This journey is always such a personal one for each woman. You begin your adult life trying everything possible to not have a child- abstinence, birth control, and paying close attention to being as safe as possible to prevent this possibility. Then you think, when ready, I will just try and it will all lock in and work. And for so many, that is actually what happens. So many friends and women I know say, we just started trying and it just happened. Or we weren’t even trying yet and it just happened. Or you just need to relax and not stress out and it will just happen. Have sex when you are ovulating and it will happen. And on and on. In so many cases, that is what just happens.
However, for so many, that is not what happens. And after months of trying, you head to the doctor. And for me, due to my age, after six months, you are sent off to a fertility specialist. And I thought, well I’ll go to a fertility doctor and I’ll be pregnant by the spring. I am already mapping out in my head I’ll be pregnant in a few months and planning out my son or daughters astrological sign!
So I feel it is important to document for those woman like me that had no idea what the process was actually like- how it all works. And hopefully this will help someone else. The key- one step at a time and be patient. No it does not happen quickly. And yes, it is a pain in the butt and isolating at times. It also makes you appreciate how every women’s journey is so different. And you learn to be way kinder to women in general. Because you never know what someone is going through behind the scenes. I have met so many who have miscarried or been on this journey for years and years thus far.
When you arrive at that appointment, the first meeting is just more of a meet and greet. The doctor goes over all the statistics (which is scary) and all potential options are laid out. At this point, it is all practical and clear. Then you start to talk out timeline. The timeline was a shocking piece for me personally. You first start with a few months of testing. Between the dye test (which is really uncomfortable), baseline blood work, and ultrasounds each at different times in your cycle this takes a few months. You are also waiting on results and then setting up that next meeting with your doctor during this timeframe. Your partner also has to get some tests done. Then you wait. You wait for that meeting with your busy doctor to understand what (if anything) can be done to get pregnant.
That meeting can be emotional. I went in very practical and also with a wide open mind. Luckily we had discussed and knew we would be open to many options to become parents. And my husband is very good at not worrying about things we don’t know yet. Or at least helping me not worry. So we had that meeting. And we were amongst the lucky ones. No major health issues or constraints. We were just old. And older parents have more challenges- especially with the small number of low quality eggs. I was also amazed at how many times an egg can be initially fertilized but never actually become an embryo. And how many times that embryo can have defects and end up not growing properly. And how many times you can actually get to that point in your cycle and you never even know you had a fertilized egg because it doesn’t stick and you get your period.
So then the journey starts to meet with financial counselors, understanding all your options to get started- IUI vs IVF vs Egg Donor vs Sperm Donor vs Surrogate vs Adoption, etc. All in an escalating format. You get cost breakdowns of each and need to decide where to start based off your own individual odds.
We were very practical given our age and chances of a healthy child right off the bat and went straight into IVF. After the sticker shock of learning insurance doesn’t cover it and how much money we would need to put in without even any guarantees we moved forward. A side note, be prepared that after paying this insane sum of money you realize….your medication is another $5K plus for one IVF cycle!
At this point, we are 5 months into the process. It takes a good month of contracts, financially setting it up, a mock embryo transfer (also not the funniest) which is a test that has to happen, waiting for your next cycle, and all the classes you need to attend. So many classes! We listened to hours of online classes and I had to take an hour injection class too.
I then learned I needed to do a cocktail of shots before I started my next period before IVF could start. So that prolonged things further. This step is very different for everyone. I can’t do birth control pills so I had to go a slightly different route than most. I also found it to be the worst part from a side effect standpoint. The mix of patch and cetrotide shots made me feel horrible.
Then the injections start. They start with 2 in the evening and escalate to a 3rd added in the morning. This goes on for ~14dys. The timing is important so you have to plan your days around them. I even had to bring a cooler (the medicine must be kept cool) to a wedding reception so I could give myself shots in the bridal quarters at a certain time. A tip for those going through this- try not to travel at all even at the beginning. After day 3 or 4 you then really can’t travel at all. You go into the doctor for bloodwork and an ultrasound every other day and eventually daily. By the end, your veins are shot, you are uncomfortable and swollen (you can literally feel your ovaries!!), and you are bruised from shots. You should also expect to have to work around morning doctor appts with work. And for me, budget parking costs in the city for daily visits! You are just done by the end believe me and hoping it is all worth it.
Then you are finally ready for your trigger shot! The trigger shot is really key to do at the exact time 36 hours before your egg retrieval. They drill this into you. And while it actually didn’t hurt that much, you are just scared of getting the timing wrong. And for us, it was pretty hysterical looking back. I thought the mixing of the medication was going to be similar but I hadn’t used a vial and needle combo that was in this particular medication kit before and we almost ran out of time in our window to take it. We had to call the emergency hotline, and I was panicking. But with 90sececonds to go in our approved window (or we would have really screwed up egg retrieval and potentially lost it all)…we got it.
