Here I am again…
So to begin 2017 I started ANOTHER IVF cycle. This being my 3rd stimmed cycle and I’ve had 5 embryos implanted all resulting in a negative.
On the 25th January I went in for my egg pick up. As I do I arrive early at the hospital, 5:30am to be exact to sit patiently waiting for my time to again go under a general anaesthetic to have my golden eggs collected. The ones that over the previous 2 weeks have been cooking away and growing.
As you are becoming more aware of IVF because I share so intimately my experience the previous 2 weeks before pick up involves daily injections, monitoring, bloods, internal examinations, appointments, hormones raging, severe bloating that you can hardly walk, bruises from all the injections that your stomach looks black and blue, all of this is put into your body to help mature and create lots of eggs, which in turn maximises your chances of creating the perfect embryo. 36hours prior to egg pick up you trigger an injection which helps release the eggs from your follicles.
This round I was on 3 injections almost daily, CoQ10, and Melatonin. The Gonal F started my cycle off, then throw in a bit of Luveris to help, followed up with Orgalutran and to finish your cycle off the Ovidrel trigger right before pick up.
The crinone- The dreaded crinone. An applicator inserted twice a day to help with the lining. This gives you false feelings. Sore breasts, cramping, fuller breasts… you name it. I hate this stuff! This starts generally the day after pick up and you keep using until your told to stop. If your transfer results in a pregnancy some women need to take it up until 12 weeks pregnant. It’s very unpleasant in more ways then one but I won’t go into that.
The above picture is what my kitchen bench looks like during an IVF cycle. If you walked into my house and were none the wiser you would think I was either a drug addict with a weird habit or someone with a chronic illness.
So at 5:30am I was waiting patiently…
It was finally my time to enter theatre.
With my pretty blue dress on and hair net like a kitchen maid and my underwear that is one size fits all I marched into the theatre ready, keen, in a bit of pain from my ovaries but praying I would again get a good result. Last collection I had 18 eggs so I was hoping to beat my own personal record. With my specialist holding my hand and so many familiar faces in the theatre looking after me as I’m put to sleep I knew I was in safe hands and my body had done all it could. The operation is so fast. Your awake before you know it and you have a number written on your hand with the amount of eggs that were collected.
I woke up to…
I’m not going to lie when I first woke up I was a little disheartened about only seeing 15. But in the waiting room were other women also undertaking IVF. One woman had got 6 eggs, another 4 and another 9. So I had a little cry, said a prayer and realised just how lucky I am. For a Woman’s body to create this many eggs after ovulation is just not normal. I’ve often wondered about the impact doing cycle after cycle will have on my body. Besides my body let’s not leave out the emotional impact, the stress, the anxiety, the frustration, the hurt, and the financial impact on both Max and I.
After your egg pick up your sent home to rest and relax all the while waiting for a call from the scientists to tell you how many eggs could be fertilised. Out of my 15 eggs collected that morning only 7 could be fertilised. The other 8 collected either not mature enough or just not good eggs. This was very tough to digest.
As each day passes you receive a call from the lab to say how they look. If they are creating enough cells each day and growing or if they weren’t strong enough and arrested. As each day passed I still had 7. I had 7 up until day 5. Between day 4-5 two had arrested and weren’t strong enough to keep growing. As far as I’m aware embryos growing from day 4 then require a lot of energy to get to the Morula stage and then the blastocyst stage. Only the strongest survive. If you get to a blast you realise you have semi ok embryos and I’ve been told D graded embryos can lead to a pregnancy.
Day 5 is D day! It’s embryo transfer day.
Day 5 my rituals start. Drink pineapple, have the core, pomegranate juice, eat nuts, relax, put my lucky socks on, and then 1 hour before transfer drink nearly a litre of water and hold my bladder.
It was here I’d found out another embryo had arrested over night (bringing my total to 4) and they had 2 embryos ready to be implanted. Both embryos were graded a C. My previous embryos had mostly been graded AA, AB so to hear C I was again shocked. That’s why we elected 2. And then the fun part- you lay in stirrups wide awake with your legs open, no underwear all dignity lost, have a Pap smear type instrument inserted and then they place a catheter into your uterus. The scientist (embryologist) then brings your “babies” into the room and the Dr inserts them. I’m not going to lie it is unpleasant, it’s degrading, and it’s embarrassing. I guess I’m kind of getting use to it because it’s now been over 7 times I have been in that situation but for some reason it doesn’t make it any easier.
