Friday, April 21, 2017

Our IVF Journey {frozen embryo transfer #1}

Well, hi! Apparently I left you all on a little cliffhanger there. Sorry about that! I just thought it was a good stopping point, but it seems people wanted the novel version. :) So here I am picking up where I left off in our IVF journey. (If you are just tuning in & missed part one, go ahead & read it here.)

Being a member of an infertility support group, I have heard a LOT about IVF over the years, straight from people who were in the thick of it. I heard about the painful shots. I heard about the insane cost of meds. I heard about the terrible side effects. And I heard about the frustrating setbacks. So I prepared myself for all of it. I wasn't excited about any of that, but I was prepared to do whatever I had to do. My support group girls gave me a ton of tips, and that helped tremendously.

Preparing for the big PIO injection! I ended up not even needing the lidocaine patches or the heating pad, but I sure was glad to have it ready just in case. I did use several of my friends' suggestions and they helped so much!
All of that to say, the entire experience leading up to and including my egg retrieval was a much easier one than I anticipated. I did have a polyp on my uterus which required surgery. And Brad did have a scary result after our infectious disease tests (which turned out to be a false positive!). But after that it was pretty smooth sailing. Yes, it's a lot... the schedule of injections plus the constant appointments are just a LOT. But still, it wasn't as awful as I imagined. I didn't have any major side effects from the drugs. The shots didn't bother me. Even the dreaded PIO (progesterone in oil) shots before my transfer were fine! Every monitoring appointment (ultrasound and labs) leading up to my retrieval showed I was right where I needed to be. It went so well, far better than I expected. I felt extremely lucky and thankful. I know so many people who had a much worse experience with it all. And it isn't because I'm some kind of champ; it's just that everyone's body responds differently to this stuff.

Lupron injections to start things off!
Patches that were traded out every few days. These were to stabilize my lining to be the ideal size for transfer.
Laying everything out for my early morning estradiol shot!
I keep going on and on, but what I am trying to say is that for me, the hard part of this wasn't the physical aspect. It was the emotional aspect after it was all over. It was the two week wait after my embryo transfer as I waited for results, and it was even the weeks after I got results, that really took a toll on me. I wasn't prepared for how much this would take out of me emotionally (although I don't think it's something you can really prepare for). And again, I'm not even talking about the process leading up to my egg retrieval. I am talking about the emotions that came into play after my egg retrieval and again after the embryo transfer. Both times were about waiting for results. And while my egg retrieval yielded good results with 8 high-grade embryos, it was still a nerve-wracking time, to say the least! The worst part for me, though, was waiting on results from my transfer to find out if I was pregnant or not. And what came after that is what I pray I never have to experience again. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

This is before my first estradiol valerate injection, and let's just say I saw the needle & was feeling a little anxious!
Look at that needle! I was so proud of me! And really proud of Brad! I didn't even feel it!
Brad preparing my PIO injection. PIO day 3! He is a champ!
Because of my doctor's wait list, my first embryo transfer wasn't until January. So there were two full months without that crazy appointment and injection schedule. When I started my period in January, I called my nurse and it all began again. Birth control pills (sounds counterintuitive I know), Lupron injections, estradiol patches, estradiol shots, and the lovely PIO, as mentioned above. I always thought all of that started at the same time, but there were a few days to get used to one drug before having to add the next one. I was happy about that.

A picture of our embaby
On January 24th, we went in for the transfer! I was excited and nervous. We had a pair of embryos frozen to be transferred at the same time. I was worried about them surviving the thaw, but he came in and told me both survived the thaw beautifully. I breathed a sigh of relief. He had us sign some consents, and he gave us a picture of one of our embryos, our baby. Then the nurse came in and gave me a robe and Brad some scrubs.

Could he be any cuter?! :)

Excited and ready!
The transfer process is a lot different from the egg retrieval. Brad was able to go in with me, and I wasn't put under anesthesia for it. We went in a room that looked like an ultrasound room. I got set up in a chair/bed thing just like ones in an ultrasound room. The process itself is very quick and painless, much like an IUI. I could see on the screen when my little embryos dropped into my uterus. It was a surreal moment; it took my breath away. After it was done, the ultrasound tech and my doctor waited in complete silence for the embryologist to let them know it was a good transfer. The embryologist yelled through the connecting door, "all good!", everyone sighed with relief, and we were done. I was wheeled out again, and Brad drove us home. Actually, we stopped so he could run in and pick up Zoe's for lunch. I also talked him into running into Barnes & Noble next door to pick up a book I had been wanting! Thought it would help me pass the time during my two week wait. Not quite two weeks, and yet the most intense two week wait of this infertility journey so far. My doctor puts his patients on bed rest for three days after the embryo transfer. I was lucky to have visitors to help pass the time! The first week wasn't too terrible. The second week my emotions were all over the place. 

Stork socks from a sweet infertility sister & prayer partner... so cute!
Mom & sister visit!
I am normally not one to take pregnancy tests at home. They're always negative, and that is just the worst. I would honestly rather find out I'm not pregnant by starting my period. However, my blood test was early Friday morning, meaning they would be calling me that afternoon with the results. I didn't want to find out at work if the results were negative. So I decided to take a pregnancy test the night before my beta. That way, if negative, I could react however I needed to react in the privacy of my own home. I grew antsy and ended up taking a test at home a day or two before I had planned. I was, in a word, terrified. Absolutely terrified. I can honestly say in all of my years of infertility, in all of my two week waits, and after all of my IUI procedures, I have never felt quite like that. I think because it felt like the closest we had ever been to our miracle. And I felt like if the results were negative, I would be sick to my stomach. I so desperately wanted this to be our YES. 

