Hope & Hopscotch

IVF#2

Sae's IVF Timeline

PersonalSaeComment

It's such a crazy thing, infertility. I felt like there was this epic sense of urgency and boy, was the learning curve steep. A lot of the posts here are information based - it's all the research I've done for myself and my journey. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share the raw emotional stuff as well as the informational. 


IVF Round #1 - Jan 2015. Ovulated early.
IVF Round #2 - Feb 2015. 2 Frozen embryos.
IVF Round #3 - Aug 2015. 3 Frozen embryos.
IVF Round #4 - Oct 2015. 1 Frozen embryos.


The end of round two (an anti-climax)

PersonalSaeComment

March 2015.

I got an email from my embryologist:

Treatment: IVF – Blastocyst culture with PGS for embryo banking.
Number of eggs collected: 3
Number of eggs inseminated: 3
Number of eggs fertilised: 3
Embryos cryopreserved: 2 X Day 5 (3BB & 3BB)

Awaiting PGS result.

Thanks! Have a great day.

Uhm. Okay. So that was a fun way to discover one our blastocysts arrested. We are left with two. Two little blastocysts of okay quality (not great quality, just okay) who have both been sampled and frozen. It feels like a very abrupt way to end what has so far been an insane round of IVF.

I knew this already though – intellectually. I’m heartbroken that we only got two (though my IVF positivity kicks in with ‘we only need one!’ It’s a bit chirpy and is living on hope). We’ll do another round, once my body has had time to recover. I’ll start taking DHEA to improve the number of eggs we get next time and hopefully, hopefully we’ll only need to do this once more. We’ll have many more eggs, and hopefully better quality eggs. And hopefully, hopefully some of them will be chromosonally normal.

And then, I can stop. I can stop the drugs, and the diets and all of the crazy in the details. I will have done as much as I can, I would have done the best I can. No compromise. And that’s as best as I can hope for Plan B, right?

I read that it’s easier to focus on the difficult things, the things that worry you. It’s much more difficult to focus on the positive, but if you practice, you’ll get better at it. So, here’s my small list, focusing on the positive:

Grace in small things:

  1. We’re done with all the invasive horrible things. No almost daily scans up my vajayjay. No more bloods, or injections. No more teams of people looking at all my intimate details. My body has become my own again.
  2. I feel a bit more like me. I have more energy, the bruises are fading and the bloating and tenderness is going. I didn’t realise I’d lost me, but I had. I’m glad to be recovering.
  3. We know now. What it’s like, how a cycle goes and what egg collection is like. The results speak pretty clearly, my diagnosis of low ovarian reserve was not wrong. Power in knowledge, and we have had a good round to learn from.
  4. I can do more. We’re not finished yet, this isn’t the end of the story. I’m grateful that I’m in a position where I still have the funds, and the support and the time to figure out what else I can do. I still have options. I still have hope, and it isn’t bound up in just the two little frozen blastocysts we have.
  5. I have Zee. I worried for a long time that because I wasn’t fun… I couldn’t drink, or eat normal foods, and didn’t have the energy to go out that perhaps Zee and I would go downhill. We didn’t, I’d say it pulled us together more than it pulled us apart. I love him.

Waiting and Wishing

PersonalSaeComment

March 2015

The clinic sends me pictures of our embryos. Day one, they fertilised awesome. Day two all cleaved into 4 cells. Day three all cleaved into 7/8 cells. They've all graded well, and oh man. All of the feelings!

Pride, fear, hope. So much hope.

It feels like from this point nothing could go wrong. I'm feeling better, I have all my energy back and of course our little tiny baby embryos are going to grow into perfectly well formed blastocysts, and they'll all be chromosomally normal. Right?

I'm scared to hope.

Either way, we won't find out till the next round, we'll sample however many make it to blastocyst stage and freeze both the embryo and the sample. Well do the PGS test in the next round.

Because we've decided to do another round.

It feels like such a massive thing. We're doing another round, and I've got three months. Three months of supplements (oh hey Co10 and DHEA, the latter you can't even get in the UK cause it's not licensed - watch me work that magic trick). Three months of insulin spiking avoidance diet (read: no carbs, no sugar, no dairy). Three months of stress free everything, a few thousand pounds and hopefully we'll get more embryos.

