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My IVF Journey

The Testing Begins

August 22, 2017

I’m back!  It’s been a few months since I’ve written, but I’m excited to share the news that  I’ve finally started my part of the testing for IVF.  Up until this point, all surgeries and appointments have been for my husband, so it was finally my turn.  They had told me to call on day 1 of my next cycle to start scheduling the various appointments they’d need to perform as my cycle progressed.  So far I’ve scheduled 3 appointments that will take me through day 12.  I had my first appointment today which had to be complete between days 2 and 4.  They told me the appointment would last 45 minutes, so it would be quick and easy.  All they were scheduled to do was take my blood and conduct a sonogram.  It seemed easy enough…I’d be in and out.

So, I walked in the exam room of the doctor’s office and the first thing I saw was 6 empty vials laying on the table.  They were all set up to draw my blood.  Now normally watching someone draw my blood doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but the last time I got my blood drawn I almost passed out!  So, my first feeling of seeing all those vials just got me a bit anxious from the start.  But, I sat down and the nurse started opening the sterile packages that contained the needles.  I told her politely that I didn’t want to watch, so I just turned my head as she carefully filled each vial.  All I could think about was the fact that she was slowly draining the blood from my body; and I sat there wondering at what point would someone actually black out?  It doesn’t help that I watch The Strain on FX either.  Of course I started thinking about how the strigoi drain the blood from their human hosts to survive.  And then I realized in that moment, ‘No wonder why I got light-headed the last time!  I totally psych myself out!”  I quickly tried to redirect my thoughts as she finished drawing my blood and also thought for a moment I may have to watch better things on TV, LOL.  Anyway, in all she took 6 vials of blood (4 large capsules and 2 small ones) that will be used for various hormone testing.  They’ll be sent to a lab and I’d get the results at a later date.

The next part of the appointment was the vaginal sonogram.  I’ve never had a sonogram before so I had no idea what to expect.  Let me tell you, it was very easy and it didn’t take long at all….maybe 5 minutes tops.  The purpose of the sonogram was to count the number of follicles that were developing in my ovaries.  The ideal number was 10 total; that is what they like to see anyway.  Through the entire sonogram, the nurse was completely quiet.  I thought she would say something, but she didn’t…not a single word . I thought for sure something was wrong.  But, when she was done, I asked her how many I had.  She said, “Oh, you have plenty!  …9 on one side, and 12 on the other.”  How exciting!  I had 21!  I didn’t expect to have any issues, but I have never been pregnant before, so you never really know until you know.  I must say I am very relieved to have so many follicles present, especially since I’ll be 36 in a couple of weeks.

So, after I left the exam room, I scheduled my next appointment which will be 6 days from today.  They will be doing a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG or ‘Dye test’).  Yeah, exactly.  No idea what that meant, lol.  But, from my google search it sounds like it’s an X-ray that looks at the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes.  So, we’ll see.  They also gave me a couple of prescriptions to fill for my upcoming appointments.  So, more to come next week!

Total cost for today was $751 (pus the additional lab work fee’s which I do not know yet).  Insurance did not cover any part of this appointment.

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Today is the Day

May 26, 2017

So, today is the day I’m actually going to publish my blog!  I’m so nervous to share my emotional story thus far, but I think it’s time that I actually do.  I know all my friends and family have been so curious to know all the details up until this point.

As of now, we are still playing the waiting game, but plan to start my part of the process in late August, with Eric starting in late September, early October.

So, until then for another blog entry.  But, I hope you enjoy the read thus far!  Be sure to start at the bottom and scroll up!

waiting-2

Zika

March 29, 2017

Well, here I am again finding myself writing about another disappointment and set back.  I just learned today that my husband will NOT be able to give his sample tomorrow.  It’s so frustrating.  The CDC has strict guidelines to follow if you’ve been to a Zika infested country.  He travels to the Dominican Republic for work on occasion, and the last time he was there was Jan 28, 2017.  Once returned I was under the impression he would have to wait 2 months and pass a Zika test before he gave his sample for IVF.  Well, I misunderstood.  The 2 month rule is for a female, not a male.  Apparently, the Zika virus tends to live longer in bodily fluids (aka sperm), so for males, it’s actually a 6 month waiting period after returning from a country infested with Zika. The worst part is that my husband is scheduled to go back to the Dominican on Monday for another month.  That means as of today, 7 more months of waiting begins.  Seven more months before my husband can participate in this process.

I’m so bummed.  I feel so much pressure because I know that ‘time’ is the one major element of this very sensitive equation that is simply not on my side.  I’ll be 36 by that time and 37 when I actually have my baby (hopefully!).

There must be a reason why God wants us to wait, and I guess I’ll just have faith in that for now.

It’s time to Freeze!!

