I’m driving home from a doctor’s appointment and I see a homeless man on the side of the road. This isn’t uncommon here in Colorado, but it hits me really hard that he has nowhere to go. I feel so bad for him! I start crying and can’t seem to stop. Tears cloud my vision and I’m grateful for a stop sign so I can try to pull myself together.
This is my life. I cry. About everything. WHY, you ask?? Because I have soooo many drugs and hormones flooding through my body that I literally cannot control my emotions. I’m a walking pile of tears! I’m doing daily injections 3x/day plus taking medications and going in for daily appointments which include ultrasounds and bloodwork. My stomach is so sensitive now (from all the shots) that just touching it or having something brush up against it… hurts. I feel like a crazy person and I’m an emotional wreck. THAT is the life of someone going thru infertility treatments…
Let me catch you up from everything that happened since going on our Vail trip. The year 2016 started with the decision to leave that Vegas doctor behind. Our friends in Colorado (who had done IVF before) were ready to try again and they had an appointment with someone named, Dr. Greene. They had such great things to say about him that we decided to make an appointment. We were ready to work with someone who was as passionate about helping us find success as we were.
We met him, GRILLED him (especially Jamie Ha!), and left feeling really good about him! He took a completely different approach. Instead of everything being rush-rush-rush… like it was with our last doctor, he felt like it was extremely important to figure out the perfect plan for each couple no matter how long that took. Fast forward thru more appointments, and we decided that since one issue in the past was my low egg count and since we knew I COULD get pregnant but wasn’t able to keep it… we felt like doing a couple egg retrievals in a row PLUS genetic testing on surviving embryos was the way to go this time.
One thing we later found out about our last doctor was that he had done what is called mini-IVF or micro-IVF. This approach uses lower doses of fertility drugs and involves less monitoring of the growing embryos before transfer. It’s a cheaper way to go (can be as low as $8000) BUT it’s not the route you want to take if you want more than one child. We were hoping to produce a lot of healthy embryos so we could have as large as family as we wanted. This approach usually only produces 1-2 embryos. This means the doctor transfers those, doesn’t have to worry about storing frozen embryos for couples, and will have repeat customers if the couple wants another child. This also equals more money for the doctor… it costs more to do a full IVF cycle (retrieval AND transfer) than it does just to do a frozen transfer. I was pretty crushed when this information came to light. I lost any remaining respect I might have had for that doctor.
Back to why I’m so hormonal…. Ha! THAT was my life during the two retrievals we did. Now that you are MORE than educated on what a retrieval is, I can fast forward thru the emotional and physical toll it took on us. We decided to try one egg retrieval to see how many embryos we would get before moving forward with a second. This took the majority of 2016. You need to go in for tests to make sure you are ready, then take shots/meds to prep for the retrieval (grow the eggs), go in for constant monitoring and bloodwork, and once the retrieval is over, the eggs are fertilized, once you see how many made it through the week, biopsies are taken and sent into a lab and you wait for the test results. Once that is done… you wait for your body to recover (at least a month… maybe two) before you try it again. Lots. Of. Waiting.
On our first attempt, we had 8 follicles. Two of them seemed to be “sucking” up all the drugs and were growing like crazy. We were able to successfully retrieve three that were large enough but only two had mature eggs in them. The GOOD news was that they were able to fertilize both. We were extremely worried at this point since every step of the process, you usually lose some. We had to wait 5 days to see if they would make it.
We received the news on April 22… BOTH EMBRYOS SURVIVED!!! They took biopsies of both and then froze them… and the waiting game began. It takes between 10-15 business days (about 3 weeks) to find out if anything is wrong with the embryos. Lemme tell you, those 3 weeks go by SOOOOOO slowly! Embryos are also ranked as “good” “fair” or “poor” (I think they are more scientific than that, but that give you the general idea.. ha!) Ours were both ranked as “fair.”
On May 10th, we received a phone call with mixed news. One embryo was missing Chromosome 7, which means that it would result in a miscarriage and wouldn’t make it full term. The other embryo… was healthy!!! This means if we were to transfer it, we’d have an 80% chance of it making it to a live birth.
