I am struggling to find the right words to capture both what I am feeling tonight, and what transpired over the last few days.
When I last wrote, my wife had just wrapped up her egg retrieval and I was hesitant to document how many eggs we got. I follow so many blogs of other couples who are attempting co-IVF like we are (some of whom seem to be flying over each hurdle effortlessly, and others who appear to be struggling with this process). I also follow a lot of heterosexual women who are on this IVF journey because they truly have no other choice – many of whom have gone through this process several times over with empty arms, heavy hearts, and hopes that the next attempt will be the one that works.
So I am hesitant to dig into some of these details for two reasons:
- I do not want my joy to EVER cause even a small twinge of pain for my fellow IVF-ers (or women on this journey via another assisted reproductive channel). I truly want us ALL to have healthy babies.
- Our journey could still end similarly and I could be getting excited only to have my heart broken later in this process.
I also know that the more I read of others’ stories, the more I feel like I have a community. I read some of your blogs and feel like we are old friends – I wait eagerly for the next chapter and my wife and I smile at so many of our similarities with you all. I feel like I owe it to the part of myself who feels connected to the other blogs, forums (however old they may be) and articles that have gotten us through these past few months, to share it all. I also think we owe it to the friends and family who will (hopefully) read all of this later to better understand this journey.
So I will continue to share: good and bad. And I will continue to look to you all for support in those rough moments, and to share joy in the great ones.
Back to the matter at hand….retrieval day.
So doctor came out to gleefully inform me that he retrieved 40 eggs from my wife. Yes, 40. All of our research on PCOS allowed us to predict this with relative accuracy (in fact, my wife actually guessed that it would be 40 the night before her procedure). We approached the news with caution, as our research also advised us that when it comes to PCOS and high retrieval counts, very often: many of the eggs are not mature or able to become viable embryos.
So on Thursday, we received a call from the embryologist that of the 40, 29 were mature and able to be ICSI-ed (fertilized) and of the 29, 24 appeared to be continuing to develop normally.
The weekend passed by relatively quickly and effortlessly as my sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces were in town (they are 4 months and 20 months) and we spent a lot of time together. That helped to keep my stress at bay as well. My wife and I have been facetiming with them pretty often so that we can see our nieces and vice versa since they all live about 2 hours away, and this was the first time that my niece really clung to me for a large portion of the weekend. She gave hugs freely, and even put her arms up to be picked up and then snuggled her head into my shoulder for a few minutes. It may have been because my mom (“mom-mom” who is literally her FAVORITE person in this world) wasn’t home at the time, but I’ll take hugs and snuggles any day from any of my sweet nieces.
So by the time Monday arrived, it kind of felt like any other day as the weekend had been so busy. I set my alarm for 4:50am so I could take a quick shower and prepare myself for the appointment at 8 (which was an hour away and we needed to be 45 minutes early for), but I got up at 4 to go to the bathroom (for some reason, the progesterone shots make me pee about 3x/night) and couldn’t fall back asleep.
I was advised to drink 60 oz of water before the procedure, so I started drinking about 20 minutes into our car ride, and I felt pretty comfortable until I sat down in the chair in the waiting room: then it started to hit me, and I began to get irritable waiting to go back.
We were taken into a changing room, and I had to put on a gown, hair cap, and slipper socks, and my wife had to put a yellow apron over her clothes, booties over her shoes, and a hair cap over her hair as well.
We were then brought into a staging area, and the nurse asked me to sit in a reclined arm chair and then draped a warm hospital blanket over me. She went over all of my discharge instructions (very light activity for the first day and absolutely no work, followed by a reduced activity level for the rest of the week: light walking, no heavy lifting, and food/drink as if I am pregnant (i.e. no alcohol, tylenol for pain, etc.)
After she wrapped up, we waited with bated breath (and a very full bladder at this point) for the embryologist. By the time she came in, I was irritable and ready to get on with the procedure, and she sat down and showed us a picture of our embryo on paper. She explained that it was a grade ABA (more on the grading here: http://www.advancedfertility.com/blastocystimages.htm)
She also showed us how the cells were beginning to rupture through the cell wall, indicating that the embryo was “hatching”. We didn’t get a copy of the photo, unfortunately, and I meant to ask her to email us a copy and forgot. I am going to try to call tomorrow for a photo.
Anyway, we then asked how many were going to be frozen, and were taken aback when she said, “we have ONE ready for the freezer.” My eyes immediately started to well up, and I was struggling to comprehend how we’d gone from 24 all the way down to 2, but when we asked about any others she said we “may have two more for the freezer tomorrow. It depends on how they do.”
