IVF 1 : The Good, the Bad, and the Totally Insane - UPDATE : We have now failed 5 IVF cycles

Here we are, Mark, Daisy and I. At the time, we also had another dog, Auggie, and our cat, Buga.  We have since lost Auggie.  But this was our "family" at the time.  This was taken when we were still trying to conceive (TTC) totally on our own.  What we knew then was that it might be difficult because of our ages (33 at the time for both of us), and because of my Stage 3-4 Endometriosis.

So let's get right into it.  
  As a women of "reproductive age", I have always know when I'm ovulating based on a few things: sudden intense rise in anxiety levels and trouble sleeping, severe pain in my abdomen and rectum,
(yes, rectum, because of the Endo on my bladder and rectum..so bad it's hard to sit sometimes)
and of course, increased libido. :) :) :) 
Since I knew when I ovulated, we would just BD (baby dance-I don't come up with these acronyms!  They are all over the internet and you have to learn them to keep up!) for about 4-7 days leading up to Ovulation, and for a couple days after.  It got old pretty quick after months and months of scheduled sex and not even a glitch on the pregnancy tests.
I made sure I was ovulating when I thought I was with dozens of tests (the Dollar Store sells both Preg and Ov tests!!).

Go time!

Go time again!!
So why wasn't I getting pregnant??!!?
We tried as much as we could try when my OB recommended seeing a fertility specialist.  So without further adieu, here is my "story".  I will try to both entertain and educate because this topic and the whole process is so sooo confusing and also, depressing...


the good: 
Do you want to make a whole new community of friends based on similar struggles and ongoing issues?  Friends that you might not ever even meet in person, but who will know things about you only your husband or mother might know!? Do you want to see just how strong you are?  Do you want to prove to yourself that you are able to do so much more than others can?  Do you want to grow as a person?  Do you want to grow closer to your partner with every needle, and every piece of news from your doctor's office?

the bad:
Do you want to go through maybe THE hardest thing you've ever gone through? Test your marriage while blowing through your savings?  Flood your body with hormone injections and pills on the tightest of schedules?  Give up your favorite foods, drinks, free time, social gatherings, and sex life in favor of sweatpants, moodiness, resentment, and fear??? 

 Okay, so maybe you think I'm being a bit melodramatic....IVF isn't all that bad is it?  
No, it isn't.  But yes, it is. ;)

the totally insane:
 Do you want to have a baby so badly, that you would do just about anything to get there?  You wouldn't believe the things we IVFers do, or have done, in the hopes of having a family our own...
Here are a few examples:
-going to 7am bloodwork and ultrasounds about 15 days a month
-taking these everyday, 3 times a day, plus birth control, plus a thyroid medication, one hour before eating or drinking anything at the same time everyday,  for 2-4 months (no problem!!)...

-Getting acupuncture about once a week

-Giving up soy, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, and with that, your sanity? For anywhere from 6 months to years...? I gave up alcohol almost 8 months ago.  When we really started TTC, I just flat out stopped. I wanted to do all I could to have the healthiest body I could.  I had mostly given up caffeine too, but was still having half decaf and the occasional afternoon diet Coke.  Not no more!  The headaches were miserable.  I had no idea how hooked I was ;)
I now drink one cup of swiss water processed organic decaf coffee per day.  It tastes great and I can go about my morning routines just like I used to...with the exception of basically setting an alarm an hour before I have to get up everyday just to take my thyroid pill.

Be prepared, that these things you will do, and give up, and obsess over, will all be happening concurrently with your coworkers, families, friends, and seemingly the whole world getting knocked up without even trying.  WITHOUT EVEN TRYING!!!!! 

 Without even necessarily wanting children. 
 These situations become everyday battles we have to wrestle with...somedays it's no big deal and you are genuinely happy for them and hopeful for yourself, but other days, you will resent a mother you see in the mall with two children, acting irritated with them for just being children...looking to me with what looks like jealousy that I am able to enjoy a quiet lunch alone, playing games on my phone without the constant interruption that a child can be.  We all want moments, and sometimes whole lives that we cannot have.  We have to appreciate the moments when we have exactly what we want and what we need.  That doesn't mean to not try for additional things we want, it just means to accept sometimes that the world can be very cruel.  It is HARD to stay optimistic...but you have to.  You just have to. 
Right in the middle of all this, the day before a planned trip to Seattle to relax and get out of town, our dog Auggie died.  He just died in his sleep.
I'll never forget that day.  The loss.  The shock.  He was older, but wasn't showing signs that he was near death...the only thing that made sense was that he was leaving to give us his time and space for a new baby.
Life is never going to make sense.  Why would this happen, right now?  When I'm supposed to make sure not to stress, and to take care of myself?!
Auggie was gone and all I could do was grieve and sigh a lot.