At this point, Jamie and I knew we wanted more than one child, so we decided to move forward with another retrieval session to see if we could get more healthy embryos. We started “round 2” in June. My meds were upped even more to see if we could produce bigger/healthier follicles.
My schedule consisted of me going into the doctor’s office every. single. morning. I would get my blood drawn and then go in for an ultrasound. After heading home, Dr. Greene would review my ultrasound results and my bloodwork, create my medicine protocol for the next 24 hours (what shots to take, when to take them, what pills to take, and when to take them), pass it off to my assigned nurse, Sarah, and she would call me to fill me in. Let’s just say Sarah and I were pretty much BFFs by this point! That girl was outgoing, funny, upbeat, and calmed me down every time I had a freak out! I felt like she was really invested in our success and I was so glad I had her during this process.
I was up to 5 shots in one day and about a week before the scheduled retrieval, she called with the news that my estrogen level was crazy high and that I needed to get off my phone and do ANOTHER shot immediately so my body didn’t think it was time to ovulate (get rid of the eggs). That particular shot burns and I was now lucky enough to have to do it twice a day on top of my other ones. I just kept telling myself it was worth it.
I should also report that by this time… I was a PRO at shots. During our first round, Jamie had to do all of them for me. Fast forward a year and I was able to do all the the “little” shots in my stomach but I left the “trigger” shots and the progesterone shots to him… those were too much for me!
Heading into our 2nd retrieval, we once again had 8 potential follicles but with all the extra drugs, they were larger than the last batch! They were able to retrieve five and four were successfully fertilized. We allowed ourselves to get excited. The thought of being able to freeze multiple embryos just meant we could have a larger family!! It increased our odds… in our favor.
They called us a few days later with bittersweet news. One of the embryos didn’t make it, one DID make it (and was frozen), and the other two were unknown for now. They told us they were going to let them “fertilize” one more day. One had a 50/50 chance of survival and the other wasn’t looking good. We were discouraged but tried to remain hopeful. There was still the “genetic testing” phase the embryos needed to go through so the more we had, the better our chances of having some that would be genetically sound.
They called us the next day to let us know one didn’t make it. They were only able to send biopsies of two embryos off to the lab for testing… and it was time, again, to wait. We were extremely discouraged, but the good news (heck, I would have take ANY good news at that point), was that I was currently off any medication, which meant daily crying was no longer an obstacle. Ha! I was starting to feel a little more like myself… and even though I was disappointed with only having two embryos to test… I think I was “all cried out” and was able to dealt a little better with that news.
News came back a few weeks later. Once again, we had one genetically sound embryo and one that wasn’t. The embryo that didn’t pass this time had an extra chromosome 9. I looked this up and children who are born with this “condition” vary… some are perfectly healthy and others are severely mentally disabled. Most doctors won’t transfer any embryos that have been tested and aren’t genetically healthy… so we were down to just one embryo for this round and two overall.
At this point, after two rounds of retrievals.. our issues were pretty clear. I have a low egg count, my follicles have a hard time growing to a large enough size to BE mature for fertilization (unless drugs are used), and even when we get to the point of fertilizing mature eggs… there is a 50% chance they would make it to a live birth (due to missing or extra chromosomes). It’s safe to say that we would never have had biological children without the help of modern medicine! It was also a relief to finally be able to pinpoint our fertility issues.
Buuuutttt…. before we could think about the next step, which was transferring the embryos back into my body… we needed to get this ole body of mine in tip-top shape! It was now June.. we’d spent half of a year working with Dr. Greene figuring out our issues, growing/retrieving eggs, fertilizing eggs, testing embryos, and we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Did this take longer than when we were with our first doctor? Sure! But we now finally had answers, we weren’t blindly transferring embryos and hoping they would take, and our hope was renewed. We were more than willing to do anything needed to make sure my body wouldn’t reject any embryo we placed in the uterus in the future.