 I remember taking the test. Afterwards, I grabbed it without looking and got in bed so Brad could give me my PIO injection. He didn't know I had taken it. I gave it a few minutes then looked. I didn't see two lines. I felt my heart plummeting. I looked again about ten seconds later and saw a faint second line. So faint that I had to show Brad and get him to tell me if there was actually a faint line or if I was just imagining one. He confirmed there was indeed a second line. I texted a picture to my infertility sister Lindsay and she confirmed there was definitely a second line! I would not say I was excited at that point. I got excited yes, but the first emotions were more along the lines of shock and disbelief. But it kept sinking in deeper and deeper. I allowed myself to feel that joy, and of course I felt so thankful. Because I already had a miscarriage three years ago. Surely God wouldn't allow me to go through that again, would He? 

I took this selfie the day before my blood test, because I was convinced I was pregnant and had no real reason to believe yet that I would miscarry. There are happy tears in those eyes & that is probably the biggest smile I've had in a long time.
That Friday I went for my blood test. By this point, I had taken several home pregnancy tests, which all showed positive results. My nurse called that afternoon and told me I was indeed pregnant and that I needed to come back in a couple of days for another blood draw. That is nothing unusual, they do check every few days to make sure your hcg is doubling as it should. Then I asked her what my hcg level was. She said it was 31.6. My heart dropped. I said, "oh, that's not good is it?", and she assured me, "no, it's okay, it just needs to have doubled when you come back on Tuesday.". So I continued to hope and pray. I realized the embryo could have implanted late, as sometimes happens with frozen embryo transfers (as opposed to fresh). I got in touch with a friend who I had heard had an initial hcg of 20, but kept increasing, and she gave birth to a full term baby boy. She helped reassure me. We told our parents and siblings and a few friends we were pregnant. We were excited. I was still terrified, but had to believe the best. 

On our fridge
That weekend was agony, as you can probably imagine. But I kept praying and trusting and hoping. This baby would be due in October, which is the same month our first angel baby was due. So to be pregnant again with a baby due at the same time, to me, felt like coming full circle. It felt like redemption. And yet, when I went back on Tuesday for another blood test, my hcg had dropped down to 24. I was thankful to receive that news on my lunch break. I had just sat down to eat when my phone rang. My nurse sounded heartbroken. She told me when to come back for another blood draw, because at that point they have to make sure it gets back to zero. I hung up the phone and the tears began to fall, as I felt a mixture of hurt, anger and heartbreak. I couldn't eat my lunch. I called Brad, and then I texted a few people who were waiting to hear. I couldn't call them because I knew if I had to say out loud what was happening, I would start sobbing. I had to go back to work, so I had to let them know but I couldn't talk about it. So I sent them a text telling them I was so sorry to have to tell them this but that the pregnancy wasn't viable. I told them I was sorry because these are people who want to be grandparents to our children and who want to be aunts to our children. It was a few friends who had been praying for me for this entire infertility journey. These are people who wanted this to be a viable pregnancy for me as badly as we wanted it. So I had to let them know and not keep them waiting. But then I got myself together and went back to work. I registered patients for the rest of the day while inside my heart was shattered. I texted the coworkers that knew so they would know without me having to say anything. I couldn't tell them even though they were there, because I had to keep it together. I had no paid time off to miss more work, so I had to just make it through the rest of the day. I don't remember that night though. I just remember crying all the way home. 

Over the next few weeks my hcg would not drop to zero. It would go up and down and up and down again, but never up enough to show a viable pregnancy. It was strange, because when I miscarried three years before, my first hcg was high and it doubled every time just as it should. I didn't know then until an ultrasound that I would miscarry. And then once I miscarried, my hcg gradually and fairly quickly dropped to zero. But this time the number started low, so I thought getting to zero would be a quick process. But no. It wouldn't go down. I was concerned I would have to have surgery or be put on methotrexate injections, which I did not want to have to do. This is all a really hard reality when you are waiting to miscarry, because it feels impossible to move on emotionally when your body is stuck physically. They were concerned the embryo was stuck in my tubes. This process of waiting for my hcg to drop was as every bit as emotional and difficult as my wait to find out about our embryos after my egg retrieval and as my wait to find out if I was pregnant after the transfer. Different hard, but equally hard. I definitely grieved. And even as I write this, a few months later, when I am doing so much better spiritually and emotionally, reliving it as I write it brings it all back. It was hard and it is still hard and I am still grieving as anyone would. 

So we are moving forward. The upside of all of this is that I do have remaining embryos, so I do not have to start all over. I have friends who have had to and are having to start all over with another egg retrieval because they had one embryo and their transfer didn't work. I never would want them to to think that I think my pain is in any way worse than their pain. It is all tremendous pain. So I am very thankful for our remaining embryos, and I hope and pray with all my heart that our next transfer will make us parents. I covet your prayers as well.


Today is Day 1 of National Infertility Awareness Week, so I will be posting about it throughout the week as much as I can. Usually when I write about our journey, I am asked why we don't consider adoption or surrogacy. While those are beautiful options, we are confident that we are walking this out exactly as the Lord has directed us to do. I do hope to share with you soon why we have chosen this route and why we are not taking other avenues in our journey to parenthood, if I can get up the courage. :) Love you all and appreciate you reading my story and praying for us.

4 comments:

  1. Love you Mel, I am believing your miracle is still coming. Oh what a glorious day it will be when we can celebrate over a precious baby!! Your story continues to encourage and amaze me...you are such a pillar of strength. Keep believing and don't ever give up!!!

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  2. Many are praying for your miracle baby. Praying this is the final wait and that you well be with child soon!

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss :( Prayers for this next little one or two to get snuggled in for the long term :)

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