Life had to go on, as it always does...
We moved forward without a part of our family.

 I will give you a recap of what our first cycle of IVF was like, and what I learned from it.

Stop telling women who are struggling to conceive to just relax, or to go on vacation and you'll come back pregnant, or to get drunk and have wild sex, or to stand on your head after sex, because A) we've already tried it, and B) we have something like a .05 chance of conceiving on our own, which you would know if you'd asked.  
Even the best intentioned of you, just know that it feels like a slap in the face, and an assumption that I'm simply too high strung or want it too badly.  If getting pregnant were that easy, I would be pregnant by now.  You say those things, sometimes even after you KNOW about WHY we have fertility problems and it makes me want to smack some sense into you.  Just stop.
I love you, but stop.

So, yeah, onto our fertility problems.  When we saw our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) for the first time, he was optimistic.  He ordered a SA (semen analysis) for Mark to see if that could be a factor, and an HSG (hystero-saline gram) test for me.
The HSG test is done with a catheter that goes up into your uterus and injects saline dye into your tubes and ovaries to see if there are any blockages or cysts/polyps/fibroids.  They did not prepare me for how excruciatingly painful this procedure would be.  It was the most painful thing I have ever felt.  Worse than tattoos and all endo pain.  It's quick but for me it was awful.  It was done just seconds before I would have passed out.  I cried and stayed there for monitoring, sipping on juice and shaking for over an hour. 
The results?
My test was fine. Everything looked great.
Marks was not. Everything looked bleak.

We were both a bit caught off guard.  Mark is so healthy and masculine LOL.  But his little swimmers just don't always do what they're supposed to.  He has low count, morphology and motility.  It won't necessarily be impossible for us to conceive with his sperm, but it will take ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) if it is to work.  All in all, we are now diagnosed with MFI (male factor infertility) along with Endometriosis, along with a slightly lower AMH (anti mullerian hormone - this is a count of how many ovaries I have left) and slightly lower estrogen levels.
By the way, we didn't interview different REs. I trusted the opinion of my long time OB and the place we go has the highest success rate from here to Seattle. 

From there, we went full throttle into IVF round 1.

Getting the drugs was a challenge to say the least.  Local pharmacies simply do not carry them, and you have to call a bunch of different long distance ones to find the best deal.  Having insurance that covers some of this stuff is a blessing, of course, but it has also made this process 1000 times more stressful.  Between phone calls, paperwork, arguments, and the fine print, I would almost prefer to just pay it all out of pocket.  Insurance companies don't want to pay for anything, and they make hoop after hoop for you to jump through for ANY LITTLE THING.  I can't tell you how many times I wanted to throw my phone at the wall.
The meds are mostly refrigerated, so they have to be overnighted.  Well our meds got caught in a storm somewhere in the midwest, so they were just sitting in a truck possibly expiring.  I had to take two days off work to be home to sign for drugs that weren't even arriving, and then I had to be home to order a second batch of everything and spend hours of time on the phone with UPS and with the pharmacies, and of course, with my doctors office.
Stressed was an understatement.

When we did get all the meds, we were so overwhelmed.  I'd spent about $2700 and had cartons and cartons of drugs I was to inject myself with.  I had no idea how I was going to do it.  I can't even watch when I get my blood drawn!

But I had my eye on the prize.  The first night of injections, my parents came over to be with us and then take us out to dinner.  It made me so much more comfortable having them here to support me and see what we were going to be dealing with for awhile.  Love them so much.
After a few days of 2-3 injections per night, I didn't mind them so much anymore.  Sometimes they hurt and sometimes I could hardly feel much.  One of the hardest parts with my work schedule, was being able to consistently do them at 7pm.  And having to keep them refrigerated.
Here I am doing one that wasn't enough in the one vial..So that meant I had to do another, plus the third.  Therefore, I cussed.  It must've been a painful one.  Sorry it's so small...if you open it bigger, you can actually see what's going on.