March 28th, 2017

So, the nurse called back, and the doctor recommended that we freeze his sperm as a back up plan since his prior semen results were so low.  Even though this isn’t the ideal option, I’m really excited and feel at ease knowing we will actually have backup sperm!  This was something we haven’t had this entire time.

I called the lap supervisor and scheduled his appointment for March 30th.  We were clear of the 2 month window and he’d take a Zika test the same day as his sample to ensure he wasn’t infected.  She said she would call back when everything was confirmed with the doctor, but I was super excited to finally move one small step forward.

The Retest

March 24, 2017

So, it’s been 5-6 weeks.  My husband went in on Monday to do his repeat semen analysis.  We received a call from the nurse today, and it looks like they actually have something to work with again!  What a relief, but such a rollercoaster of emotion at the same time.

So, his results weren’t great, but hey, all you need is one right?  Only 1% were alive with a normal shape, with only 1% of those actually moving forward.  If I did my math right, that means they’ve got 80,000 little swimmers to pick from.  I’ll take it!  The last thing we needed was to spend another 8-10k on another surgery to extract the sperm directly from my husband.  Sometimes, when the numbers are too low, the man will have to undergo a testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) surgery to extract the sperm directly from the testicle.  We still have to wait on the official word from the doctor, but the nurse thought there should be plenty to choose from.  So, that is the next hurdle to cross and pray for.

If we can move forward without surgery, the doctor will decide if we should freeze his sperm now or wait and do a live transfer on the day of my egg retrieval surgery.
Typically, they prefer to do the live transfer, however, due to his low sperm results they may decide to freeze them as a backup.

We’ll see what happens.  I’m a little nervous to get really excited, but I feel super relieved there was SOMETHING there.  I’ll take it and rest easy before the next hurdle comes along.

Total cost of the semen analysis is $160, which included a $30 fee from lab corp.

The IVF Seminar

February 21, 2017

In between waiting for the re-test, I went ahead and attended the IVF seminar, which was required from our doctor’s office before we could move forward with this process.  Whoa.  That’s the first thing that entered my mind as I walked through the seminar room doors.  I was simply shocked at the amount of people in attendance!  The seats were almost all filled!  I was amazed that this many people had some type of issue with infertility.  And they offer this seminar monthly!  I was just in awe at the number of people in attendance there to learn about IVF.

So, I sit down, and I’m just amazed again at how far science has come in the last 35 years.  The very first baby born in the United States through IVF was on Dec 28, 1981.  I was only 3 months old when science first crossed this major milestone.  It was astonishing to me how far medicine had advanced since then.

So, there are really only 4 steps to the IVF process. First, the doctors stimulate your ovaries for 9 to 11 days. The goal here is to mature as many eggs as possible, since naturally only 1 egg will mature each cycle. I always thought that the medications they administer make you create more eggs in your cycle for that month. I’ve heard that women are born with a finite number of eggs. So, I thought that by going through the IVF process, it would use up your eggs quicker and earlier in life! Well, as it turns out, that’s not actually true. Throughout the month, many eggs, as many as 1000, begin to develop and mature, but most often only one egg will become dominant during each cycle and reach its fully matured state. The remaining eggs will then wither and die. So, the goal of the medication is to mature (or feed) as many eggs as possible before the retrieval process begins.

This brings us to the second stage, the oocyte retrieval. An oocyte is a fancy name for an egg. From what I understand, I’ll be going under IV sedation/general anesthesia for the egg retrieval process. icsi-pipetteThey will then place the eggs in a petri dish where they will meet the sperm with a goal of creating a blastocyst. Essentially, a blastocyst is the early stage of an embryo. Just as early as 4 years ago, the sperm would actually have to swim into the egg on their own when placed in the petri dish. But yet again, medicine has advanced. They can now perform ICSI, which is the process of injecting the sperm directly into the egg. ICSIAnd more recently they have actually found that cutting the tails off the sperm before they perform ICSI is an even more effective method of creating a blastocyst because they’ve learned the thrashing of the tails can actually harm the egg. It’s all so fascinating to me. So, once the sperm has been injected into the egg, the incubation process begins.

Step 3, or the incubation stage, occurs for the next 3 to 5 days in the lab.  Each day the cells divide.  An embryo begins its growth as a single cell, and then divides every 12-24 hours. By Day 3, it is about 4-8 cells, and is referred to as a multicell embryo. During the early growth of the multicell embryo, all of the energy and chemicals required for cell division come from the egg. By Day 5, the embryo, now called a blastocyst, is about 70-100 cells.

This leads us to the 4th and final stage of IVF.  In the past, doctors used to transfer the embryo back in the uterus on day 3, but the longer the blastocyst can survive in lab elements and continue to divide, the better your odds are of achieving a pregnancy.  Not all embryos will make it to day 5, so its best to let the weak embryos die in the lab vs being transferred into the uterus and then not attaching to the uterine wall.  Also, as embryos continue to divide, they can now be graded based on cell division, shape of the cells, fluid around the cell etc, so the embryologist can actually rank each blastocyst and decide which to implant first based on its probability to survive.  It’s really fascinating how it all works.

