Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our IVF Journey

I know so many people who have reached out in the time since I shared that we were going down the IVF road. Just hearing those three letters, or saying them out loud, was scary for me. The process seemed overwhelming, painful, and not fun.
But I'm here to tell you, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. My experience is my own, and everyone's will be different (different doctors, clinics, protocols, body responses, etc) but I wanted to share mine with you, to try and remove some of the fear and anxiety behind the IVF curtain.

My protocol was an antagonist protocol. Most of the people I know who have done IVF are on an agonist protocol which is different from the one I was on. According to my doctor, they choose each protocol based on each person's needs (age, circumstance, etc), but I was happy because mine involved a lot less needles/shots. And apparently the success rate is about the same (if you're a good candidate for the protocol). Let's say this, I know myself and two other people who went to my clinic, used the antagonist protocol, and we all had success with it.
So my antagonist protocol started with 19 days of birth control pills which I started in July (coincidentally while we were in Greece). I didn't have to do anything but take my birth control pills. You might be thinking "Birth control pills? But you're trying to get pregnant, right?" and I thought the same thing, but I believe the two IVF protocols both have BC pills at the start. And what I remember the rationale being is that it kind of 'quiets' your system, so when they start your meds, your body jumps into action.
 Once I hit 19 days, I started my shots in the evenings. We had taken a class that told us how to mix the meds, and practice giving the shots--the next day my meds arrived and I will say, seeing this was kind of overwhelming, but after taking the shots class I was just ready to get started with everything! 
 My shots were Gonal-F and Menopur. I'd heard Menopur sucked the big one (really painful and stinging), so in anticipation of that, I got the Buzzy which I put above the injection site. The cold and the buzzing helped decrease any major pain I felt and it made things totally bearable.
After 3 nights of shots, I went back to the doc for a monitoring appointment. This is where they draw blood and do an ultrasound to look at your lining, and the number of follicles that you have and how big they are. In the beginning, you go to these appointments every other morning. In the afternoon you get a call from your nurse with any adjustments to the doses of your medications.
The hardest part of the shots for me was finding a place that hadn't been poked before (or bruised from a shot). It's best to rotate the shots from one side to the other, but you can still hit a previous injection site from time to time.

My night time routine of the two shots continued until my follicles reached a certain size, and then I started a morning shot of Cetrotide which basically keeps your body from ovulating so the follicles can keep growing. At this point, I was going in for my monitoring appointments (blood draws and ultrasounds) every morning. My every morning monitoring appointments were on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
 Finally on Sunday I got the word that I could do my trigger shot.
It had been up in the air for me which trigger shot I would do. A regular sub-cutaneous shot of Lupron (less painful) or an intra-muscular shot of HCG (more painful). Luckily for me, I was able to do the sub-cutaneous shot because my HCG levels were so high. My trigger shot was Lupron (which is interesting because in the agonist protocol, Lupron is used almost daily).
we filled up two of these containers
I had a minor freak out moment when I read the Lupron bottle incorrectly, thinking I didn't have enough medicine for my trigger, but thanks to another friend who was going through this, she calmed my fears and reassured me that I had the right amount.

The thing about the trigger shot is it's supposed to be done at a VERY specific time. Like, within a 5 minute window of the time they tell you, because your egg retrieval is scheduled at a specific time. My retrieval was scheduled 36 hours after my shot. So I took my shot at 9:45pm on the dot since my retrieval was scheduled for 9:45am on Tuesday morning.
celebrating and documenting our last night of shots!
Monday I still had to go in for a blood draw to make sure that the shot had taken. At this point my veins on my arms were pretty shot (no pun intended) having been poked and prodded every morning for 6 mornings. But, it was my first night that I didn't have to take any shots! Hallelujah!
Tuesday morning MG and I drove to the site where they do the egg retrieval surgery, and we brought along with us our semen sample (I say our, but let's be real, that was MG's). I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight, so I was lucky that my surgery was scheduled for 9:45. I got changed into my super sexy blue surgery gear, we handed off MG's 'boys' to the staff, and then waited for them to call me into the surgery room. I walked in, laid down on the table and definitely had my heart racing a lot since I hadn't had a surgery in decades and was nervous. The nurses, doctors and anesthesiologist were super comforting and put me at ease. And once I got the anesthesia, I was out.
Apparently it was only about 10-15 minutes that I was in there as MG had gone downstairs to pick up the pain meds they'd prescribed and by the time he got upstairs, they came in to tell him I was done.

They told me they'd retrieved 12 eggs from the 18 follicles I'd had going in to the surgery (sometimes follicles don't have eggs).
I had some abdominal pressure afterwards and it was harder for me to use my ab muscles. I wasn't in dire pain, but I wasn't ready to do cartwheels. I ate some crackers and drank some water to make sure I didn't have any adverse reaction to the anesthesia, and I didn't. I got another little dose of the pain meds while I was hooked up to the IV since my pain was a little more intense than I wanted, and then I got up to walk around, and was released to go home and take it easy.

