Not enough people speak openly about IVF so we were thrilled when Rachel Gesser asked to document her IVF journey. You can read the first installment here. Below is the second part of her journey…
Once we learned that going through IVF would be our best chance to get pregnant, the next few months felt like they were moving at a snail’s pace and flying by all at once before we started the IVF process. In early February I started a cycle of birth control to “reset” my cycle and hormones and in March I started IVF medications. The day the box of medications arrived was equal parts exciting and terrifying. Exciting because it meant we were one step closer to starting a family and terrifying because I have never been comfortable with needles. Even a simple finger prick gives me anxiety, so getting a package with what seemed like hundreds of needles put me in major panic mode.
The next couple weeks were a blur of needles and doctors appointments. Each night Brett would prep the night’s shots and I would ice my stomach (this helped with the pain a lot!). Every other morning for the first few days and then every morning after, I would head to the fertility center for a blood draw and ultrasound. Because you’re pumping your body with so many medications and hormones, on top of the fact that your ovaries are growing at a very rapid pace, the doctors and nurses monitor your hormones and blood work very closely. The ultrasound measured ovary growth. Your ovaries go from about 1.5 – 3 cm in diameter to 15-20 cm in diameter in just about a week or two! (This can also contribute to bloating and overall stomach pain, but I didn’t experience any of this.) Each afternoon I would wait for the phone call from the nurse giving me the day’s test results and instructions for that night’s shots. If you don’t get a detailed medication schedule from your doctor, ask for one (I saw a few different versions on Pinterest). Also make sure you know how much medication you have and when you’ll run low so you can order more ahead of time without missing a dose.
So many doctor’s appointments can obviously be very time consuming and also a little inconvenient. I was lucky enough to have a pretty flexible work schedule so I scheduled appointments around late morning when they weren’t as busy. For the most part I was usually in and out quickly, we did learn though that the day after a holiday the office was much more backed up.
To be completely honest, the shots didn’t hurt as badly as I thought they would. I never experienced any of the negative side effects many women do. I am also very thankful Brett wasn’t traveling at all during this period though because I don’t think I could have given them myself. I truly admire the women who can do that! The worst parts were the bruising, especially on my arms, and keeping to the schedule. Each shot needs to be administered at roughly the same time each night so that meant having to adjust our schedule accordingly.
After nine days (typically the “stims” phase lasts anywhere from 7-14 days), we were told I was ready for the trigger shot. This meant that I would get one final shot (in the butt this time) and then exactly 36 hours later it would be egg retrieval time! The trigger shot signals to the body to ovulate, and the retrieval is scheduled just before ovulation. The morning of the procedure I was so scared. I remember thinking how am I going to get through labor if I’m this scared over something that will last less than 15 minutes and I’ll be completely knocked out for? We arrived at the fertility center about an hour and a half before the procedure and I thought we’d have a lot of down time. I loaded my iPad with a new book and packed a couple magazines the night before, but never even touched them. Between paperwork and getting prepped, it all went by very quickly. Before I knew it I was being wheeled off into the surgery room and getting the anesthesia. I woke up a short time later in the prep room and was told everything went great (they retrieved over 20 eggs!). After another 30 minutes or so we were sent home with instructions to drink lots of fluids and to rest.
I thought that because I had made it through the stims phase without any side effects, the recovery phase after the retrieval would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong. I became so bloated even yoga pants were uncomfortable to wear and just a short walk left me in pain. I was pretty much a couch potato for the next three or four days and even called my nurse to make sure this was normal. She said because of the number of eggs they retrieved and my size (I’m fairly petite), it was totally normal. We also got a call each day with an update on how many eggs had fertilized and when the transfer would be scheduled (depending on how well your embryos are doing you’ll either do a 3-day or 5-day transfer, with 5-day being the goal).
Surprisingly transfer day was much more relaxed than retrieval day. The procedure takes less than 5 minutes and you don’t need to be sedated. Brett and I were able to watch the entire process on a screen and also through the ultrasound machine. Pretty much right after the embryo was transferred we were able to leave the office. I was scared to get up, but the doctor assured me the embryo wouldn’t fall out. 🙂 We met some friends for brunch later that morning and took it easy the rest of the day.
After spending the previous month visiting the doctor’s office nearly every day, it was odd to not have any appointments for the next two weeks. We did our best to keep busy though and the two week wait went by faster than I thought it would. The night before, and the day of the big blood test though was excruciating! I hardly slept the night before and was on edge the whole morning. Finally, the news that we had been waiting 11 months for came and we were pregnant! I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was to get that phone call, but it also left me with a whole new list of things to worry about. Stay tuned for more about my first trimester!
If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I know how scary and overwhelming this process can be!