I think I made about 21 eggs but I can't remember exactly. During the egg growing stage, the "almost mom" goes in for several ultrasounds so the doc can count and measure the eggs. They schedule the egg retrieval for the optimal time, waiting long enough for the eggs to mature but not long enough for the ovaries to release the eggs on their own. The ovaries get HUGE. I looked like I was about five months pregnant and my waistline grew a full two inches in less than 24 hours. It's pretty uncomfortable but you live with it because the doctors tell you it's a good sign.
The egg retrieval is done under anesthesia. They use a big needle to extract the eggs one by one.
|Not a cute picture. IVF isn't always cute...especially when you're waking up from surgery.|
While this is going on, the "almost dad" makes his "deposit." During the IVF process, women have to cope with the lion's share of the responsibility, time commitment and physical discomfort. Men cope with most of the awkwardness. I guess I'm fine with that.
Now the doctors and lab people put the sperm and the egg together in one of two ways. Sometimes they just dump a pile of sperm on the egg and let the fastest swimmer win. Other times they do their best to handpick the Michael Phelps of the bunch and inject that one sperm into the egg. This all depends on sperm count and quality. We did option #1 because Andrew doesn't have any fertility issues, just me.
|Transfer day. So excited!|
Then you wait. A few days later, someone from the lab calls with an update on the embryos. (Sidenote: Pre-sperm, it's an egg. Post-sperm, it's an embryo.) They told us how many successfully fertilized (I think nine) and how many were growing (I think seven). A couple days later, they called again to tell us that we had three five-day blastocysts. Around day five, embryos change shape. They go from looking like a pile of bubbles to looking like a planet. The planet-looking embryo is a more stable form and they call it a blastocyst or "blast" if you're hip with the lingo. Your chances of success are higher with a five-day blast than with a three-day embryo. They also grade the quality of the embryos. I don't remember our exact grade but I think it was one level below the best.
|One of these embryos in Harriet. The other is her twin who implanted in the lining of my uterus but died very soon after that.|
We chose to transfer two embryos to my uterus and freeze one. (Embryos can be frozen indefinitely without affecting their quality.) The transfer is super easy. They give the 'almost mom" valium to relax her uterus, put her in the stirrups and squirt those teensy babies into the perfect spot where you hope and pray with all your might that they'll implant in the uterine lining and hang out there for the next nine months or so. Another sidenote: Doctors can't implant embryos into the uterine lining. They can only transfer them to the uterus. I'm sure some doctors somewhere are trying to figure out how to make embryos implant. But as of right now, embryos implant (or don't) on their own.
Then they send you home for two days of bed rest. During this time, you do all sorts of things to "increase your chances." You make this stuff up as you go and read into every little detail. You eat nachos because they are delicious and the baby or babies might decide to hang around to see what other delicacies you serve up. You watch happy movies so the babies don't get scared or anxious and bail. You avoid sitting up, walking and especially peeing to keep them from falling out (even though the doctors and nurses have assured you again and again that no one has ever peed out an embryo). You practice positive visualization. You pray. You try to keep your hope at the perfect level - too low and you might have a self-fulfilling prophecy on your hands, but too high and you might come crashing down if the pregnancy test is negative. I wish they could prescribe hope in the ideal dosage for infertility patients. That would be nice.
Then the real waiting starts. We had to wait about ten days for our pregnancy test. That was tough. Lots of people do pee tests before the official blood draw but we didn't. We just waited ten...long...days. Both Andrew and I took the day of the pregnancy test off. We tried to distract ourselves all morning. Dr. C called around 1:30. We were standing in our garage when he told us he had good news. That was a big moment. We hung up the phone and immediately thanked God, took our first belly pictures and planned how we were going to tell our families that night.
For us, IVF was an answer, a cure, a finish line, a beginning...a miracle. Will we do it again? I sure hope not. We just don't have the funds (our first IVF was about $16,000). So we're hoping something else will work. Something less expensive. But when it comes to infertility, less expensive is often still super expensive. So we'll just have to wait and see. We're just so grateful that we got to do IVF once...and that it worked.