Wednesday, October 5, 2011

IVF Journey

I have been contemplating about whether or not to share our experience; but through this difficult process, I have been grateful for all the message boards and blogs that I found on the Internet that helped answer so many questions that we had throughout the process.  Even though our experience is not quite done, I only hope that by sharing our experience, it will reach out to those who are going through the same ordeal.

Our journey began in 2009.   We met with the fertility clinic about a year and a half after we had no success on our own.  After discussing with the doctor, we had tried 6 IUIs and all were not successful.  The next option was IVF.  We were quite scared of the IVF process, but decided to schedule it for Dec 2010, which at that time, was quite a while.  As the time got closer, we were still very hesitant about the timing because I was still in school and the week of retrieval was during finals week.  However, we ended up cancelling it because of an experience we had at the temple.

Instead of IVF, we decided to try and take a less invasive approach and met with a naturopathic doctor.  After 3 months of taking about 19 pills a day, still no success.  We also decided to try acupuncture.  The acupuncturist treated me for stress, insomnia, and infertility.  Still no luck.

The Beginning
Summer of 2011 came and went and we finally felt that it was time to do IVF, especially since I am done with school and all the major youth program events that we participated in for our church were completed (e.g. Girls Camp, Scout Camp, Youth Conference).  We scheduled an appointment to meet with the fertility specialist again and we were so surprised how quickly everything fell into place.  We scheduled IVF for Sept and it was a whirlwind of events.  The fertility clinic gave us a calendar and packet of information about when all the injections and medications would start.  Everything seemed to be on rapid speed since they put me on birth control right away and we only had a few short weeks before the whole process began.

IVF Process
Injections.  Let the dreaded shots begin.  I was fearing these shots, but I was quite surprised that they were not bad.  I was able to gather the courage to do the morning shot myself with the Follistim pen and Ryan did the evening shots (Menopur and Ganirelix).  Each day, I went into the office so they can monitor follicle growth and blood testing (more needles!).  Everything was going well and we were set for egg retrieval a few days earlier than normal.  After getting the go-ahead, we did the HCG trigger shot.  This was a beast of a needle and goes in the lower backside.  I was so scared of it.  Ryan was brave enough to do the injection.  No hesitation and with dart-like maneuver, the needle went in without an issue.  Relief!  (This would be the same for the daily progestrone in oil shot as well)

Egg retrieval.  Egg retrieval went smoothly as well.  Prior to egg retrieval, felt really bloaty, but overall, okay.  I was put on local anesthesia for this procedure so I don't remember much.  I remember waking up and saying "It's done?  That was fast!"  According to Ryan, I said this multiple times and then would promptly fall back asleep until I finally woke up for real.  The doctor asked Ryan if I took cough medicine or drank much and being a Latter-Day Saint, the answer was no.  The doctor said he figured as such because they only put in a tiny bit in me and I was out.  We were fortunate enough to have 15 eggs retrieved!  I still felt bloaty afterwards and later that day, felt really bad cramping, but it was tolerable with some Advil and a heating pad.  Next few days, I was drinking Gatorade like crazy to avoid OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome).  Gatorade felt like it was running through my veins, but I felt good--no OHSS!

Transfer.  We were undecided as to how many embryos to put in and came to the consensus that we would say 2, but will do what the doctor recommends.  He recommended that we do a single embryo transfer due to age, egg quality, first IVF.  We felt good about the decision and proceeded.  This process was easy and very similar to an IUI.  The only thing that was difficult was maintaining a full bladder for the transfer process.  It was amazing to see the transfer on the ultrasound screen.  There was a tiny white streak on the screen and the doctor told us that was the air bubble with our embryo inside!  Amazing!  I was on bed rest for 2 days.  First day/night, I spent it on the couch, but found out that was not a good idea.  Sore back/shoulders/etc.  I mainly slept those 2 days.  Overall, feeling fine.

2 Week Wait.  Ahh.  The awful 2WW!  No more daily office visits and blood tests.  Just waiting.  It is enough to drive someone crazy, let alone all the hormones pills/injections.  Tried to take it easy.  Went to the library after being done with bed rest and felt some intense cramping.  I was trying to handle the cramping by quick breaths. Felt a little silly because it seemed like something one would do during labor.  Took it easy the next few days.  Was warned not to take a home pregnancy test because of false negatives and positives, but I couldn't resist, so I took one 2 days before the first blood test.  It was a negative.  I was saddened to never see the 2 blue lines.  Ryan said not to worry since it could still be too early.  Tried to remain positive and to remember how smoothly everything was going.  We went to a movie to get my mind off of it.

First beta test.  Couldn't sleep at all the night before because of worry about the test results.  I received a Priesthood blessing from Ryan and the blessing said that I would have peace and comfort.  I told Ryan that the blessing did not seem quite positive and he chuckled and said to be patient.  Went in to get my blood drawn for testing early that morning and just waited for the call from the office.  I realized now that the wait is the worst part of the whole process.  That one call would be life-changing.  The nurse finally called shortly before lunchtime and told me the results.  Beta count was at 6, with 5 and under being a negative.  Therefore, since my beta count was so low, it is most likely a negative.  However, they still wanted me to remain on all drugs and wait for the second beta test to confirm.

Wait #2.  Now we wait again.  First word that came to my mind after the call:  Devastation.  But kinda had a feeling this was the case based on the home pregnancy test and a general "off" feeling.  I will be honest, it is so hard to maintain an optimistic and positive outlook.  I feel numb.  The emotional pain is so much worse than anything.  I have come to realize that physical pain is much more tolerable.  Tons of questions have swarmed through my mind as to what went wrong.  Did I do something?  How did the whole process go so smoothly until the end?  What could we have done differently?  What more must we sacrifice?  I wish we could re-wind and go back to the transfer process and re-do.  Maybe I needed to take it easier?  So many unanswered questions.  I took another progesterone shot last night and wondered if it was even worth taking this shot.  I wonder if there is still a small glimmer of hope and chance for a miracle that the second beta test will turn out positive.

Second Beta Test.  Went in to get blood drawn one last time.  For some reason, I have a lump forming from the blood drawn.  What a way to end this IVF cycle.  Still feels very surreal knowing that we have reached the end.  The whole thing went by so quickly, I almost wonder whether we forgot something along the way.  Finally got the call from the office to confirm that my betas went down to 4, so it is a definite negative.

Next Steps.  The obvious question is:  what next?  To be honest, we are still dealing with this.  I know many have asked whether we have considered adoption or foster children and we have truly analyzed and prayed about it.  But right now, it is not our time.  There is just another level of emotions that go through the adoption process and we are not there yet.  The only thing we can do is to take it day by day, as painful as it might be.  To hold tight on the idea of hope and to have faith that the long-term plan is the right one.  Is this easy to do?  By all means, no!  It is agonizing and it hurts--and I don't know how long it will hurt.  There have been many tears shed through this whole journey.  But I know that our journey is not complete.  And that is what keeps us going.