Then Max and I go home again where I put my feet in the air in the hope my embryo won’t “fall out” and sit and wait for the next 2 weeks. The worst part of the journey. The dreaded two week wait. I would rather stick larger needles into myself than sit through the two weeks. It’s torture. Your mind plays tricks, your body makes you feel, hear and analyse every little feeling. Google becomes your worst enemy yet you can’t drag your self away from it because someone out there has the same experience as you and theirs has resulted in a positive pregnancy so you MUST be the same. Every cycle I say to myself I’m NOT going to Google… but in the end I’m weak. No matter how much you try and forget that you are PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise) it still crosses your mind. So here they are my two C graded embryos. My babies. Officially now in my stomach. Officially PUPO. Such a beautiful feeling.
For the first time in over a year of trying IVF and being in this dreaded wait multiple times I feel relaxed. Even Max mentioned to me I looked more relaxed. I went about my day to day life and majority of the time I “pretended” like it wasn’t any different. Day 1 post transfer I didn’t feel much, day 2 and 3 still not much, day 4 and 5 a little bit of cramping and I was certain that my periods were going to arrive that was the feeling I was getting inside, day 6-7 still that heavy period type feeling. By day 7 I couldn’t wait any longer so I took a home pregnancy urine test.
Not the best photo… But I got a second line….. For the first time in 5 years, 3 ivf cycles, 7 transfers, hundreds of needles, scans, blood tests, appointments and attempts I got that second line! Infertility is a tough tough road. I’m a strong girl but this has tried to break me so many times but I’ve got up and kept going. I screamed for Max. We cried together so so happy. Our dreams, our wish, all the stress, hard yards, EVERYTHING had finally given us our BFP. I stared at the test for 4 hours! Shocked! After that nearly every time I went to the toilet I would pee on a stick! Terrible I know but it overtakes your life. Something you so desperately want you can almost feel. I nearly slept with that positive stick next to me.
Each day after I continued to test.
So many emotions ran through my mind and heart. So many thoughts, so many dreams, ideas, wishes, planning, announcing, what I’d look like pregnant, just having a pregnant belly, what our child would look like!!! Argh the list is endless.
Over the next few days I would pee on a stick first thing in the morning and then again at night and compare the darkness. The line was just not progressing! It was there but not getting any darker or any lighter.
My specialist is over seas but STILL answered my messages straight away. I got myself into such a panic- was it a chemical pregnancy, is it an ectopic pregnancy…. He kept reassuring me. In the end my eyes were going cross eyed from looking at so many different tests and I wasn’t sure if I was seeing things or imaging it. Max probably felt the same. I asked people online and again googled! Every ones journey is so different so I have to learn not to compare and just have faith that I am in the best hands with my clinic.
Normally day 11 you go in for your Beta HCG blood test. Due to my increased anxiety I was allowed to go in a day earlier. I spoke to a colleague I work with and said to her I was not feeling confident but then I was, I wasn’t bleeding which was a good sign and at the end of the day it was the furthest I had been in any cycle, so at least I knew my body could “accept” embryos.
I arrived at the clinic at 7:00am for my bloods. I had woken up and was brown spotting and I just cried and cried. My dream was over. I begged Max not to force me to have a blood test. To not take me in there. I knew the outcome. I was certain.
After bloods I go home. Sit and wait. Sit and wait. You wait for that phone call so bad. I waited and waited, it felt like an eternity yet was only 4 hours. The phone rings and your heart sinks. I’d already come to the point of realisation that my dream was over. That it wasn’t my time. My results were in: HCG 32, Progesterone 15.
Your HCG is the hormone that secreates into your blood and determines if there is a viable pregnancy in there. Your progesterone is your lining. It helps support the uterus to support the embryo to keep it growing. On 10dp5dt my HCG they would be happy with 50 & above. My progesterone should be sitting at around 20. So I am low on both fronts. I had started to bleed and I was certain I was losing it. Everyone held out hope and I went home and rested.
I guess it gave me some happiness that I wasn’t officially out of the game just yet and there were options available to keep me pregnant. I had to increase the horrible progesterone Pessaries to 3 a day and do a repeat blood test in 2 days time. The next 48hours were touch and go but no one was giving up on me just yet. Instead they were throwing everything at my body and my embryo to give it every possible chance of survival. Now it was up to my precious little embryo that I already love so much weather it is ready to fight on and hang in there and get cosy for the next 9 months. For the moment even if only for one more day I was pregnant. I could feel deep down that it wasn’t going to work and I was delaying the inevitable. I had to monitor bleeding and my uterus felt like it had a heavy fog over it.
