My journey with IVF was just that-- it’s mine. It’s not what I read about on web forums. It’s not what my forever kind followers messaged me about. It’s just mine. I hope this story inspires some, and I know it will frustrate some, too. But this is my tale.
Our IVF story really began with that very first needle pricked into my belly. Up until that exact moment, I was so completely and utterly certain that I was not an “IVF girl”.
The backstory is short and simple. We had started trying to have our second baby a month before Sunday turned one. By month three of trying, we were pregnant! That pregnancy lasted 11 weeks, at which time we lost the heartbeat. Of course I could write a lengthy tale of emotions on this topic, but truthfully, aside from the utter shock and disappointment, I was ok with it. I knew the statistics of how common miscarriage was, and I was so thankful for how happy and healthy our little Sunday was, so I felt this was a right of passage for our family’s next step. Sort of a, “we got so lucky with the first, so it was written in the stars that we would have to pay for it, somehow,” mentality. Balance the blessings with the curses, blah blah blah...
After that, we continued trying naturally for another six months-- each month that went by, I was positive that it would be our lucky month. By month seven, we started IUI’s, both non-medicated, and medicated, and by IUI month six, we achieved another pregnancy! This pregnancy was short-lived and vanished by six weeks, just shy of hearing a heartbeat for the first time.
If you could imagine, I was still convinced that if I tried naturally one more time, it would be the lucky time! So we did. And it didn’t happen. Cue: first day of IVF, 20 months after we first started trying.
The waiting room at fertility clinics feels like a factory of gentle robots. Dozens and dozens of women gather at 6am, ages 20’s to 50’s, all ethnicities, just sitting silently. Exhausted. I always wondered why no one spoke to one another, offered a hand, a smile, a word of encouragement. Looking back, I sat silently because I was afraid of what I would hear. I was so positive in my mind that my fertility story would be an epic success, that I didn’t want to be weighed down by a neighbors story of years and years of failure. I needed to keep my head in my zone. This aside, there was much comfort in knowing that so many women were going through a similar experience-- I was not alone.
IVF was like a game to me. I was given the rules and I was determined to win. The general format of IVF is that you visit your doctor’s office every morning or as directed, to have a nurse draw blood from your arm which allows your doctor to read your hormone levels. Once the results come back a few hours later, you’re instructed by your doctor to take X-Y-Z medication that day, typically self-administered injections, either subcutaneous or intramuscular, in your lower abdomen, thigh, or upper buttocks. Usually the shots have to be administered at the exact same time every day, give or take 30 minutes or an hour. The shots happen daily, for weeks or months or years, depending on your protocol and your luck. I did mine at 7pm every night, which allowed me the flexibility to go out to dinner and enjoy my nights after my shots, if I so desired.
My shots were FUN. Am I allowed to say that? Of course I would rather not have to go through it all again, but yes, the experience was fun. My husband, who usually gets home from work very late, agreed to be my biggest partner and advocate. He came home every single night, like a rushed Superman with half his cape trailing off, to give me every shot on time. We bonded... hard. We laughed every single time. We hysterically laughed every single time. Who were we? I was a Journalism major and he a Finance major and here we were mixing top secret sterile powder-to-liquid solutions with needles seemingly fit to tranquilize a horse. We were slowly becoming trained Anesthesiologists (is this sounding too Dirty John?) and we were convinced that we were ready to be on call at NYU hospital should we need to be of service. I dreamed of putting babysitter-like fliers up on my neighborhood streets offering assistance to anyone who needed a hand with injections. Speaking of...does anyone need a hand? We’re available.
Our memories of stabbing my tush and belly with shots every night were left only with smiles. I didn’t react poorly to the hormones and turn into a raging emotional version of myself. I was happy. I felt like, finally, after this near two year journey of feeling out of control, that I was finally taking control of our destiny.
We got lucky. Our IVF transfer worked on the first try. We picked the “healthiest” embryo and prayed that this “Science Baby” as we always called it, would join our family. I spoke with Sunday every night about how excited we were to one day give her a little sibling. We told Science Baby that it was welcome in our house and we couldn’t wait to greet it with open arms.
My journey with IVF was short (only 9 weeks of needles) and sweet. Our experience was a blessing and we are so thankful for our little fresh transfer embryo who worked so hard to grow inside my belly. We cannot wait to meet her. She will forever and always be our Science Baby.
I thought it would be important to share a real, unfiltered diary of my IVF experience. These photos below are as basic and unedited as it gets. The captions describe the process along the way. Here's how it all went down...
Hoarding serious medication with a wandering, curious two and a half year old running and climbing around is no easy task. Unlike my vision of keeping a neat, sterile table with my daily medication laid out in perfect order, my meds were stuffed into any and every corner of my medicine cabinet, far from the reach of my daughter's tiny hands.
