You are forewarned: TMI is abundant in this entry. I share way more than I am comfortable with. If you don’t want to know, stop reading, but I am here to keep it real.
As I mentioned in IVF #2, I was not in a good place throughout the whole cycle. I knew I needed to get my mind, body, and soul back to center before we could proceed with another cycle. And, I knew I needed to advocate for myself, and ask for modifications to my treatment schedule. So at my “what the fuck” follow-up appointment from my second failed cycle, I told my doctor I wanted to be more aggressive. I wanted to have more embryos. I was doing everything in my power to produce better quality embryos, and wanted a little assistance with increasing the number. And this time, we wanted to implant two little embryos. Twins were a thought that used to absolutely terrify me, but now the thought of having two, and knowing that if it did work it may be the only opportunity for us to have biological children, was thrilling. We were ready to take on the challenge of 0-2, and so excited for the opportunity.
So, I asked for a more aggressive stim cycle. Because this was going to be my second fresh cycle, we were starting from the beginning in terms of meds. My doctor upped the doses accordingly, and said that I would need to be monitored closely (more ultrasounds and blood work, yah!) to avoid ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve better results. I also told her it was time to switch to injectable progesterone. Enough of this crinone bullshit. Just like how clomid was not the right drug for me, crinone was in some ways worse. Though I was not absolute batshit crazy like on clomid, the physical side effects of crinone were horrible. The gel leaks, and easily soaks through a pantiliner, so I was constantly checking to see if it looked like I wet myself. And, I never knew the absolute joy of having a hemorrhoid until my body was introduced to crinone (eye roll). And the itch. I want to dig at my cooter just thinking about how uncomfortable that was. I would much rather take a two inch needle to the love handles every day than ever put that suppository back in my body. It’s by far the worst thing I have ever had between my legs.
Aside from switching it up with my meds, I decided I needed to go back to methods from A Non-Western Approach to get back on track. This time, I added reiki to the regime. I also added the supplement ubiquinol, which is a more potent form of CoQ10, to improve my egg health. I was completely back on track with my diet, and even dined (almost) solely on organic soup from homemade bone broth during the cycle and two week wait. (Not during the AGC Gala, though. That day I ate whatever I wanted, and even had a half glass of wine!) After the gala I also felt empowered that I could succeed in my journey; I was destined to be a mother, and now was my time!
Remember in IVF #1 when I could tell you my daily med doses, how my lining was measuring, how many follicles I had per day, and all of those other details? Ya…I don’t have that information from this cycle. You reach a point in your infertility journey where your protective instincts kick in, and you become a form of indifferent. Not indifferent about the outcome, but rather indifferent about the process. It’s a way to protect yourself from the outcome you cannot control. You also form amnesia. When people who go through IVF after you have had a few rounds, and ask you specific questions, it’s really hard to remember what you went through at that time in your life. It’s like when I discuss a birth with a client, and tell her how proud I was when she got through XYZ, and she doesn’t really remember what I am talking about. It’s amazing how your brain tries to protect you from the pains that come with life.
Speaking of the pains that come with life, during this cycle I had the pleasure of having a blood draw that resulted in some (thankfully temporary) nerve damage. When the needle went into my arm, I knew something wasn’t right, and voiced that it was really uncomfortable. The phlebotomist (not my usual AMAZING friend in my practice since it was the weekend) apologized that I was uncomfortable, and continued with the draw. After a few minutes (this draw should NOT take that long), and the phlebotomist continually phishing around inside my “vein”, I told her she needed to take the needle out before I passed out. She did, with an eye roll, and I felt like I was going to faint for a while. For the next couple of weeks, it felt like I hit my funny bone, and it was hard to hold things in my left hand. It wasn’t until after my retrieval that I noticed I had bruising on the inside of my elbow, and spider like bruising up the backside of my arm (faint in the picture above). I mention this not to give you a scary horror story, but rather if a draw feels off while you’re going through treatment, to be more firm than I was about starting again. After hundreds of blood draws, you know when something isn’t right, and you need to advocate for your care so you do not get injured. I digress…
When it came time to trigger, I only had 8 measurable follicles. This was a pretty devastating blow as I knew that not all of them would be mature enough to be retrieved. A new panic started to set in that maybe I was going through early menopause. With an increase in dosage, and my age, many more eggs should have been ready for the reaping. Just add premature ovarian failure to the list of things to worry about.
I reached out to my support group and was reminded that quality is better than quantity. And, it was beyond my control at this point. All I could do was pray that all 8 would be retrieved, fertilized, and ready for implantation.
This cycle, we had decided to keep close friends and family in the loop with our process. So, we went in on Saint Patrick’s Day with the support of our loved ones (and special pineapple socks from a TTC friend), our good luck stuffed animal, Vincent (above), who stayed with our dear friends’ daughter during her NICU stay, and prayed for the best. I felt REALLY good about the cycle, and felt like this was the one. I kept using techniques I learned at reiki to keep myself relaxed and optimistic. We were ready for our babies!
When I woke up from the procedure, the results were less than ideal. Only 6 eggs were retrieved. I had a minute of panic, as most of the time not all eggs will fertilize, but then turned back to my relaxation techniques. My 6 little eggs needed positivity from their mama, and a good home to grow in. I needed to stay on track.
The next day I was excited to learn that 5 of the 6 eggs fertilized. We now had 5 chances for a baby!