I’m super excited to see my future little blastocyst one day.  I’m sure he or she will just be so beautiful.  I can’t wait.  It’ll be a great day.

There was no cost to attend this seminar.

 

Hope. Pray. Wait.

February 13, 2017

So, I scheduled Eric’s 4th semen analysis (the first with this office) and the nurse just called me with his results. They were the worst they have ever been. EVER. 0% are alive. 0%! I just don’t even know what to think or to say about those results. How can we move forward when there is absolutely nothing to move forward with? This past year has been full of disappoint as it relates to these tests and today is no exception.  I just feel absolutely defeated.

They said they want to re-test in 4-6 weeks, hoping that maybe it was just an abnormal test. If it’s not, then they have assured me there are other options.  If there are absolutely no sperm in the ejaculate, they could do a surgery on my husband to extract the sperm directly from his testicles. It’s called TESA.  But, another surgery for my husband?  Will he even be up for that?  And how much does this one cost now?

I just couldn’t process all that information on the phone.  All I could think of was how many setbacks can there be before we can actually start to move forward?!

I was just so disappointed.  I guess all I can do at this point is hope, pray, and wait that the results will be different the 5th time around.

Hope. Pray. Wait.

Total cost of the semen analysis was $130.

Our IVF Consultation

February 2, 2017

It was the day of our IVF consultation.  I was so excited!  My husband was on board and I felt a revitalized sense of HOPE again!  I couldn’t wait to get there and talk to the doctor so we could start this baby making process.  The consultation was just as I expected.  We went over our families medical history, Eric and I’s medical history, and our past semen analysis’s.  The doctor said his results didn’t look ‘ideal’ but she said she could work with what she had through the Invetro Fertilization process.  She emphasized the fact that she only needed 1 sperm to fertilize an egg, so even with 4% of his sperm alive, that still left millions of live ones to choose from.  She, of course, wanted to do her own analysis to see exactly what she was working with.  She even gave us a little hope that the results may be better than what was past reported because they had sperm specialists in her office, where as Lab Corp (where we got the last 2 analysis’s complete) is more of a general lab where technicians read all types of specimen all day long.  I was thrilled!  Maybe his results weren’t as bad as we thought?

We also learned more about the Zika virus.  Zika, in a nutshell, is responsible for all those babies being born with small heads.  Eric had been working in the Dominican (a Zika infected area), so they were highly concerned with that.  There are guidelines they need to follow and they won’t take his sperm to make a baby for either 6 months after he returned from the Dominican or 2 months with a negative Zika test.  Geesh.  This was something I wasn’t even thinking about!

After the discussion with the doctor in her office, they did a quick exam on me to make sure everything with my cervix was up to par and just to ensure there weren’t any glaring reasons why I wouldn’t be a good candidate for IVF.  It was pretty easy on my part.

So, the next step was to schedule the semen analysis for Eric, and I was supposed to call them on day 1 of my next cycle, so they could do all sorts of additional tests of me.  As long as the semen results came back with something they could work with, we could move forward.  I was excited!!

The total cost of the consultation was $390 ($295 for the consultation and $90 for the lab fee).  And no, insurance did not cover this visit.

Our Background – The 3rd Test

Event: January 17, 2017

So, as the next few months pass, I really tried my best to remain optimistic. I started to have hope again that these new medications would work, that somehow the scaring would be reduced and we would see sperm again in the next analysis or better yet, even become pregnant! Well, month after month of disappointment set in and my hope quickly again began to fade. What a rollercoaster it can be trying to have a baby. I would get all excited when I saw the positive result on my ovulation test and then get so disappointed when I’d get my period a couple of weeks after that.

So, after 10 full months of trying Eric was off to his 3rd semen analysis. And the results were even WORSE than the 2nd one! How can that be?! We’ve done everything right, he’s taken his medication and the results got worse?! His viability dropped to only 3% with motility at 0%. This meant that there were now only 3% of his sperm that were alive, but absolutely none of them were moving, and obviously none moving forward. Not one.

I didn’t know what to think when I read those results. I guess I just felt defeated and I knew I couldn’t keep trying naturally anymore. It’s hard to remain optimistic when you know it would take an absolute miracle to actually get pregnant with the results we were given. I had to face the ugly truth and not live in denial any longer. If we wanted to get pregnant, it wasn’t going to happen naturally. We had to start exploring and discussing other options. I knew deep down we didn’t have options….we had AN option. It was our only option at this point that I knew of.  It was…IVF.

The cost of the semen analysis was free because my husband used his benefits at the VA. We didn’t actually set up an appointment with the doctor this time, since the results really spoke for themselves.

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