My cycle is now in limbo. My emotions worse then when I started. My anxiety at and all time peak all the while fighting so hard to remain positive that in 48hours time my HCG will double and increase and my little embryo on board would be the “little embryo that could” my little fighter, my little C grade turned AA grade, my little champion and in 9 months time our precious little baby boy or girl.
Two days later I went in for bloods. I was living in hope. I know I had tried everything to maximise my chances of keeping this little fighter. Bed rest, lots of progesterone, no stress and relaxation. I wanted this so bad. After bloods I came home and rested again. I could feel my stomach starting to cramp which I knew wasn’t a bad thing but it also wasn’t a good thing- it was depending on which way my luck would turn. Our IVF journey we have had to fight for and fight on so the luck has never gone our way. But this time it could be different. As the phone rang my heart again sank. Max raced into the bedroom.
“Hi Sam I’m really really sorry but your HCG is dropping. It started at 32 and was now 23” my heart smashed into a million pieces, my hope lost, my dreams shattered. I knew deep down that would be the call yet I held out hope. In that instant my stomach got a sharp pain. There will be no baby to take home in October. I’ve since come to realise that low progesterone is due to a failing pregnancy.
So now as I write this blog I’m assuming I’m passing it. Each time I go to the toilet I check and wonder if it was in there somewhere. I know it’s not big enough to see yet I’d only nearly be 5 weeks along. Each clot I check and wonder. My stomach has been having some bad cramps and I guess I can’t forget what is happening to my body because those cramps make me remember. Today or tomorrow I will have miscarried my “baby” Max is a beautiful man, he lit a candle for us and we both said a prayer. My little embryo that could, couldn’t. It wasn’t ready for this world as much as we were ready for it.
This journey is not only tough on me it’s just as hard on Max. We have cried so many tears, we have continued to fight this battle, we have gained strength from each other during the toughest months and we have never given up. Both of our families rally around us each and every cycle. We are truly blessed to have such a great support. This journey sucks every inch out of your being, it makes you feel worthless, different, and tests your mind, body and soul that you didn’t realise how strong you could actually be. I guess that’s why they call us Infertility Warriors. When I started this journey over a year ago I assumed first time- pregnant. I never once thought I would still be here nearly 2 years later trying for that same goal. It feels like a never ending tunnel. A hurdle I just can’t jump over. Why is my body failing me so much? Testing my strength? Pushing me to absolute maximum limits, testing my emotional strength. IVF is not for the weak. People often say “maybe it’s the sperm”, “maybe it’s the eggs”…. The sperm and the eggs look very strong and when mixed together make strong embryos. So NO it’s not either of those. I’m dealing with science. Max and I unfortunately have a <1% chance of conceiving natrually so we have no option but IVF. Science is Something I’ve never been good at. We have given this IVF journey a red hot go, you can’t deny us of that. Our specialist pushes my body to the absolute maximum. Both times after my egg pick ups for the following 2 days I have been crippled in pain, unable to walk, my ovaries 2-3 times the normal size, nearly twice been admitted to hospital but I am a WARRIOR. I showed my body just how strong I am, that wasn’t going to bring me down.
On this journey I have met some amazing people. Lifelong friends. Fellow IVF warriors. Some have an easy ride on this journey, others tougher then mine and they still get up each day, go to work, fight on and act as though everything is ok. We have to. Infertility can’t beat you, you have to beat infertility. People just don’t quite understand what is involved for someone during this part of their life. I try and explain it best I can from my personal point of view but I can’t find the appropriate words to express how I exactly feel and have felt. The pain I am hiding behind my happy smile. It’s like grieving for something that you just haven’t even seen or felt. The pain at times is imbearable but you cry and cry and fight on. The Women who have been or are going through this…. THEY ARE MY HEROS…. In a couple of weeks I have my best friend visiting us and that alone is the best medicine anyone can receive. I know a hug and a good chat with her makes everything so much better.
So for now I’m taking time with Max to heal, to gather strength, JUST US. I’m blessed to have him beside me on my journey and to have the most amazing Dr and scientists and nurse anyone could ever hope for. Together we will win this battle, for us it is just taking a lot longer.