Category Archives: Treatments

We’re pregnant!

After 8 years of infertility, countless treatments and one heck of an IVF roller-coaster ride we’re happy to announce we’re pregnant!

The “two week wait”, the time between the embryo transfer and hCG (pregnancy) test, was as dreaded as everyone says it is. I tried to put it out of my mind, but you can’t. When our infertility coordinator called me with the results the conversation went something like this:

Her: I have good news!
Me: No way…
Her: I do. Desiree’s pregnant!
Me: You’re kidding?!
Her: I’m not!
Me: Wow, I can’t believe it.

After the call I went downstairs to tell Desiree. She screamed and then cried. We were both shocked. I was prepared for negative results. After 8 years you get stuck in this mode of thinking nothing will work. And so even after we were told we didn’t feel pregnant, we just knew someone was saying we were. We were excited, but it also felt numb if that makes any sense. I still feels that way to some degree.

Desiree is still on 1cc of progesterone and 2 dots (patches) of estrogen until about week 10 of her pregnancy. Her backside is pretty tore up at this point. She has fist-sized red spots on both sides from going back and forth between shots and patches every night. Keeping her on these dosages is only precautionary. If we had a miscarriage we wouldn’t want to say, “If only we had stayed on the drugs.” In fact, our doctor told us that the clinic was at about an 85% success rate for IVF this year which is extremely rare. Even the best clinics in the country sit just below 70%. He believes it’s keeping women on these drugs after a pregnancy has been detected that’s helped them reach that number.

Thanks for all the hope, prayers and community through our IVF. Please continue to pray for us, that the baby stays with Desiree. As of right now we’ve had 2 ultrasounds to check on the baby, everything is right on schedule and as healthy as doctors can tell at this point. We’ve been release from our infertility clinic and are looking forward to our first prenatal appointment with our OB.

We’re not shutting the blog down now that we’re pregnant or turning it into a pregnancy blog. Our infertility is something that we’ve noticed has continued to affect us even though we’re now on the other side. We’d like our story and this blog to serve as a resource, not just of information but also of hope and comfort, to those who are still struggling.

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We’re still here

This is just a little message to let everyone know we’re still here. We had been posting a lot towards the end of our IVF cycle and then following our “two week wait” we realize everything went silent. Right now we’re taking some time to ourselves and we’ll be back with an update soon. Please continue to pray for us.

IVF week 5: Embryo Transfer

Justin and Desiree on transfer day.

This is us right before we went in for the transfer.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about a round of IVF it’s that first, there’s a lot more that can go wrong than they’ll tell you and second, things change and often.

The last time I wrote we were anticipating a Saturday transfer of 2, day-5 embryos (blastocysts).

Thursday morning (day-3 for our embryos) the head infertility coordinator called and asked if we could come in to do an early transfer – things had changed back to the original plan of transferring 2, day-3 embryos (not blastocysts).

She explained that our embryos were developing slowly, but that 2 of them were impressive for day 3. The embryologist’s concern was that if these 2 didn’t make it to day 5, and the rest continued to grow slow or didn’t make it, that we might lose our chance to transfer this cycle. Her concern was “pregnancy now”, that these 2 embryos had a better chance of making it in the womb than they did in the lab and so the team decided today was the day.

We got ready and headed to the clinic.

When we got there they did an ultrasound to check Desiree’s lining. The thickness hadn’t changed and it was smooth – we got a thumbs-up to proceed. The last hurtle had been cleared and the thing we set out to accomplish was actually happening.

The transfer was relatively fast. Desiree didn’t need an IV or any anesthesia. I wore scrubs. The way it works is they use a sonogram to see the uterus, and they only way they can see it clearly is if Desiree has a full bladder. Unfortunately, this was the worst part (well, aside from having her legs in knee-stirrups) and made things uncomfortable for her. After they’ve got a clear view they use a catheter to place the 2 embryos and they’re done.

Desiree drinks fluids

Desiree fills her bladder with a smile.