I was able to get up and go to the bathroom, and walk around the house, but I didn't do a lot other than sit/lay on the couch with a heating pad which was totally fine. I only took 1/2 of a Vicodin and later that day I believe I took two Tylenol, and that's all I needed for pain meds. Plus, I had a good nurse-husband taking care of me :)

I had some complications in the days after the retrieval in that my stomach got a bunch of bloat. Some is normal, but my stomach was totally distended and I had symptoms of mild OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). This happens due to a really high HCG level in your system. It's helped by eating salty foods, gatorade (or electrolyte drinks) and protein. I can't stress this enough. Hence the photo I posted a while back where I had 5 HUGE things of Gatorade. I drank 3 of them in one day trying to get the bloating down, but protein seemed to help me the most.

My embryo transfer was scheduled for 5 days after my retrieval, on Sunday morning, August 21st, and finally on Friday I felt almost back to normal, and by Saturday morning I felt good. If I'd had OHSS they would have postponed my transfer until my body was ready, but luckily it cooperated.

We had ONE embryo ready and waiting to go, and another one that was close, but not quite there. We had gone from 18 follicles, to 12 eggs retrieved. Of those 12, 9 were mature and 9 were fertilized after my egg retrieval. So to hear that we only had maybe 2 was a little disappointing, but we were still happy that there was one ready to go and that it was "top quality."
We implanted our one top quality emrbyo. The worst part of this procedure was having a full bladder beforehand (which helps them get access to your uterus). Otherwise, it was a breeze! We watched on the screen as the doctor released the embryo into the uterus. So quick, and just like that I was PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise!)

I went home and rested on the couch for the rest of the day, and I ate pineapple (core included) in a smoothie as per the recommendation of Owen since the bromelain in it is supposed to help with a sticky uterus. Hey, I'd try anything at this point! I had the pineapple smoothie for 4 more days after my transfer as per the online sources I read (because everything online is true! haha)
(I mixed mine with blueberries)
The next day I took it pretty easy as well. I still got up and moved about the house but really just relaxed, watched tv, read my books, and snuggled with Cooper. I wanted to give that little embryo as much chance to get settled as possible!

Now, some protocols have people taking progesterone shots (intramusucular ones). This is a pretty common practice with IVF cycles, and one you've probably seen on tv like Meghhan King Edmonds talks about. My protocol used vaginal suppositories. They aren't the most pleasant things, but I took them over more shots. These started before my transfer and I took them twice a day until I reached 10 weeks! I also took an oral pill of Estrace which helps maintain the lining of your uterus. I took this pill twice a day until 8 weeks, then once a day until 10 weeks.

So because of the progesterone, my boobs were already sore before I even had my transfer. So any of the typical pregnancy signs and symptoms were already there, and not really something I could say "wow, I must be pregnant". But I will say, at one point I felt like my boobs had gotten even BIGGER than they had ever gotten on progesterone supplements before and I wondered...

I've already shared how we found out about being pregnant here, but I'll recap briefly:
At 8dpt(days past transfer), I took an at home pregnancy test which was positive. I took another one at 9dpt and it was also positive. And then at 12dpt I went into the doctor's office for my blood test which confirmed that we were pregnant.

I had to go back in two more times (every other day) to ensure that my hcg levels were rising how they were supposed to (doubling within 48 hours) and they were.

So, that's what my experience was with IVF--the "hands on" time for me was roughly 2 weeks. I always felt like it seemed longer when I'd heard people going through it. It wasn't nearly as awful as I thought it was going to be, and if I had to do it again, I know that I could, not that I'm in a huge rush to do that!
And I will say one of the positives of our whole journey, but especially the IVF journey is that MG and I got even closer. We were a team through this whole thing. He was my shot-giver every night. We had our routine: shots, high-fives and a kiss, and then I rewarded myself with ice cream. He supported me through all of this and he was seriously my rock. I'm not sure I could have given myself those shots (I know people who did/can and God bless you!), but as weird as it is, it brought us closer.
My advice if you have to go through this process: take it day by day. Try not to worry about the next things ahead because that's how you get overwhelmed. Focus on each task/hurdle you have for the day, and when it's complete, acknowledge another milestone you've passed. 

I hope this helps take away some of the mystery and fear surrounding IVF. I think if we talk about it more and put it out in the open more, the stigma disappears and the fear is lifted a bit. 

28 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you posted this! It was so informative and by watching RHOC, I thought the way Meghan did it was the only way....and hers was terrifying to watch! Huge needles! Nice to know that there are other options!
    Sarah at MeetTheShaneyfelts

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing! It sounds like quite the journey. Just so very happy for you two!

