in at 274 and my second cylce was much better at 855. I knew I wanted it to be atleast 1,000 to feel decent about it.
I actually postponed my blood work a day because I figured it was a waste of time to drive to Morris on my day off just for blood work that would be disappointing anyways. On Wednesday morning before work, I headed in and around noon checked my voicemail.
To my absolute shock, my HCG came back at 4, 741! HOLY CRAP! That was very much on the high side. I was completely stunned. Now my damn hopes were back up again!
So the first number came in incredibly high as you can see I am almost off the charts, but what truly matters is how well it increases over a 48 hour period. I knew that once the numbers start to get high like that, that they don’t double as quickly. Therefore I figured anything over 8,000 would be great.
Friday morning I went in for another blood draw and got my results around noon. This time they were 9,593!!! Holy shit, this just might really be real after all. I obviously hit up Google and saw that my numbers lined up more closely with twins. Could it possibly be that maybe both stuck this time?! In just a few weeks I would know for sure at my 7 week ultrasound I scheduled.
Just like every other cycle, there was a problem. At 6 weeks, I went to the bathroom and there was bright red blood. This is NOT a good sign.
I called my doctor and they told me I could go in for an ultrasound right away. They faxed orders to my local clinic and I headed right over to see what was going on. The strange part in all of this was my sense of calmness. As I was walking to my car to head to the ultrasound, I remember thinking to myself “Danielle, why aren’t you freaking out more about this?!”
I greatly appreciated how much better this doctor handled the situation. With my first miscarriage my midwife made me bleed for over a week before she would even see me! Hence why I am never going back to her…
I got to the clinic and they swept me off to the ultrasound room. The tech began the all too familiar process, but this time it looked different. There were TWO gestation sacs AND fetal poles with heartbeats! HOLY HELL!!!
She slowly went over everything and began taking measurements. Everything was right on track but Baby A had a very slow heart rate at only 86 BPM while Baby B had a strong heart rate of 110. I absolutely love the ultrasound techs at my local clinic. They are so kind and were truly rooting for me. I’m pretty sure the tech was as excited as I was to see two heartbeats!
At this point we did begin to prepare ourselves that we would loose Baby A as it was below the minimum they like to see. The good news was that we had one very strong one in there which was more than we could ever say before! By no means did I feel like we were out of the woods yet though.
We kept our 7.5 week ultrasound that we initially scheduled, because why not!?
To my very pleasant surprise, Baby A had caught up and now both babies had great heart rates.
I tried to finagle my doctor into giving me a 9 week ultrasound as well but he just wasn’t having it. It turned out the OBGYN I would start seeing could get me in at 10 weeks though, so it really wasn’t much more of a wait.
In those 2.5 weeks of waiting I felt lots of symptoms unlike my previous 3 pregnancies. Nausea and a general lack of appetite was at the top of the list, but still very tolerable compared to many women. As much as it sucked at times, it made me so completely happy as it was reassuring that something was going on in there.
Seeing I was pregnant with twins, my Reproductive Endocrinologist felt it was particularly important that I see an actual OBGYN and not a General Practitioner. Where I live, the closest OBGYN is an hour away, so that meant that I would be traveling to Alexandria for my 10 week ultrasound and all of my subsequent appointments.
When I arrived, my stomach was in knots. This was it. This was the ultrasound that would tell me whether or not this was a viable pregnancy. If could get past this ultrasound successfully, it would lower my odds of miscarriage to less than 5%.
I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest as I went back to the room. I was thrilled that they got down to business so quickly. Immediately two beautiful babies popped up on the screen and one even did a little somersault for me! There was a part of me that wanted to cry tears of joy, but I held it together. My doctor asked me if I was alright with ultrasounds every 4 weeks seeing I was having twins. Umm yes please!!! As I left the appointment I was on cloud nine!
While I was over the moon with excitement, this didn’t entirely dissolve all my worry and paranoia. To help with that, I ordered a home fetal doppler. As I waited for my 14 week ultrasound, this helped easy my paranoia by checking to make sure there were still heartbeats a couple of times each week.
My 14 week ultrasound arrived and it was the calmest I have ever been thanks to the home doppler. I knew there was at least ONE baby with a strong heartbeat still kicking in there. As the tech passed over my stomach, I immediately saw two tiny bouncing babies in their own sacs. It was one of the best things I have ever seen! Both of the twins are even measuring a week ahead and are in the 80th percentile. Here is to hoping they keep growing well!
It has truly began to sink in. Our final two, lowest graded embryos, have both stuck and we will be having twins in January! My husband and I couldn’t be any more thrilled.
This was a long and painful process on so many fronts, but in the end it will be completely worth it. I am so grateful for everyone who has supported us through this process and am wishing those of you who are still in the trenches of infertility lots of strength, luck and perseverance. So many of you ladies are constantly in my thoughts and I truly hope and believe you will find a happy ending in this, however it might come about.
UPDATE: Meet our beautiful twins HERE!