It was an interesting process and one they encourage husbands to be a part of. Before they placed the embryos they showed them to us on a big screen. The first was a grade 1, 8-cell and the second a grade 2, 6-cell. As they placed them we could see the catheter moving through to the uterus and our doctor counted down the placement so we knew exactly what was happening on the screen.

Justin suited up for the transfer

This is me all suited up and sterilized for the transfer.

After it was over Desiree stayed on the table and we spent the next 2 hours at the clinic as she started bed-rest. When we got home she spent the next 22 hours in bed, only getting up to use the bathroom.

Everything went great – we’re happy to finally say we had a successful round of IVF.

She’s done with all her drugs except the progesterone which I’ll continue to give her every night. If any embryos implant it will help her lining stay strong for a better chance they’ll survive. Monday begins what they call “the 2-week wait”. She’ll have blood-work done every other day. Hopefully they’ll begin to see her pregnancy levels rise. She’ll do this until she takes a pregnancy test. If the test is positive she’ll stay on the progesterone and monitoring throughout the first trimester.

Now for the bad news.

The embryologist called this morning and said none of our other 10 embryos made it to day 5, and they’re all being discarded tomorrow. This means there’s nothing to freeze and if we choose to do a second round of IVF Desiree will have to go through another egg retrieval, something we hoped to avoid. Of course this leaves us asking a bunch of questions, but we’re trying not to dwell on it. We’re looking forward to the pregnancy test.

Regardless of whether or not we’re pregnant making it this far has been a huge success. Some couples don’t make it for a number of reasons. To add insult to injury they lose all their money in the process. In the worst cases they go through an egg retrieval and have nothing to show for it, a wasted cycle. This was a possibility for us all along and so we don’t take where we’re at lightly – it really is amazing we’ve made it this far.

IVF Week 5: Egg retrieval results

This morning the embryologist called and said of the 19 eggs they collected 12 were mature enough to fertilize. And after performing ICSI all 12 had done just that – we have 12 embryos, a perfect score! Then she said they’d all been frozen and that’s when things got confusing.

As we understood it the plan was to keep 2 fresh embryos, unfrozen and freeze the rest in case we needed to undergo another cycle of IVF.

When I pressed the issue and asked about the embryo transfer that’s supposed to happen on Thursday morning she paused and said she’d have to call me back.

There had been a mix up.

After I got off the phone with the embryologist I left a voicemail with one of the infertility coordinators who called back and said our doctor would like to see us right away. We were afraid our cycle had been cancelled.

When we arrived he apologized for the confusion, indicated our cycle hadn’t been cancelled and gave us options for moving forward with frozen embryos. We’ve always felt our best option for success was to defer to his expertise.

An embryo develops in 9 stages over 5 days. A fully developed embryo is called a blastocycst.

The way we understand it is they’ll thaw all 12 embryos, allow them to develop into blastocycsts, keep 2 for the egg transfer and double-freeze the rest if any. Some embryos may not make it through the thaw and others may not make it to blastocysts. The risk is that none of them make it and our cycle is over or that only 2 make it and we have nothing to double-freeze. What was supposed to happen was a typical cycle where they allow all 12 fresh embryos to develop for only 3 days, choose 2 for the egg transfer and freeze the rest.

Since the embryos are going to take 5 days to develop our embryo transfer (i.e. blastocyst transfer) is now scheduled for Saturday granted all goes well. In addition to the aforementioned risks there are still a few natural challenges left to get through as well.

If Desiree’s endometrium is too thick or rough our cycle could be cancelled. A thickness of 15mm is optimal and 20mm is questionable. Thankfully as of yesterday her range was still in the 16-17mm range. And for quality it’s best for implantation if the endometrium is smooth and not rugged. She’s scheduled for an ultrasound on Friday to check both.

Before we left the clinic our coordinator raised Desiree’s progesterone dosage. In addition to that she’s finishing the two pills, Doxycycline (antibiotic) and Medrol (steroid), over the next few days.

