A Personal IVF Story
Please note that everyone’s journey is completely different; some are shorter, some are longer. This is my journey.
March 2013, my husband and I would decide that our time in NYC was up and we were to move to another cool, fun city–Austin! We knew it would be life changing but we had no idea exactly how life changing it would be. We had great careers, traveled, had great life experiences and we were ready for a slower pace, perhaps a family, and a new experience after 10 years in the bustling city.
Austin welcomed us with open arms and after 3 years we found ourselves pregnant by surprise. We were happy, scared, and nervous. Were we really ready? Within 7 weeks, we went to our first ultrasound and there was NO heartbeat. Any excitement was gone. That’s when we decided that we were ready…no doubt about it. Within 6 months, we were pregnant again. Same outcome around the 7 week mark. This time, we tested the embryo and it was Trisomy 3, a genetic disorder that is not compatible with life. We were crushed. No big deal, we will try again and be successful. We signed up for all of the next steps, genetic counseling was step 1. My husband and I were “normal.” So why…why does this keep happening to us. our counselor said that it was just really bad luck.
We tried, tried, and tried again. After approximately a year and no success, we knew that we needed more help. It was a step that terrified us. There are SO many things to consider: money, emotional toll, affects on my body, affects of the stress on our marriage. We knew that we wanted a family more than any of the negatives aforementioned. We were in…all in.
My OB recommended a fertility center. I am one to not do much research (maybe a quick google search to see how many stars they have) and go by recommendations. Our first meeting at the fertility center is one that I will never forget. I had questions, many questions and our doc went thorough and answered each and every one. However, his demeanor was very matter of fact. We went home and it was hard…hard to think about and hard to make this HUGE jump into something that would soon take over our lives. The appointments continued and I soon learned that our doctor was extremely knowledgable and very patient with all of my questions that I would come prepared with every week. I found out that he founded the practice in the 80’s. I think that he was just so used to dealing with this every single day that the first meeting was just a routine for him.
One important aspect of this process is that you MUST feel comfortable with your doctor. It is going to be one of the most intimate experiences of your life. Always come prepared and always ask more questions than you think you need answered. Never forget that this is your journey, your family, our life, your dollars, and your body. This is something you should feel 1000% (or as much as possible on this infertility rollercoaster) comfortable with.
In August of 2016, we started our official fertility journey. Every test we took came back as normal. UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY– that was the diagnosis for us. How and why did we end up here? We were prepared to come with a diagnosis, fix it, and then have a family. We quickly found out that it didn’t work that way. After many meetings and discussions, we decided to start with IUI.
IUI is basically what people call the “turkey basting” stage and is the least expensive route that was offered to us. I ovulate normally and the sperm is injected into me when that ovulation occurs. Now, the part that gets tricky is that it is necessary for the woman (and sometimes the partner depending on the circumstance) to pump our bodies with TONS of medicine. This medicine includes hormones to make you release more eggs, thus increasing your chances of success. Little did I know that this would start my journey of medicating daily. This is something that I despise. I hate taking anything daily. At this time in my journey, this even included supplements.
The IUIs would go something like this: doctor appointment, meds, doctor appointment, ultrasound, meds, ultrasound, my husband submitting his “troops,” his troops being washed (this alone cost $200), and then the sperm injected into me when the Doctor determined that I was ovulating. Three rounds of this and no success.
I thought this would be easy. Our recommended something new. Next step, the big guy, IVF! Not many people talk about their fertility journey. Miscarriage and fertility discussions can be a bit taboo–a phase of life that some people have to go through and I get it…it sucks and is hard. I have heard only a little about it so I knew very little. This was, until two friends from college mentioned something about their IVF journey to me. I scheduled calls with them right away as I wanted to learn as much as I could before we jumped into this. We were going from procedures that were a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars and I wanted to know everything.
We had insurance. One must know that it is rare for insurance to cover infertility treatments. We, unfortunately, fell into the bucket that covered nothing. (I hear that Starbucks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Bank of America have great coverage, FYI).
Each friend was successful in their journey but had different outlooks. One researched every single thing and the other just followed the doctors plans. I fell somewhere in the middle. I wanted to know what we were getting into, but I also just wanted to “trust the system.” With each new step, I asked our doctor what he would suggest if we were his son and daughter. He assured me that our protocol would be what he would want for his daughter.
In January 2017, we began the process. Heavy monitoring in their office every 2-3 days, shots every day (multiple shots a day), blood work at least once a week if not more, ultrasounds, changes in my body…it was all happening. This is not a process you can simply forget about. It is taxing and emotionally and physically trying for you and your partner (maybe not so much physically for them). It controls your life, every second of it.
My way of thinking is that I could let it get me down or think of the end result and keep things going in a positive direction. I chose the latter. I traveled a lot for work and I was lucky enough to work for a boss who was extremely understanding and knew that travel wouldn’t happen so we worked around it. While going through IVF, it must become a priority. Along with the new meds and protocol, I started eating/living cleaner and going to acupuncture twice a week. I based the new lifestyle off of a book How to Conceive Naturally: And Have a Healthy Pregnancy after 30.
This was going to work and if not, I was going to give it my best try! All meds lead up to egg retrieval. Our retrieval was on 2/15, we got 12 eggs–7 fertilized, 5 matured. We took the extra mile and did PGS testing and SIMS research and 3 out of the 5 tested as “normal.” We were excited that phase one was done, this is the best outcome that we could have hoped for.
There was more prep to get ready for the transfer. I ended up having cysts on my ovaries so we had a month delay while I took birth control to get rid of those nasties. 4/11 was the date and we were so nervous. Would it hurt, would it stick? I must admit that the transfer was the coolest part of this whole process. My husband and I went into the room and was able to watch the entire transfer of our amazing little embryo on a big screen. My doctor walked us through the process step by step. We left feeling hopeful and invigorated. I went home, rested, and ate ALL of the pineapple core that I could find at the grocery store. (People say that this helps the embryo plant itself. Again, desperate times calls for desperate measures.)
The next 2 weeks are the “waiting period.” This is when you simply try to occupy your mind with ANYTHING other than “Am I pregnant? Did this work?” Some women take at home pregnancy tests, some wait it out until the blood work test that the doctors office requires. I tested the day of…PREGNANT. It worked, for at least today. The blood test confirmed. We were doing this. It was real for now. In our previous pregnancies, we never heard a heart beat and the pregnancy never lasted past week 7. I don’t think I have ever been more nervous than our 7 week ultrasound. Our doctor was very gentle and as he moved the machine around we heard the best sound that I have ever heard in my life–a heartbeat! I immediately burst into tears.
Every follow up ultrasound was the same feeling. I don’t think I ever started feeling comfortable until week 33. On week 13, we were released to our OB and it was very bittersweet.
On January 12th, 2018, we welcomed our little rainbow baby! He was two weeks late and I keep joking that during IVF you want a sticky embryo. We definitely got one and couldn’t be happier! Reflecting on the whole process, you forget about the money, the shots, the emotional rollercoaster. Our son is so worth it.
I know that not everyone has this same outcome and it does not get lost on us. We are lucky and hope to be as lucky for the attempt at number 2. For me, the key was sharing and talking about the journey, it was like therapy for me. For me, the key was going through the motions, not to get wrapped up in the day to day. And knowing that we were working towards a chance at a happy family. We can’t wait to share the story with our son and show him his embryo picture. Now excuse me while I go cry…