And now I'm waiting. For my embryos to grow, for the next round to start. All of the things. We'll see. I'm trying to be patient.

Fertilisation: Through the gate!

PersonalSaeComment

All three little eggs fertilised. What a relief! Typically only 60% make it past this gate, so I’m glad we’re over this hurdle with all our little eggs intact.

I know Zee is relieved that his guys did what they were meant to. This was his bit, and they did well. It’s pretty weird to think that Zee and I have three little embryos together. That we’re kind of parents. This is meant to give us more time before my ovarian reserve is gone, but I can't help but be a little bit excited.  It’s kind of mind blowing. We have three little embryos that we made together.

Next gate: Growing to blastocysts. It takes five days. Tomorrow they’ll split into two and then more until by day five they’re either blastocysts or not viable.

I’ve got my fingers crossed. I feel like there’s a tiny little ray of hope, a tiny little something to hold on to. We’ll see. Five days from now, counting down.

Egg Collection

PersonalSaeComment

What a mindfuck that was.  Here’s what I’m leaning – you’re going to be blindsided at every point.

We went down to the clinic and I was the first patient of the day. We had the embryologist come in and talk to us to make sure that we wanted to wait till Day 5 to freeze, because it meant we may not get any viable embryos. Because I have so few follicles, typically you freeze earlier, because the longer they aren’t in a uterus the higher the chance they’ll be damaged. But… You don’t know if they’re viable until you test. You shouldn’t test until they’re blastocysts because else you’re taking cells that will damage the embryo. 

If the embryos are not viable, they won’t result in a healthy pregnancy anyway, they’ll miscarry or not attach. There’s no point freezing possible non-viable eggs and hoping, better to grow them, and test them and then freeze the viable ones.

So, that was The Plan - wait till Day 5 to see which would grow and then test the blastocysts. I panicked because I felt she was questioning The Plan. In times of stress, things like knowing The Plan give me something to hold on to.  It was not exactly what I wanted right before I went into egg collection. Having her question The Plan had me running all the reasons in my head right up till I was in theatre. 

Another blind side moment - finding out they stuck suppositories up your behind at the last minute (gross). And having the anaesthetist treat me like I was ‘Thursday Morning’ and not a real person.

Also, turns out I don't do so well under general anyway. I was quite groggy and asked the same questions repeatedly, without really being conscious. I wanted to know immediately how many eggs they retrieved. I remember coming to and demanding to know (little did I know that I'd already asked at least seventy times before that moment).

Three eggs.

I got three eggs. I want to cry. I know the odds, I know that it’s a downward pyramid to success, where you lose some at every stage. And our downward pyramid starts with three. It seems almost impossible that we’re going to get through all the gates to a viable embryo…

Next gate: fertilisation. And then growing to blastocyst stage, and then testing for chromosomal normal embryos.

Three gates, where 70% of our embryos are expected to drop off. My body is sore, and I’m cramping and starving and annoyed at everyone for fussing.

And I’m gutted. I’m so sad. Three feels like such a pitiful number… especially when I know other ladies get 20+ eggs, three just feels so impossible, like the odds are destined to fail.

I’m scared that for all the time we’ve spent, all the injections and scans and tears, and all the money (sad face) that we’ll end up with no embryos at the end. I’m scared that even with pumping my body full of hormones for two weeks, we only got three. That if I wasn’t full of stimulants, I’d have none. I’m scared I’ll never get pregnant and have a baby. It’s a terrifying thought.

Phew. All of the fears. 

I was told to try balance the fear with the positive, so here is the other side: I'm grateful that I know now what my body is doing, and not five years down the track when it's too late to do anything about it. I'm grateful that I have Zee who hasn't shied away from any of this, who has been so wonderful and gracious, even when I've broken down. I'm grateful that I at this point I have no regrets - I'll never wonder about what would have happened if we hadn't don't IVF. 

Even if the worst happens, we'll handle whatever comes the best we can. 

Round Two

PersonalSaeComment

February 2015.

I went quiet in this round. I didn't want to talk to anyone, write anything down. After the last round where I ovulated all my eggs away, I feel like I’m being buffeted against waves of fear - constantly holding my breath waiting for something to go wrong.

