This is National Infertility Awareness Week. Many of you might not know that my 8-year old daughter was conceived through IVF. I do remember feeling overwhelmed and scared about the experience. My goal has always been to support moms at any stage of motherhood, so I share with you my diary from my experience....
I had never considered that it might be me who can't get pregnant. Here I am healthy, fit and the owner of Stroller Strides. My whole life is based around motherhood and health. But what wasn’t expected did happen. I was pregnant with my second child and experienced an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus). I lost one of my fallopian tubes as a result of the pregnancy and through testing, realized that the other tube was not viable. My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for a year and a half so the loss was devastating. None the less, we wasted no time in finding out what we needed to do next to get pregnant again. And the answer was IVF.
I knew that this kind of science was out there, but truly had no idea of what it entailed. Every step of the way was awe inspiring (I can’t believe they can do that!) and overwhelming. I’m writing this diary for you in hopes of educating other women who may go down a similar path. It’s inevitable that the known is far less scary than the unknown.
We were very public about my loss with our Stroller Strides members. What blew me away were the dozens and dozens of responses we received from women who went through the same thing. Wow, who knew that so many of the babies we see every day are the result of science. With that, we had lots of hope for our future and some referrals on some great doctors.
Finding A Doctor
What did we know? We knew it was going to be expensive and we knew that we wanted a great doctor. But how do you know who is a great doctor? First, ask other doctors that you respect (especially your Ob/Gyn). Then, ask other people you know who have gone through infertility treatment. You may be surprised to find out how many people you know. We did both of these things and found Dr. William Hummel of Hummel and Kettel at San Diego Fertility Center. Each of them had been voted as San Diego’s best fertility doctors and Dr. Hummel made us feel immediately comfortable. At the consultation, he shared the process that we were about to embark on. It was amazing to think that within about 4 – 6 weeks, we could be pregnant.
Monday, April 12th – ART Consult
This appointment served primarily as our ART (Artificial Reproductive Treatment) consult. They want you to be very educated on the details of the process. Jason and I were sat down in a consult room and the nurse put on a DVD with the embryologist explaining the process in detail. Wow, was it thorough! I wanted to ask them if they had an IVF for Dummies manual. When they described all of the different kinds of medications I would take, their purpose and amount, my head was spinning. They assured me that this was just an overview and that they would guide us every step of the way. I sure hope so!
Monday, April 19th – Injection Instructions
To be most efficient, the office brings a group of patients (husbands and wives) together on one night to teach us all how to do the injections. Wow, was there tension in that room. The wives were all nervous about what they were about to start and the husbands were all relieved that it wasn’t them. One by one, the nurse explained each medication, how to measure it and how to inject it. They were so very detailed, yet we all still felt overwhelmed and concerned about whether or not we could really do this. When the nurse said we were done, I expressed great anxiety at the thought of actually having to do a shot. “Well, she said, we can have you do one to yourself right now with some sterile water.” Hmmm. Here, I’m so very stressed about giving myself an injection and yet now I’m considering giving myself an unnecessary one. “Yes”, I said. “Let’s do it.” I had three days until my real shots were to start. There was no way that I was going to obsess each hour that I wouldn’t be able to do it. First, she gave me a shot so I could see her technique. Well, that wasn’t so bad. Then, I did it on my own. Anxious? Yes. But I did it and it really wasn’t so bad. I think that I was the ONLY one who did this but I highly recommend it. I looked far more relaxed when walking out than any of the other couples.
Wed. April 21st – Start LUPRON
These shots have to be done at a specific time each day. After evaluating my hectic schedule, we decided that 8:30 a.m. would be the best time for my morning shots. Unfortunately, the first day at 8:30 I would also be at the dentist (not what I was hoping for for my first actual shot). Ok, so I’m at the dentist and I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I unload my “stuff”, the vial of medication, the syringe and all. I sterilize the top, load up my medication and give myself the shot. I should say ‘attempt’ to give myself a shot. It went so well in the nurse’s office but apparently I didn’t have the right momentum this time. Ouch, a little blood and no needle in me. This time, I gave it some force. Ok, done. Whew, my first shot done! I think I’m going to be ok.
