The other shoe…has dropped

Given how hard and trying the last 3 year have been, we should have known that IVF was treating us too well.  I felt great stimming, especially emotionally.  Hormones weren’t crazy.  I didn’t feel or act crazy.  In fact, I felt even-keeled and empowered.  Then, retrieval was a breeze with a great yield.  14 eggs retrieved, 9 fertilized!  Statistically, half would make it to transfer day.  So 4 or 5 embryos.  But Friday came with different news.  Infertility had reared its ugly head…again.

We got to the office, checked in, and were quickly ushered back to the IVF Suite by a very spunky nurse’s assistant, Tara.  Mike and I were both in good moods and we were happy to hear “Complicated” and then “I Want it That Way” playing when we first walked in and got settled in Area #1.  Unlike the retrieval, which had a very busy suite, we were the only couple there for a few minutes, and only one other couple was there when we left.  We were ready quickly and had to wait for our doctor to come and chat with us.  I’d filled my bladder, as instructed, for the transfer, so the longer we waited for the doctor, the harder it was not to focus on needing to empty my bladder.  About 15 minutes later, she came and brought us to an adjoining meeting room.  She was pleasant, per usual, and asked me all about recovering from egg retrieval.  Then she said how pleased she was that I had 14 eggs and she took out a piece of paper with a big chart/spreadsheet on it.  The spreadsheet tracked retrieval day, fertilization report, 3 day update, and transfer day.  The report tapered from wide to narrow, which is because we lost so many embryos along the way.

She explained to us that not only did she retrieve 14 eggs, but all 14 were mature!  She reiterated that she would have been happy with 10, so 14 was really great.  And, while we were told that 9 fertilized, in reality, 12 did.  However, 3 of them fertilized too much.  What does that mean, Melanie?  Well, as she explained to us, 2 sperm may have gotten to the egg before it hardened/closed off, of the sperm may have been double headed/coded.  Either way, too much DNA for one egg, so they weren’t counted in our fert report.  Then she showed us that on Day 3, we had 7 eggs with enough cells, but a few of them received an initial grade of C.  By Friday, we were down to three.  I’m not going to explain grading, but we had a 3AB and two 2EB embryos.  The 3AB was the best embryo, and she was happy with its quality for transfer.  The remaining 2 needed another day to see if they popped and could be frozen, we’d receive an email on Saturday, to let us know how they turned out and how many were frozen.  

We were gutted.  9…and then 1.  Maybe 3.  Hopefully 3.  But, 1, for sure.  What happened to those other embryos?  Why did they arrest?  Why were they receiving C grades?  Gosh.  Even if 2 others had been a little bit better a received grades of B, we would have been happy.  But 1?  After all of that?  …and yet, there was still a transfer.  So, Tara brought me to the IVF procedure room, which is attached to the embryologists’ den, and then the doctor came in.  Using an external ultrasound, she showed me my full bladder and the space below, which is the uterus, turns out.  Then, using the ultrasound, she placed a “practice” catheter in my uterus, but it went in so smoothly she didn’t need to change to another catheter.  She told the embryologist she was using “a wallace” …whatever that is.  She showed me where to watch as she transferred the embryo…and then there it was.  A little white bubble in my uterus, which she printed a picture of for Mike to see.  Our little embaby.  The only time in 3 years we’ve had an ultrasound photo showing us anything…and, we’re hoping we’ll have many more ultrasounds of this little embaby, maybe this is our miracle.  


It’s been such a long and trying 3 years, and we both feel like…of course this ended up being trying and difficult, too.  Adding another layer of insult, an email at 7:28 am on Saturday: there were no embryos to freeze.  We don’t know why.  We won’t know until we have another consultation with our doctor, which will hopefully be amidst prenatal visits and care.  She also said we’d have a chance to talk more in depth about our embryo report and what happened to them at a follow-up.  

Hope_ImageI haven’t talked much about what brought us to IVF, yet, and I think this winter vacation from school will be a good chance to blog more about our back story, but one thing makes more sense to us now.  When we stopped trying not to be pregnant, my cycle went from totally normal and 28 days to sometimes 28 days, sometimes 32, one time 37 days, but just one positive pregnancy test, during our second round of Clomid.  And we didn’t have any answers why.  I wondered if I was having an implantation problem?  A nurse practitioner thought it might be a Progesterone issue.  Were we doing something wrong??  But, if it’s anything like our embryo report, which Mike and I suspect, I’m releasing eggs, they’re fertilizing, but for some reason, they’re breaking down…as have we from time to time this weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful knowing that we have a healthy embryo on board…hopefully the little embaby is making itself at home and plans to stay awhile, but we sure would have loved a better report that gave us a little more hope.

Going from 9 to 1 was so dramatic and there’s some loss there, as early as it is.  We should have known better, than to be excited for 14 and 9.  We should have.  Science and statistics have not been on our side as we’ve tried to start our family.  But, we
finally received good, promising news.  And now that hope and joy are most certainly deflated…but at least they’re not gone.  Because for now, I’m PUPO, Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.  pupoAnd for only the second time in 3 years, have I been any form of pregnant…and that’s pretty great.  I know a few people who have gone through IVF and I reached out to them once I got home and had processed things a bit.  I’m so thankful for these women, all of whom had successful IVF stories and have shared so openly with me, sharing their strength and grace, when I’ve needed it most.  And when I told them my news about the embryos lost along the way, all 3 said the same exact thing to me: It only takes one.  


And when I start to feel sad or weepy that our results weren’t better, what we expected, or what we wanted, I tell myself that.  It only takes one.  One egg.  One embryo.   And we’ve got one.  And IV’F Got This.  