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  3. Wow. What an interesting story. You brought up a point I wasn't otherwise aware inspite of being a nurse involved in some parts of the IVF process. I'm going to have to look up the antagonist vs agonist. Thank you for sharing and once again, congrats!!

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  4. So glad you had an "easier" experience with IVF and I'm so so happy it worked! My SIL got OHSS and ended up in the hospital for 10 days so I'm happy you were able to control yours on your own, I know how scary that can be.

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  5. thank you for sharing your journey you brave woman you! fascinating and, not so scary as you talked it out. i didn't even know there were multiple options based on various factors. again - congrats you two!

    xoxo cheshire kat

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  6. This was so very eyeopening having no experience with IVF. Thank you so much for sharing. Congratulations again on your little one and the wonderful journey ahead!

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  7. You are a rockstar. Seriously. And I love that you were able to find positives in it, like how it brought you and MG closer together! Too funny about the pineapple - you'll be eating that at the end too when you're doing anything you can to get that baby OUT, haha! So happy for you girl!

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  8. I loved reading this girl, totally helped me understand what you went through. I had no clue there were different protocols based on different variables, but this one sounded like it was the best suited for you guys. MG sounds like he was such a great support system, as are your family and friends! Thanks for sharing your story and breaking down some of the abbreviations the IVF world uses :)! I hope we don't have to go through IVF, but I know now that if we do, it's not the end of the world!

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  9. Thanks for sharing your journey! You are awesome, glad you had a successful one. You and MG are going to be great parents :)

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  10. Thank you for sharing. I have had friends go through the process, but I have never really asked about it in detail. So this is really interesting to know. Congratulations on your little baby!

    Xoxo,
    Whitney & Blaire
    Peaches In A Pod

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  11. You are so brave for sharing all of this! I find it all very interesting and I'm so glad you guys are well on your way to parenthood! Enjoy the wild ride!

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  12. IVF was a scary thought in the beginning but my experience with it was not bad at all either. I am so thankful for that!! I'm glad to hear it went pretty smoothly for you as well :) I was able to be a part of a study so the cost was much less than normal. I always suggest to people to see if their clinic is offering a study prior to doing IVF if that is something they would consider.

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  13. Thank you for sharing an in depth look at IVF. I am so proud of you for going through this. The shots scare me and I have seen all the bruises all over a woman's stomach and have wide eyes. But it is so worth it in the end. I am so happy that IVF took the first time.

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  14. And the best part of all... you're preggers and past all shots (except for a blood draw here and there, but now you're a pro!)!! Thank goodness for smarter people than us who discovered/invented/perfected this magical science! :) xoxo

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  15. This is the most detailed explanation of IVF that I've ever read! thanks for sharing about it!

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  16. Wow! Thank you for such a detailed peek into your IVF journey. I feel honor and special to learn all the dirty details, I also feel closer to you, like we should go for tea and chat about life. Lol, I'm happy IVG was successful for you the first time around! How exciting. :)

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  17. You are a rockstar gurlie, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't imagine how hard and emotional it was between the appointments, surgeries, and shots. Sending you lots of *hugs* and continued prayers for that sweet lil' baby growing inside of you. Can't wait to hear if it's a little prince or princess <3
    Green Fashionista

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing your story, not enough people do, it helps to know that this is more common than we think. I am so happy that your result was pregnant after this difficult journey!

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  19. This is all so unbelievable, Jenn! I have always heard about IVF and I know several people who have done it, but I had no idea how much work goes into it. It just blows my mind that someone was able to figure all of this stuff out to give people a chance who can't conceive naturally. Simply amazing.

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  20. I'm really glad you posted this! It's something that I just don't know a whole heck of a lot about! If I didn't have a reason to think you were amazing (I did) before, I do now! Much love to y'all and enjoy the rest of your day!

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  21. So happy for you both! What a difficult journey but it will be so very worth it!

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  22. Wow, that was so interesting to read about the process. I think it's great that you can share your experience. I'm sure it will be so helpful for some girls. I'm so happy it all worked out for you!

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  23. Thank you for sharing your journey! This was such an interesting read- congratulations to you and your husband!!!!

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  24. I know so many are clueless about the process. Thank you for sharing!

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  25. Thank you so much for sharing your story & again CONGRATS! I had always been so curious about this process & you explained it really well. So happy that it was such a success for you guys!
    Virginia

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  26. So happy to read your story as it's definitely worth sharing so others know what to expect. I agree it sounds so overwhelming at first and all the different appointments and injections can seem daunting but you stuck it out and it was a success! So happy for you!!

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  27. Oh my gosh, congratulations! So much goes into IVF. I appreciate you taking the time to share your story and give us insight as to how the process works. Wishing you a strong and healthy pregnancy!! I'm so excited for y'all.

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  28. What a sweet baby story!! IVF is amazing :)

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