The next day is then a huge dose of antibiotics to prepare for the egg retrieval surgery. I was also not prepared for these side effects. They are so rough. Including being up sick most of the night.
Egg retrieval day comes and it is fairly non-eventful. Minor surgery and you are in and out in 1.5hrs. They have it down like clockwork and while a very weird experience, I only had minor cramping and just had to sleep all day afterwards.
What I have failed to mention thus far is also the exercise restrictions. For the week before and the week after the egg retrieval, you really can’t exercise. There is a pretty scary chance you can twist an ovary or have some tough side effects. So you have to be fairly stationary. This was also challenging given you are swollen, putting on weight from hormones, and just feel gross. But you get through it.
The day after egg retrieval you get a call about how many eggs have been fertilized. And then you have to wait. 5 days later they update you on which eggs blastocyst. You want day 5 but they can also come on day 6 and 7. And each embryo is then graded. Who knew?! There are so many different grades of healthiness. They call you each day on days 5-7 to give you updates. Most embryos don’t make it and a few do. We had 2. Those two then go on to genetic testing. Now this a sensitive subject because some don’t believe in this step. Given our age and chances for genetic issues, we did it. And in that process we lost one. So we now have 1 healthy embryo. And it is frozen.
We want two children which means they suggest having at least 2 embryos per live birth. So guess what….I have to go through it again (and potentially again) until we get closer to that goal. Each time taking on more financial burden and physically going through it all again. Surprisingly, I’m holding up well. I’ve had a moment here or there. But some how it is getting easier at the moment. I am sure I’m holding onto hope and excitement. I am half way through my second round. And we will see how it goes. I keep thinking, all I can do is be healthy and relax. And see what happens. The shots don’t seem as bad nor the crazy schedule of appointments. It just seems part of life and less dramatic this time around. I go to work, dinners, chats with friends, and coworkers and don’t discuss it. I just patiently ride it out. And we will see.
There are many steps after this before you even know if we are pregnant or to get to implantation. The next phase is the ERA phase for me. And I will share when it comes. It could realistically be several months, especially if I have to do a few more rounds of IVF. So pray for me that we have a very successful next cycle!
Part of the reason I made my blog public is so other women could find me and read this. I want to give them hope. I was also hesitant to tell my story because then everyone asks you and wants updates. And you really don’t want to give them until you have something to share. Otherwise, it is just more of the same and all the questions make you anxious and upset. So I’m not sure how I will deal with that. But I knew when I started this, I searched google looking for other stories. And I realized I should share mine.
It is a long journey. But it is all possible. You are not alone. Even on days where everyone including your partner is out and about or off to work and you are headed to your 10th doctor’s appointment in three weeks or 50th shot in the last two months. You are not alone. There are many of us out here. Stay positive.
I have never once regretted the process nor felt sorry for myself. So may women miscarry or don’t get the opportunity to even get as far as I am now. I feel lucky. Lucky to even have the option to try and get healthy embryos.
The other thing I am learning is to really enjoy the moment in a weird way. Enjoy bonding with other women, enjoy your time with your partner, enjoy the quiet moments while you have them, and try to keep your life as normal as possible. It is also fun to dream. Dream of your family and know how much you will appreciate it when it comes. We are still planning vacations around my shots and timeline, I still work full days, I still work out when I’m not restricted, I still clothing shopping (of course if you know me that never stops!), do chores, read, watch movies, etc. I also found it is important to pamper yourself- get your nails done more often, dress up a bit more, eat your favorite meal when you want to, enjoy a drink when you can (you really can’t drink during the shots), and get plenty of sleep.
Each of our times will come to have kids and we will wish we had a moment to take a nap or do those little things. So I’m trying to enjoy the moment in my own life journey vs trying so hard to wish for the future state.
I have to be honest, I have bought a few baby clothes or things for the hope of it to come. I hide them back in my closet and figure I’ll give them as gifts if we don’t get that chance. Probably sounds pathetic but for me, it is kind of nice. It is part of the hope.
We are also house hunting which has been a really good distraction. So that helps. And I created a goal to read 100 books this year. These things plus work and social activities help. They make you feel normal amongst all the medication, appointments, and hormones.
I know I am lucky to have the financial means to do this. And I pray for those that don’t. I often think, when I get through this, should I help set up a fund for those that need a fertility scholarship. Why don’t we have those, you know?
And I am excited for my life today. I love my job. I love my husband. I love summer. And I love my family and friends. And if for some reason this doesn’t work out, we will adopt. But for now, I remain very hopeful and patient. Patience does not come naturally to me so that has honestly been my biggest challenge. I am an eternal optimistic. But patience….a whole other ball game. One step at a time.
More to come. My motherhood journey continues……………..
If you read this and find this blog and have questions on the process, happy to answer them. I have some tips for different medication side effects and happy to be your cheerleader too!
Here is a pic of some of the medical supplies. I appreciate my dad for his pharmacy mixologist skills now that I have to mix medications in vials!