Fri. April 30th – 1st Ultrasound
On this morning, I went in for my first ultra sound. Here, they insert a catheter so they can map my uterus and figure out the pathway they would take when they do the actual embryo transfer. The ultrasound showed them what my ovaries normally look like so they can compare them to the future after I start the Gonal F (my next set of injections). And here I had my first blood draw. This would be a regular appointment for me over the next couple of weeks, Ultrasound followed by blood test.
Wed. May 5th – Ultrasound
This appointment, Dr. Hummel did my ultra sound. He complemented my ovaries (whatever that means) and said that everything was looking good. Now at my second ultrasound, I’m starting to see what they are looking for. The two ovaries look kind of like walnuts. There are black spots which show the follicles which will hopefully continue to grow and to house eggs.
Friday, May 7th – Ultrasound
I’m feeling very “full”, kind of bloated. That must have been because my follicles had grown so large and “ripe”. In fact, the nurse said that I looked ahead of schedule. After looking at the ultra sound and receiving the results from my blood test, the office called to say that I needed to come in early for my next ultrasound. I was shocked when they made me come in on Sunday, Mother’s Day morning. I guess when those eggs look ready, there’s no waiting for holidays.
Sunday, May 9th – Final Ultrasound
Yep, They are ready. My eggs are fully grown and ready to be retrieved. The big date will be Tuesday!
Tuesday, May 11th – Egg Retrieval
I was so very excited about being near the finish line that I didn’t really think about that I was about to go in for surgery, however minor. I was a little taken aback getting in to the hospital gown, getting hooked up to the IV and meeting the anesthesiologist. Dr. Hummel sat down and explained the process and what was about to happen. I’m each day impressed by his bed side manner and how he really takes the time to make sure his patients are relaxed and educated. I kissed my husband and they wheeled me in to the surgery room. In just moments, I was in a dreamy sleep and they doctor retrieved my eggs. They send a catheter up through the vagina and gently puncture the ovaries. The eggs are released through the catheter and collected for the embryologist. I awoke shortly and couldn’t believe it was all over. They wheeled me to my car and then we just had to wait. Wait for the eggs to now meet the sperm and the rest was out of our hands.
Wed. May 12th – Saturday May 15th – Embryo Reports
Each day, our embryologist would call us with a detailed report. The first day, he told us how many of the eggs actually fertilized. After that, he would tell us about quality, fragmentation and their grade. He gave us a report on each and every one.
Sun. May 16th – Embryo Transfer
The big day! What could have been a very clinical, scientific experience was actually quite serene and beautiful. I hired an acupuncturist, Jeneanne Paden who specializes in fertility treatment. I was so impressed at how welcoming the doctor and his staff were to her. Jeneanne replaced the paper on the exam bed with a soft blanket, turned down the lights and played soothing music. After a 25 minute acupuncture treatment and beautiful visualizations about my body welcoming these embryos (actually blastocysts at this point), I was ready for the transfer. Dr. Hummel was great as always at describing exactly what the procedure would be. He inserted a catheter up through my cervix which was loaded with the two blastocysts. We could see the entire procedure via the ultrasound screen. The blastocysts were gently let go right in to the lining of my uterus. And, hopefully, there they will stay. Jeneanne completed the session with another half hour of acupuncture. Normally, you just have to lay there so it was nice to have that to distract me. The procedure was painless. From there, I had to go home for three days of total bed rest. You can just get up to go to the bathroom, to eat and to shower. It’s about a two week wait from this time to find out if I actually got pregnant.
Thursday, May 27th – It’s positive. I went in for my blood test and the results showed POSITIVE!
For the following month, I went in for a series of ultrasounds to see the baby developing. The entire experience has been truly unbelievable and we feel very blessed. At this point, I’m graduated from the IVF Center and move on to my Ob/Gyn to supervise the rest of my pregnancy.
That was nine years ago. Rachel is a smart beautiful girl. I am forever grateful for the doctors who helped nature along. There are happy endings!