This phase of IVF is called STIMS, like stimulation cycle.  They start you off on birth control for anywhere from 10-60 days.  I did them for 11 days (it was and is again this cycle, migraine central. Like 10-12 hour migraines and all you are allowed to take is Tylenol...not even Tylenol PM-what a joke).
 Then you stop them and await your BFF, AF (aunt Flo).  Next, you start STIMS.  Probably the worst parts about STIMS for me were, severe insomnia and toward the end, the extreme pain and bloat as my body grew ten, instead of its normal one, follicle/egg.  Those multiple and enlarged follicles pressing against my endometriosis and scar tissue was HEINOUS.  I felt bad for my husband having to be around me when all I could do after a long day at work was groan, moan, cry, and toss and turn all night.  Plus the breast pain was so severe, I couldn't wear heavy cardigans, and almost threw up from the pain multiple occasions.  They were kinda extra pretty though I guess, if I have to have a positive ;)
 Here's the bloat:
The morning of retrieval I was in so much pain, I was relieved to be going into surgery.  When we got to the office, I was doubled over and crying.  They rushed me into the back to avoid me scaring other patients.  I'm sure.
They kept saying it wasn't normal to be in that much pain, but maybe because I'm small and have endo, it's extra bad.  Again, Mark felt helpless but again, he was exactly what I needed.  His calm and soothing voice, his willingness to do anything I needed that might help, and his reassuring words have gotten me through so much of this.  
During my surgery, he was ushered off to give a sample.  
It still stuns me that men have so little pain they have to go through in life compared to women.  His tests have only been pleasant...awkward, yes, but nothing like mine.  
When I woke up, I was super groggy. 
The nurse said 10 beautiful eggs!
We were happy about that, and eventually made our way home.  It took me an hour before I felt we could leave recovery.  
Luckily, I didn't throw up.  They said most women do.

what to say about it...it was GOD AWFUL.  Way worse than my other surgeries.  And I only took a day off after surgery.  I felt like other women were fine, so I should be too, but I wasn't.  Not only are your ovaries ransacked from a needle extracting so many eggs, but your whole body is sore, and at this point, they've had you start the Progesterone in Oil (PIO) injection.  This is a BEAST.  

The needle is not only thick, but it's an inch and half long, and goes into your upper rear hip.  Like near your pelvic bone...
Not to mention, it's in Sesame Oil, so it has to be injected slowly and it's just thick.  The second one we did, Mark hit a nerve and I couldn't really walk for almost two days.  
The rest of them were pretty awful too.  Sometimes the injection itself was worse for Mark than for me.  It isn't until the middle of the night and the next few days that the pain from them is so awful.  It's like your muscles are just shot.  You alternate sides, but it doesn't matter.  It's just a lot of pain.
Mark was a champ for administering them, shaking, sweaty and all. 

In the days after retrieval, we were called a few times.  They called on Day 1, Day 3 and Day 5.
On day 1, we were told that we of the ten eggs, 7 were mature.  Of those 7, 3 fertilized, and only with the help of ICSI.  Ok, so is that good news or bad news?  Or is it just news...
I was a bit let down...obviously 3 isn't many and those three had to survive til day 5.  
On day 3, they said that they were developing very slowly.  They were very behind where they should be at that point in time.  We were like, "Ok, but they'll be ok right??" 
After all we'd done!!!  Please say they'll be ok.
They said they'd let us know on day 5.  
We were more or less planning for them to make it to blastocyst stage for a day 5 transfer.  However, we were also preparing ourselves that they may not make it to day 5.  
They held out until day 5 and they were going to transfer them back in on day 6 which is uncommon, but is done in these situations.  
On the morning of day 6, they called to say they all
"arrested" overnight.  They were gone.
I was crushed.

How?? WHY!!!  What had we done wrong?
All of that craziness for nothing!?!?!? 
We didn't even make it to transfer.  We had three potential babies, but they just weren't meant to be.
The next 48 hours were a blur of google searches, crying, avoidance of certain people and conversations, and just overall devastation.
We were about 6K invested and had zilch to show for it.  
They don't really know why they arrested.  It happens but not often, and not usually all of them.  Essentially, we should have had more than 10 to begin with, and more than 3 fertilizing.  
So, that is the goal for IVF 2.
Which we are now prepping for.  

What I can say about all of this is, don't be shy about it.  Even though it's hard to be open because of all of the annoying questions and because if it fails, you have to tell all the people who were rooting and praying for you, it's still worth it to be open and unashamed.  There is such a huge and supportive community of women rallying for each other.  Understanding that we are all going crazy with the meds, and our google seaching, and trying to work full time through all the appointments and injections??! 
 I have met so many amazing women through instagram and facebook, just by being open about this process.  They put me at ease when I have fears and can't talk to my nurse because it's after hours.  They tell me about their protocols and we learn things from each other.  They're struggles and successes remind me my time will come; our time will come.

In the meantime, I will continue praying and working on myself and making our relationship stronger so that when it is our time, we are as ready as can be.  
If you ever want to chat about this stuff, you can email me, or find me as BluePea on Instagram, where I share regularly.
Thank you so much for reading.

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