At this point, my bladder was about to look much like the hatching embryo and I was sad and frustrated. Even my stoic wife – who literally never gets emotional – turned away and started to cry after the embryologist left the room. She felt like it was her fault, and we were both so sad because this procedure cost so much, and we know we can’t afford it again, so we so desperately wanted all of this to work and to have backup embryos in case the first try fails.
So the nurse popped her head back in, and asked if we needed anything. At that point, I was standing with the blanket wrapped around me as I was in too much pain to sit, and she escorted me to the bathroom and handed me a cup and encouraged me to fill it twice and dump it so that I could be a little more relaxed during the procedure. I was too afraid that my lack of control would hinder the doctor’s ability to get a good read on things, so I filled 3/4 of one cup and waddled back to the room just in time to chat with the doctor.
She was not our normal doctor either, but I really liked her. She was calm, direct, and just a tiny bit funny. We told her how sad we were about the embryologist’s news, and she told us not to worry – she said that the drop off we experienced was normal for such a large retrieval, and that the quality and ability of this embryo to succeed and turn into a healthy baby was not related to the fact that so many died off. She got us excited and ushered us into the surgery suite to start the procedure.
I walked into a room surrounded by windows, and laid down on a table with the largest, most cushioned strirrups I’ve put my feet in, to-date. My wife sat by my head and we held hands as they inserted the speculum and pressed down on my bladder with an external ultrasound wand. I asked the doctor if she’d ever been peed on during the procedure to which she responded, “What answer do you want?” “No..” I hesitantly laughed. “No, then,” she told me. Then, the embryologist told us to glance back over our shoulder to see our magnified embryo on the screen. I started to tear up a little at that point.
Then, the doctor washed my cervix (don’t ask me what that entailed – all I know is that I had the speculum and about five pounds of pressure on my slightly emptied but still-painful bladder) and a moment later, the embryologist came in with the embryo in a catheter, which we were able to watch on the ultrasound as it was placed in my uterus (a tiny “flash” on the ultrasound monitor). Everyone was so wonderful and excitedly pointed out what everything was on the screen. I think images on that screen are FINALLY starting to become discernible to me (after what? 10 ultrasounds, now?).
After that, the doctor pulled everything out, and said, “I can’t lie to you. Now that we’re done, I will tell you: I’ve been peed on.” I tried not to laugh, and silently gave thanks that I wasn’t on that list. They then gave us five minutes to lay there together before they came back to escort us out. More tears, and a general feeling of disbelief. I have literally wanted to experience pregnancy and have a child for longer than I can remember, and here I was – possibly at the beginning of that process. Here WE were, possibly on the first day of becoming “moms” (even if it is to a tiny embryo), and I just couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. (and that feeling is scaring me a little as I just cannot fathom any of this being real. It just feels like something I have wanted and hoped for, for so long and if I allow myself to give in to the excitement, then maybe something will go wrong. I know it’s horrible, but its honestly how I feel).
So after we walked back, they ushered me to a bathroom where I had a surprisingly difficult time trying to pee. My back started burning and my legs were shaking, and I was able to go a tiny bit before a wave of nausea washed over me (which – LITERALLY – never, ever happens) and I had to stand by the toilet for a few moments swallowing that saliva that you know your mouth is only producing as your stomach is ready to turn itself inside out. Fortunately, I didn’t vomit, and after a few minutes I recovered enough to finish going to the bathroom and get dressed. I fell asleep in the car, and for a while on the couch when we got home, and woke up to a yellowed sky due to the solar eclipse, which added to the overall surrealness of the day. We wrapped the day up with some slow cooker pulled pork that I set up the night before the procedure so that we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and could have a semi-healthy meal, and then fell asleep to a netflix movie after my progesterone shot.
We did get a call this morning from the embryologist, though, and she left me a message letting me know that we had FIVE embryos that were frozen. We were ELATED as that was SO much better than we’d expected the day prior, and she called me later in the day to say that a sixth survived as well. So final results are as follows:
Wife has PCOS. Went to retrieval on 8/16 at which point 40 eggs were retrieved. She did NOT develop OHSS.
Of the 40, 29 were mature and 24 of the 29 fertilized normally. We dropped down to 16 for our Day 3 count, and had 1 implanted on 8/21. Of the remaining embryos to be frozen:
- 1 is grade 5AA
- 1 is grade 5AB
- 3 are grade 5BB
- 1 is grade 6BB
So now….we wait. Did any of you take a pregnancy test during the 2WW? If so, are you happy that you did or do you regret it? Any advice for not going crazy?
In the meantime, we are wishing, hoping, praying and trying to put good energy and love back into the world (God knows, it needs it right now). Hope you’re all on the verge of great news. ❤