The next day the count was down to 4, but those 4 were rockstars. We received the best quality report we had ever gotten, and were told we would be having a day 5 transfer. I was on top of the world when they told me that. That meant my little ones were strong enough to make it five days in this world; why not a lifetime to follow?
The next fertilization report was even better. Our embryos were all still with us and THRIVING (thank you JuicePlus and ubiquinol!). We were so looking forward to our five day transfer, and having our babies back in their home.
When transfer day came, I left the house feeling so excited. So ready to be a mother. So ready for the craziness of IVF to yield the result we desired. So ready to see Jimmy as a daddy. Donned in an AGC support group friend’s lucky socks from her transfer on Saint Patrick’s Day, we drove to the facility laughing, singing, dancing, and ready for our miracle.
I decided this time around to take the Valium offered. I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible in hopes of having a successful procedure. I drank the water until my bladder was uncomfortably full, and for the third time, Jimmy and I watched as our two little embryos found their way into their new home. We were told we had two more “perfect” embryos going in to be frozen. I felt so blessed that four of our five embryos made it this far. I was so happy, and so ready for success. On our way home “Welcome to My House” by Flo Rida came on the radio and I BLARED it and welcomed my babies to their new house. I felt so relaxed and at peace. I just knew a positive outcome was waiting for us from this cycle.
With the start of my progesterone injections came the pregnancy symptoms. Last cycle I had felt like the symptoms were so cruel because I knew it was not going to work. This round, I excitedly told Jimmy about all of them, and we waited for our positive blood test. We had decided this round I wasn’t going to pee on 300 sticks a day, and we were going to wait for our results from the blood test.
The problem is, waiting did not help my anxiety. The two week wait is always torturous. After about a week of feeling great, super positive, and pregnant AF, the unwelcome doubt started to sneak back in. That little bit of doubt turned to anxiety. And after a few bad dreams, that anxiety turned to full-fledged panic. I tried SO hard to pray the anxiety away, and repeat my mantras, and try to come back to center, but nothing was working. A part of me already knew I had failed. And, this time I knew that it was my fault. We had perfect embryos, the best of the best, and it was my body that was failing.
This entry should have been titled “The Cycle that Broke Me”.
My doubts were confirmed with a point zero something HCG blood pregnancy test. I sat in silence as I was transferred to make my “what the fuck” follow up appointment. “Hi Mary, how are you?” what a cruel question to be asked when your heart is literally shattered, to the point where your chest feels tight, and you feel detached from everything except the pain. “You shouldn’t ask that question to someone in my position” I blurted out, coolly. It didn’t even sound like my voice. Everything about me seemed foreign. After hanging up the phone, I just sat. Empty. Unable to even cry. I am glad I don’t have words to express the devastation; the grief; the feeling of hopelessness. At some point I realized that hot, angry tears were rolling down my face. How long had I been crying? And then I had to face the reality that I had to tell Jimmy. Happy Fucking Birthday, Bud, my body sucks and can’t do it’s job. You did everything right, and I am just incompetent…
It’s really hard when you have the most amazing, supportive, loving, caring people in your life, and you are constantly disappointing them with something that is beyond your control. Their love, while appreciated beyond belief, became so overwhelming. Answering questions about next steps, hearing the meant-to-be-encouraging “it just wasn’t your time”, and having to relive the pain with every loving person we had to tell was too much. I plunged into a deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop blaming myself; blaming my body. I couldn’t stop thinking about the torture I was putting Jimmy through, and the devastation I was causing my family. It was too much. This is really, REALLY hard to share, but I knew I needed professional help.
At my WTF appointment I completely broke down. We got through the next steps part (another surgery, HSG, polypectomy, endometrial scratch, and possible D&C) for which I was very quiet and compliant (not my usual inquisitive self). Then, she asked if I was ok. I started sobbing uncontrollably to the doctor I had been working with for years, telling her I needed help, and that I couldn’t handle this anxiety on my own. She recommended seeing a therapist and my PCP, and that sertraline would be her recommendation, and safe to take through pregnancy. I decided against talking to a therapist, and instead leaned heavily on my support group, and started taking the sertraline after yet another breakdown at my PCP when she asked me if I felt guilty. I held it together until that question. The guilt weighed so heavily on me that I couldn’t bear it. I just needed. some. relief.
It took a while to feel any difference, as I was adamant about taking the lowest dosage possible (against the dosage that was recommended), and the side effects were real shitty (literally), but eventually it didn’t hurt as bad. The feelings were still there, but the edge had been taken off. While it was difficult, I found myself getting out of bed. I found myself getting my act together at work. I found myself looking forward to meeting with my clients. I found myself wanting to see my friends again. I found myself wanting some romance. I found myself feeling sad, but not DEPRESSED. Negatively, though, I found that I had lost my creativity, lost my voice when it came to writing. I figured it would come back, though, and I hope it has.
Being slightly medicated also gave me the opportunity to reflect on the last cycle. Before I could only think of it angrily, but this gave me the opportunity to think about what I had learned, what I could do better, what I could do differently. That is when we made the decision that for our next cycle, for our next set of perfect embryos, we were going to keep everything to ourselves. I couldn’t handle yet another round of disappointing the ones I love. Which brings us to the next chapter: Infertility-Our Story: IVF #4…The Secret Cycle.