My First IVF
When you’re first discovering that you are having trouble getting pregnant, IVF seems like such a drastic step – the nuclear option. You think to yourself “surely I will get pregnant by some other means before I have to resort to having an IVF.” And, for most of us, we go through many steps before we are at the point when we need to seriously consider having one. It can take years from starting to try to have a baby to having to have an IVF.
In my case, I had done several less invasive things. I had tried timed intercourse, I had tried taking medication alone, and I had tried several IUIs. None of them resulted in a pregnancy. My doctor told me that if I were 32 then I could try a few more IUIs but I was 37 by then and time was not on my side. It was time to go nuclear.
This was the spring of 2014 and I was due to move to the UAE with my husband in the autumn. I knew that I could try a single IVF on my US health insurance so it was then or never. As I started that cycle, I was filled with so much anxiety. An IVF was supposed to be the thing I did if absolutely nothing else worked. It was always the thing down the road to be considered when absolutely everything else failed. It was crazy to think that I was there.
One of the most difficult things I discovered about infertility was how I would always compare myself with other women I knew. I felt like all my friends were getting pregnant and saying this to me like “we weren’t even trying!” or “all I did was light an aromatherapy candle and now I’m pregnant!” where as I was taking foul-tasting herbs, having needles poked though my skin, ingesting expensive medications my insurance didn’t cover, and doing so many internet searches that Google started asking me if I was ok. I had forgotten more about fertility than my fertile friends ever had to know in the first place. And still not getting pregnant!
But since it was a gradual process, I had some time to get my head around it and I started getting ready for the cycle. All my tests were done and my period had started, so we were off.
The clinic in San Francisco was very thorough. My husband and I had to take a mandatory introduction to IVF class and a separate but also mandatory injection class with a nurse. Our doctor had ordered our medication from an online fertility pharmacy and it had all been sent to my house. We had a detailed calendar telling us how much of which medication I was to administer each day of my cycle. We were prepared. Terrified, but prepared.
Most of the next few weeks is pretty hazy in my memory. I did my injections and went to my appointments. Each time my doctor was pleased with my progress and eventually, I was told to administer my trigger shot and I went in for my retrieval. The retrieval went smoothly and I ended up with 6 fertilized eggs by the next morning. No one mentioned genetic screening to me.
By day 5 I had five strong blastocysts and, together with our doctor, we decided to transfer two of them. The other ones would be frozen. Again, all went smoothly and I went home for the dreaded two week wait.
At this point I was feeling pretty cocky about IVF. It had gone really smoothly for me. All the drugs did what they were supposed to do in my body and I never had any unpleasant side-effects. My eggs seemed to be good quality and a large percentage of them fertilized and survived. I knew that some women suffered during an IVF but I didn’t seem to.
I did more googling in those two weeks than possibly could have been good for me. I became fluent in a whole new language of abbreviations: 4dp5dt after TTC for 2 years, PCOS, is it too early to POAS?
The night before my blood test I barely slept. I was so anxious. I had put months into this IVF cycle and it would possibly all come crashing down in the morning. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I snuck into the bathroom around 5:30am to take a home pregnancy test. I couldn’t bring myself to remain in the bathroom while the test prepared its life-changing answer. After several minutes of pacing around my living room, I tiptoed back into the bathroom to read the result.
It was positive!
I was flooded with an emotion that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. A profound sense of relief and an overwhelming gratitude coupled with a good dose of fear and a fresh form of anxiety. I ran into the bedroom and woke my husband up with the great news. He was thrilled, of course. I still had to go to the clinic for my blood test but that was still hours away. I tried to go back to sleep for a while but there was no way that was going to happen.
The ladies at the lab had gotten to know me after all the testing I had done over the previous few months. They knew exactly why I was there and I was so excited to tell them that I already knew the results of the pregnancy test they were going to administer that morning. The lab was a separate facility from my IVF clinic but my doctor was kind enough to order the results as a rush job, so I should know my beta number before lunchtime.
My husband and I went out for breakfast to celebrate. I can remember the thrill of ordering my eggs well-done and thinking about all the food sacrifices I would have to make from then until my baby was born. I was so excited I could barely eat.
By noon, I had received the call from my IVF clinic telling me that my beta number was 420 - a very strong positive. This was a Friday and the nurse told me that I would repeat my lab work on Monday to be sure the numbers had doubled. In the early stages of pregnancy, the most important thing is that your beta hCG levels double every 2 days. It’s the rising of the number that suggests a pregnancy is moving forward appropriately.
The weekend passed in a giddy cloud of fantasizing about our growing baby. We had only told my best friend and her husband that we were doing an IVF so they were the only ones we could celebrate with. We went over to their house and she gave me a stack of pregnancy books that she used when she was pregnant with her, at that point, 5 month old daughter. All my months of barely concealed envy for my friend and her gorgeous baby melted away as I saw a glimpse of what my life would be in about a year.
As I drove to the lab for my second beta, the anxiety started creeping in. What if the numbers didn’t double? Could I somehow have imagined the positive first beta result? I am no stranger to anxiety and I really let it run away with me that morning. I decided to treat myself to an extra spicy Mexican hot chocolate from my favorite coffee shop on Haight Street in San Francisco to try to calm my nerves and it was there that I got the call that my hCG number was now something in the neighborhood of 1,200. A very positive positive. I was pregnant for sure. The nurse even gave me my due date: March 15, 2015. It was real. I was scared on a whole new level. This was happening!
I would get to enjoy about 7 more weeks of that pregnancy.