Nightly injections were a quick routine...
Step One: Do something against all of our parenting beliefs to occupy Sunday while we whipped out our secret stash in our bathroom. Television, iPad, cookies... we tried it all.
Step Two: I'd prep all of the injections (Virgo OCD style) while Dr. Hubby would ice my belly with frozen peas.
Step Three: Barricade the door closed from the inevitable Sunday busting through the doors at exact mid-injection time nearly every night.
Step Four: Throw my hands in the air to divert Sunday's eyes upward so she wouldn't see any needles entering my body.
Step Five: Rapidly clean up and pretend that nothing just happened. The end.
This was around day 10 of my shots. Bruising here and there but no bloating luckily. I resumed light workouts per my doctor's permission. It felt good to just be myself.
I maintained weekly and bi-weekly acupuncture throughout my IVF process, as well as long before the IVF even started. So many reports say acupuncture helps with fertility, and I didn't find one study that said it hinders it, so I gave it my all.
I will particularly recommend acupuncture around your egg transfer timeframe. Acupuncturists strongly urge the benefits of doing acupuncture the morning OF (right before) your transfer, as well as the afternoon (right after) your transfer. Yes, that's twice in one day. I listened!
Retrieval Day! After about 13 days of shots, I was scheduled for my retrieval surgery at the hospital. The whole process takes a few hours. A team of doctors put you under anesthesia, extract all of those beautiful follicles you've been growing as a result of the injections, and store and monitor them very carefully over the next 3-5 days to assess which are healthy enough to be sent out for genetic testing or get frozen right away.
Many eggs are lost in this 3-5 day process. It's not uncommon to extract 20 eggs but only be left with 2 after five days. Also, every month is different. On any given month, you could produce a different number of eggs. Pretty crazy to hear that fact when you invest so much time and money into this process. Did I pick the right month to do this!? Ahh!
This photo cracks me up. This is about ten minutes after my retrieval surgery. I was slowly coming off of the anesthesia and I asked my husband to take a photo of me. I truly thought I was smiling with my eyes open in this photo. Truly! And what am I eating?
More photos please! I wanted to get the "perfect shot" so I asked my husband to take another photo of me. Look at me! Eyes open (ish) and smiling! Just like the last one!! ;)
P.S.- Surgery went well! Successful retrieval! They matched my eggs with my husband's sperm and let embryos grow over the next 3-5 days. This is now what separates full IVF from just freezing your eggs. If you just freeze your eggs, you're officially DONE! If you're doing IVF, now's the time to make embryos (egg plus sperm) and start cooking up those science babies!
Here's the fun stuff that the doctors don't mention during the IVF egg retrieval process... the nightly progesterone shots that you'll have to take in the tush with needles fit to tranquilize a horse-- and no pre-icing allowed! (These shots are oil-based so they need to stay warm to spread well through your muscle tissue.)
After each shot that my husband would give me (with satirical joy, may I add-- he would dart these into my tush so hard and we'd be cracking up each time because these shots were NO JOKE), he would lay me on the bed, massage the injection site for nearly 10 minutes, and then I'd use a heating pad for another 10 minutes to continue to spread the oil throughout.
Do you remember what it felt like in elementary school to get a dead leg? Imagine a dead butt... everyday... from when you wake up in the morning until that very evening when you'd have to inject once again! All good, though ;)
Here we are for our fresh transfer day, five days after my retrieval! This is the day that they insert the best looking grown embryo back inside of me, hoping it will "stick".
Doctor gave me a photo of our "science baby"! This is the embryo that they transferred inside of me. They said it was the most beautiful embryo they had ever seen. I agreed, of course! I remained very positive throughout this process. And wow, was it quick. No anesthesia! In and out of the hospital within an hour.
About 10 days after my transfer, I took the test. Science baby stuck! We were so happy. I just knew, even after seeing a few of these positive results in the past but then being let down by miscarriage, that this one was our baby. This was our science baby.
Here I was 16 weeks pregnant. I can't help but be much more nervous this time around. With my first pregnancy, I was so chill. This time, I'm a bit more filled with angst. But with each week that goes by, my worry subsides more and more!
We had a gender reveal with all of our closest friends. We were absolutely shocked when pink confetti flew out of the balloon!! Of course it's 50/50 with gender, but for some reason, we were convinced it was a boy!
I've always been utterly envious of the relationship that sisters have-- I don't have a sister. I am absolutely, positively FREAKING OUT SO EXCITED TO GIVE SUNDAY A BABY SISTER!!!!!!!!!!
Girl gang for life. I seriously couldn't imagine it any other way. <3
Photographed by Sara Kalish at Venus Et Fleur NYC, at 20 weeks pregnant
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