It went better, this round. Its true when they say they learn from previous rounds. When we got to cycle day 12 we did double orgulatran injections to keep me from ovulating. I also went to daily scans and bloods, just to make sure all was in order and I hadn't ovulated. The extra monitoring made me feel a bit more secure - it's reassuring to know exactly what your body is doing. To see your insides and your blood tests correlating. 

I have a handful of follicles over 10mm. We want them to be 20mm or more for collection, and I have six.

Six follicles. Knowing that my ovarian reserve is low, six feels both like a triumph and an epic let down. I feel like my body isn’t doing what it’s meant to and it’s got to be out to foil me somehow.

Still, with the bloods and the scans we have tentatively set a date for two days time. Which means a whole host of injections tonight, the last of the menopur (the stims) first, the last of the orgulatran (the downregs) an hour later, and the trigger shot (mature the eggs) bang on 36 hours before I go in.

I’m nervous. Excited for this round to be over, but nervous. Bonus though, no shots for tomorrow. I’m very excited about that! The end is in sight and oh, I'm so hopeful! 

Fingers crossed all goes well!

Being hopeful, while also giving IVF the side eye

PersonalSaeComment

February 2015.

We’re a few days into round two… I’m not excited. The beginning of this round was stressful - AF came early while we were in France. I was distraught and furious at my body. Why can't it just do the things it's meant to when it's meant to? I feel so betrayed by my own body. On CD3 we flew back into Heathrow and caught cab straight to the clinic for bloods, scans and meds. They kept the clinic open for us, which I'm so grateful for. Small kindnesses make my heart explode.

Still, I'm not excited about this round. I hate the diet, and the injections and the weird tasting supplements. I resent this round, my body and that I have to do this to have a family.  I’m the opposite of positive and yet forever hopeful. Hopeful that I’ll get some viable eggs. That they will grow to healthy little embryos that are chromosomal normal. That will freeze well. That a little biological family is not impossible.

It’s a massive up hill struggle. I’m sad to be doing it.

I'm beginning to realise only now what we've agreed to. That last round we just dove right in, did some preliminary research, enough to confirm what we felt and off we went.

Now? Since the last round failed? I’ve dug deeper. Started reading books and proper research studies and discovered all the horror stories. Things like the effect BPA has on your cells and how it’s everywhere. In paper receipts and plastic take out boxes and cling film – stuff you touch EVERY DAY.

I’ve been reading about cell make up, and how every little cell has a miniature power factory in it (called mitochondria) and if there isn’t enough power from the factory at the right time, then good bye normal eggs, hello miscarriage, hello failed IVF rounds, hello all the bad things.

Even worse was reading what causes a power outage is BPA (even trace amounts) and insulin spikes (thinking of the high carbohydrate/high sugar diet I enjoyed before this makes me ill).

I've read enough to be scared, but not quite enough to know what exactly I should be doing. About what helps and what hinders.

So I ask questions. At my last appointment I asked about chromosome screening (called PGS). I think by doing so I've just raised the odds (and the costs! PGA is £3k for 8 blastocysts) of getting a baby at the end of this. A healthy, live baby. There are many points in this journey were it could all go wrong, where an embryo could no longer be viable. Considering I didn’t even make it to egg extraction… I’m hopeful, but a bit pessimistic.

This feels like an uphill battle. This feels like a massive undertaking. This feels like a much bigger thing than it did at the beginning of my first round, where all my thoughts were: “no worries! You give me meds, I take them and then you take out the eggs and freeze! Done!” Oh Sae of two months ago.

Now I know I’m going to need more than one cycle. That I’m going to be visiting the clinic with all the scans and bloods every three days for I don’t know how long. That I’m going to be on this don’t-fuck-up-your-eggs diet for the next three months at least. No carbs. No sugar. No dairy. No all of the things that taste amazing. Sad face.

That Zee will be injecting my belly every night again and as I get all teary (because it HURTS) we go through the routine of hugs and silly plasters and down time.

The meds make me tired. The routine makes me tired. This whole thing is hard. I feel like I'm only just beginning to discover how hard. 

This is our Plan B.  It's a lot of effort for Plan B. But it's worth it right? Eye on the prize.