Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Here's how IVF works. They give the "almost mom" medication (both pills and shots) to make her ovaries go into overdrive and make lots of eggs. During a normal cycle, a woman makes one or two eggs. During an IVF cycle, a woman can make several dozen. The shots aren't very fun. Some of the needles are very long and thick. I remember the progesterone shots being the worst. My husband was working full-time overnight shifts and going to school full-time during the day, so he was really, really tired during our IVF process. I would have to wake him up to give me the shots. The progesterone is thick like olive oil so it takes a long time for the medication to work its way through the needle and into the muscle. He would never want me to turn the lights on because he didn't want to fully awaken. It took a lot for me to trust this half-asleep man to give me a shot in the butt with a huge needle in the dark, but when you want a baby, almost nothing stands in your way. Once he was so tired that he only gave me half the medication and we had to start over. After that, I insisted on a little bit of light.

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.


  1. Thanks, God, for the wonders of IVF. Thanks for Harriet. Over and over.

  2. IVF treatment is is good for those people who can not give birth to child due to infertility but chances of disability in these childs are more than normal childs.

    costs for benenden ivf

  3. Hi Webluence, Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting. When our reproductive endocrinologist went over the risks of IVF with us, he showed us a lot of statistics about IVF and abnormalities in babies who are conceived that way. The chances of birth defects and other problems can be higher for babies born through IVF, but just barely. As far as we were concerned, the numbers were so low that it didn't influence our decision to move forward with the procedure. Furthermore, based on our research, those numbers may be due to other factors such as the age or health of the parents. For example, infertility becomes more common as one ages, so is it possible that older parents are pursuing IVF more frequently? We already know that older parents have higher chances of having babies with abnormalities so perhaps the problem lies there and not in IVF itself. I recently read an article stating that ICSI (the procedure mentioned above during which a single sperm is injected into the egg) can lead to an increased risk of abnormalities. But again, is it the procedure that is causing the abnormality, or could it be that some of the men whose sperm require ICSI have other health factors going on? My research hasn't been extensive, but as far as I know, the jury is still out on that one. Thanks again, Webluence, for your comment and for reminding us that there is a downside to IVF. I hope to write more about the negative aspects of IVF in a future blog entry.

  4. Just recently came across your blog and found this post. As someone who has not gotten to IVF (still hoping IUIs will work), it was really interesting to read your experience and how it all works. Thanks for sharing, and good luck as you try for #2!

    1. I REALLY hope that IUI works for you, but if it doesn't, IVF is such a great option. Best of luck to you!

  5. Love, love, love the candor in your posts! We are scheduled for our IVF a few days after Mother's Day. I've already started planning my bed rest "activities" to try and fill those few days and the following wait. So happy to have connected with you and your blog. :)

    1. I'm super excited for you and just followed your blog so I can keep track of your journey.

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  8. There are a few risks involved in the process of egg donation. Multiple pregnancies is one of the main risks associated with the egg donation and IVF procedure. Presently the technique is better comprehended and just a little number of embryos usually two or three are transferred. Mini-IVF


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