Soooo….what was next? Polyps! What a fun word… (not!) I had them in my uterus and we needed to remove them before doing a transfer. (Polyps = growths that are usually noncancerous but can be cancerous.) Anything that could potentially prevent a healthy embryo from attaching in my uterus needed to be resolved… just one more step in the process to ensuring success! The surgery was scheduled for the middle of August… another waiting game but there are all sorts of things we needed to do to prep my body. It was scheduled in a local hospital and I was pretty nervous. Up until then, I’d done all of my procedures at the infertility clinic. Being at a hospital freaked me out! In a nutshell, they basically surgically removed the lining in my uterus AND all the polyps.
Once that was done, my body needed to go through a full cycle (ya know, the fun period thing…) but apparently the surgery messed my body up a little. It skipped over a month.. which put us even further behind. Two months later, I had a period and we could finally start down the road to a transfer! At this point, Sarah, my nurse had been with me the whoooole time. I had now “graduated” to be with a FET nurse (frozen embryo transfer)…. And Stacy was my new gal!
Time to start meds again! Once again, a box of meds arrived and it was time to dig in. Lupron shots, Estrogen patches, and Estrace medication… and about a week before the transfer, the dreaded progesterone shots began. Not everyone will have the same medical protocol… it will depend on what your body needs as well as your medical history. I also did a round of intralipids about a week prior. This is supposed to help with implantation. You’re hooked up to an IV and it’s fed into your bloodstream. (A blend of soya bean oil, egg yolk, glycerin and water… intralipids infuse your body with calories.) You usually do this after the transfer as well, if you are successfully pregnant.
And FINALLY…. on November 28th, we went in for our transfer.
THE TRANSFER: Remember how PAINFUL this was with my last doctor? I shared that information with both Stacy (my nurse) and Dr. Greene and they were both a little surprised. This procedure isn’t supposed to be painful. Whhhhaaattt? It was MY turn to be surprised! Before the actual transfer, Dr. Greene scheduled a “mock” embryo transfer. This was completely new to me and now knowing about this, I’m shocked our last doctor doesn’t do this. My advice: Definitely make sure your doctor does this if you are shopping around for fertility doctors!!! I feel like this should be a requirement! The “mock” transfer is a trial run of the actual embryo transfer. It allows the doctor to determine the best “route” to the ideal embryo landing place in your uterus, helps to measure the length from your cervix to that ideal landing place, and ensured that there are no unexpected road bumps along the way (like an undetected fibroid, scar tissue on the cervix, or any other problem that might make the real transfer difficult.)
I took a valium combined with 600mg of ibuprofen and we drove to the clinic with me still being worried but also at peace that it wouldn’t be a horrible painful process like before. I trrrruuullly think that experience with our first doctor traumatized me! I tried really hard to drink a ton of water, but once again, it wasn’t enough.
Luckily, Dr. Greene wasn’t rushing things. I was given a whole lotta water to chug to fill up the ole bladder. I was so grateful the water wasn’t FORCED into me to keep on a schedule. The nurse kept checking my bladder and it was finally ready. I posted a little video below of us RIGHT before we did the transfer.
THIS is the cool part!!!!
Dr. Greene came in with a big smile on his face and asked us if we were ready to get pregnant. With our infertility history, we were super hesitant to get our hopes too high. We told him, “Let’s DO this!” I absolutely loved how they had everything set up! Where I was laying, the room led into another room where the embryologist was with our lil embryo. There was a camera shining down on the table and we were able to see her take the embryo and put it in a “syringe-like” tool. She carefully brought it into the room where we were and handed it to Dr. Greene. We then watched on the monitor as he placed the embryo in my uterus! It was surreal! A tiny little white dot on the screen…. and we were supposedly pregnant!
Of course, then the waiting game begins. Three blood tests to make sure the embryo implanted. One 4 days later, one 8 days later, and then one 11 days later AND a pregnancy test AKA… they tell you if you are truly pregnant. This was a little harder to wait almost 2 weeks…. but we did.