Retrieval & Fert Report

Yesterday morning Mike and I needed to be at our RE’s office by 8:30.  We arrived at 8:22, so for anyone who knows us (or just Mike), this was a big deal!  We were early!  I felt pretty good.  On the drive up, we listened to the Beach Boys: Endless Summer, which was the first cassette I ever bought…and I sang most (all) of the songs to Mike as he drove.  After arriving, we signed in and sat in the waiting room for less than a minute before a nurse, Grace, called us back to the IVF Suite.  It sounds very fancy, doesn’t it?  

The IVF Suite was in a totally different part of the building than we’d been to before.  A nurse showed us to our space, area 4, and I was handed a Rubbermaid box with a gown, booties, blue hair cover, and a blanket.  I emptied my bladder, which I had (nervously) tried to empty at least 4 times before we left the house.  Then we completed the intake paperwork before my IV.  

Getting my IV was, in all honesty, the hardest part of yesterday.  Jennifer, the nurse who was doing my intake was struggling to find a vein on my left hand/forearm.  I told her that the phlebotomist has a hard time finding a vein on my left arm, but my right arm is usually pretty good.  She explained that the anesthesia team prefers the IV on my left side, if possible.  After Jennifer tried 3 times, she called another nurse over to help.  Kristin, nurse #2, said that the vein felt good, “it’s a pipe” was the actual quote…whatever that means.  But Kristin couldn’t get the IV in, either.  So she called in the nurse anesthetist, Rachel, who tried the left hand, and she, too, failed.  So she switched sides and after some poking and moving around, success!  She apologized in advance for the bruises I’d probably have when all was said and done.  No worries, I told her.  No need to apologize.  Do whatever it takes to get the IV, put me in twilight, and retrieve those eggs!

Then Mike had to leave to give his sample.  So he kissed me goodbye and I waited alone in area 4.  Our RE came in about 10 or 15 minutes later to talk with me…asked how I was doing, how’s Mike, are we ready, excited, etc?  She said I looked good and she was excited for me.  As she exited my area, two nurses swooped right in, started my anesthesia, and escorted me to the operating room.  It was quick!  It was a well oiled machine.  I had no doubts about the care I was receiving.  

Jessica and Michelle, two nurses with whom I talk a bunch about scheduling and updates, were in the OR with me.  Jessica helped me scooch onto the table and as I was getting in place, Rachel said, “Take two deep breaths and think about your favorite vacation.”  Next thing I knew, I was waking up back in area 4.  

This is the funny part of yesterday’s story:  I woke up and asked where Mike was, to which a nurse told me he’d be in to see me soon.  I fell back asleep (for 30 seconds? 4 minutes? An hour?) and when I woke up, I head a nurse saying to someone else (in passing) “Oh, it was bad.”  So, in my drugged state, I decided that my retrieval had been bad and Mike was somewhere else finding out first.  And I started to cry a little.  Then I saw Kristin and asked her if she knew where Mike was…she said she’d go get him and asked if I was ok, to which I said, “I just miss him”.  ❤

The nurses thought this was pretty sweet and Grace came in to check on me and offered me a mini can of ginger ale.  I had a couple of sips, fell asleep again (I think) and then Mike came in area 4.  (Reunited & it feels so good!)  In reality, he found me crying and explaining that I missed him…then I told him my fear about “it was bad” and he assured me no one had said anything yet.  Then the doctor came in and handed us a small card that said “14 eggs retrieved”.  FOURTEEN.  14

When we met with our RE for our initial IVf consultation, she told us she hopes, on average, to retrieve 10 eggs.  And on Friday, Michelle told me the ultrasound made it look like 6 or 7 mature follicles/eggs.  But, Dr. Elguero retrieved 14 eggs and we were so excited.  It was well beyond what we expected, and even more than we hoped for, I think.  We have been beaten down by infertility and years of negative pregnancy tests, and a miscarriage following our one (and only) positive test.   So imagine our surprise to hear better than expected results!

After we talked with our doctor a bit (Mike remembers more of this than I do), we were told we’d hear the Fert (Fertilization) Report midday today.  Then I finished my mini ginger ale, emptied my bladder one last time, got my IV removed, and was allowed to change and go home.  As I shuffled out the door holding Mike’s hand (there’s an exit right from the IVF Suite!), the nurses waved and smiled and someone said, “Now you won’t have to miss him because you’ll be together all day!”  It was so cute.  We made some calls, Mike drove home, got us some lunch, and then there was much napping on the couch with the heating pad.  

Midday came early today!  Michelle called at 9am this morning to check in on me…and to tell us that 9 of our eggs fertilized!  NINE!  nine  A second day of great news!  We are ahead of the curve we expected to be following, or that we hoped and aspired to be somewhere near!  Mike and I talked a bunch today and we both expected/prepped ourselves for low numbers without sharing that concern with the other.  Results have been borderline-to-low with all testing and moreover, Dr. Elguero suspected there might be an egg quantity and/or quality issue.  Now we’re (cautiously) hopeful that my eggs are good, they just needed some help!  Michelle scheduled our 5 day transfer for Friday, and my acupuncture will immediately follow the transfer.  

So now we’re back in limbo, back in the waiting abyss.  But, at least we’re in limbo with some positivity, The Office on Netflix, IMG_4999.JPGa heating pad, Gatorade, and unexpected joy in our hearts.  Right now, we could field a baseball team with our 9 embryos.  Statistically, half will make it to Friday…we would be lucky and blessed to have 4 or 5 embryos when all is said and done.  And until our transfer on Friday, we’ll continue to hope and pray that our little embryos strengthen and grow!  Little embryos…let’s grow!