THE NEWS: The phone call came on December 9th, 2016. I remember being on a conference call with Chrissy (our site director and one of my best friends) when my phone started ringing. I saw “Dr. Greene” as the caller and FREAKED! I hurriedly told Chrissy I needed to get this, hopped off our call, and answered. By this time I had had 3 blood tests… the first test was to make sure I had the HCG hormone in my system… and the other two were to make sure my numbers were going UP! If so, that meant the embryo had implanted and we were officially the farthest along in a pregnancy we had ever been. Stacy was on the other end of the phone and you know my pattern… the tears started the second she said, “Congratulations!” With the tears freely flowing, I listened as she shared that not only was my HCG level high, it was CRAZY high. Around 5578… I was in the HUNDREDS with our first IVF attempt, so this just made my heart so happy! I asked her what the odds were that we’d miscarry at this point and she was extremely confident that it was less than 3%. My heart soared and for the first time, I allowed myself to think of the future… and really hope.
After hanging up, I couldn’t focus. I had a huge meeting with my team and a to-do list a mile long… but all I could think about was JAMIE and telling him that he would finally be a dad. I decided to let Chrissy in on our secret so she could hold down the fort (and cover me in upcoming months if I didn’t lose the pregnancy) and she was able to cancel everything for me while I came up with a fun new way to tell Jamie the best news ever. A phone call wouldn’t do… instead, I recruited our little furbaby, Kash, and drove to his work…. here’s a little video of what we did to surprise him.
Fast forward to March…. And we are officially OFF all medicine (besides prenatals) and shots. Can I just tell you that the day we did the LAST progesterone shot was one of the happiest days ever!?!?
We decided to celebrate by taking a “babymoon.” Although a trip to the beach sounded super relaxing… I was feeling pretty bloated and the thought of lounging in a swimsuit was NOT appealing to me. Ha! Jamie planned the best trip ever to Seattle… a place I had never been and was on our bucket list. It was the perfect getaway to forget about everything we had been through the previous year and just have FUN!!!!
We decided to wait longer than the 1st trimester before we announced our good news. With our history, we wanted to make SURE this pregnancy “stuck” before letting loved ones in on the celebrating… we’re now almost 5 months along and it’s time to share our good news with the world! We had the best photoshoot with the darling Callie, of Callie Hobbs Photography and I’ll post some of my favorites below. 😉 I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks on our Instagram feed. I have also linked up below to another infertility post we have on our site. After losing our first baby, I promised myself that once we were successful at growing our family, I would open up and share my story, in hopes that I would be able to help others out there like us. It was too raw and painful before to talk about, but we’re ready now. I also placed a list of tips below for things to ask potential doctors about if you are shopping around for a fertility doctor. 😉
WHEN YOU GET A PRICE QUOTE FROM A CLINIC, ASK IF THE PRICE INCLUDES:
- Any pre-IVF fertility testing or consultations
- Mock embryo transfer
- Ultrasound monitoring and bloodwork
- Pregnancy testing (hCG beta bloodwork)
- Fertility drugs (this is usually a separate bill)
- Embryo testing (this is usually a separate bill)
- Cryopreservative of any extra embryos
- If they DO store extra embryos as part of the price, find out how long they store them for that price. (some clinics will include storage for a year in their pricing and then start charging you yearly after that for continued storage)
- Any additional assisted reproductive technologies you may need. I.e. ICSI, PGD, assisted hatching, testicular sperm extraction, etc.
A lot of clinics will have a “a la carte” pricing menu. Make sure you find out in depth what everything will cost. Also make sure you AREN’T getting a mini-IVF aka microIVF session (please learn from our mistake!!). Ask for a FRESH transfer quote and a FROZEN transfer quote so you can compare/contrast. With our past, I’m a solid believer in frozen transfers now just because that allows you to test the embryos. I can’t imagine the heartache we would have continued to put ourselves through if we kept doing fresh transfers.
I hope this post was helpful! If you missed Part One and Part Two, I’ve linked them up so you can check them out. We’re SO excited for our little boy to finally get here and I’ll be sharing more of our journey on Instagram and on IG Stories so be sure to follow us along there!
You might also find our post titled, Infertility Support: Tips for Marriage useful. Having support for infertility is so important since infertility often leads to divorce. Keep your marriage strong despite the causes of your infertility!