Right now we’re happy the end is in sight. The ups and downs are exhausting and we’re looking forward to Saturday. Keep praying for us. We’re doing the best we can to hang in there and make it through the embryo transfer.

IVF Week 5: Egg retrieval

Egg retrieval drugs

This is Desiree’s egg retrieval drugs – progesterone, Doxycycline and Medrol.

Yesterday was our free pass which meant we didn’t have to leave in the morning for an appointment and Desiree didn’t have to get an ultrasound or get stuck with any needles either from myself or a nurse. We went to church in the morning and spent the rest of the day chilling out on the couch. Our nerves were up. Being through the ups and downs of the past week had us on edge. For me that’s going to last until she’s on bed-rest after the embryo transfer. If we make it there it means we’ve achieved the chance we set out for, we made it through a successful round of IVF.

To completely understand the order of today’s and tomorrow’s events read this short description of an egg retrieval. Or thanks to National Geographic you can watch it. Basically they collect Desiree’s eggs, collect my semen, wash my sperm, mix the eggs and sperm together, let them incubate and check for fertilization. Now, we’re getting ICSI so instead of mixing the eggs and sperm together the embryologist will actually catch the perfect sperm and inject it directly into the perfect egg. So basically if we get pregnant we’ll have the perfect kid (just kidding).

This morning Desiree started Doxycycline (antibiotic pill) at 6 AM on an empty stomach (she hadn’t had anything since dinner yesterday per doctor’s orders). She’ll take another one tonight with dinner and repeat that regiment for the next 2 days. It caused her some nausea on the way to the clinic which is normal.

We arrived at the clinic around 6:45 this morning. We both had to be free of any deodorant, perfume, cologne or makeup. The nurse showed us to the operating room and had Desiree change into a gown. We met our embryologist. She went through the pre-procedure verbal confirmation with Desiree and said she’d call tomorrow with the fertilization results. The anesthesiologist arrived, hooked her up and talked with us as we waited for the doctor; turns out he spent some time passing through Ohio so we shared some Cedar Point stories. When the doctor showed up the nurse kicked me out and sent me off to collect my specimen.

In about 15 minutes the doctor came out and said it went well, that they retrieved 12 eggs. I assume he meant they’re all good too because he was very happy. The entire procedure only took about 20 minutes. I went back into the operating room and sat with Desiree for about an hour as the anesthesia wore off. She had some cramping but that’s normal.

She requested hotcakes for breakfast (and a ribeye for dinner) so we grabbed some McDonald’s on the way home. After we ate we both crashed for a few hours.

Starting today we’re no longer doing the Lupron, Repronex or Follistim. We ended up with some leftover drugs to donate. Turns out we bought the extra Follisitm for 2 clicks which is practically nothing. Hopefully we can donate the rest. Anyway, in the place of those drugs she starts a low dose of progesterone (POI) every evening from now through the transfer. This one goes in the rear and prepares embryos to implant better in the endometrium. If she gets pregnant after the transfer we’ll continue it through the first trimester. We’ve been numbing those shots with ice so she doesn’t feel much. That’s more important for POI because it’s oil and takes a while to inject.

Right now she’s feeling bloated, but that’s normal and may even last through the transfer. Even though today went great we know we’re not out of the woods yet. The best case scenario is we have a great report from the embryologist tomorrow and can start looking forward to a transfer on Thursday. And so far our best case scenarios have been working out – here’s to hoping tomorrow’s is the same. Happy Memorial Day!

IVF week 4: The lining situation

Last I wrote we had just gotten through the follicle situation. Friday morning (5/24) we arrived for another ultrasound and more blood work. We were hoping to see that even more follicles had developed and they did. We were now in the 10-15 follicle range. The drugs and “the leg trick” seemed to be working, but as it turns out maybe a little too much.

When we sat down with our coordinator she was happy about the follicles, but explained that Desiree’s uterine lining was getting too thick at 17 millimeters as opposed to the 15 they’d like to see. We’ve never had a problem with lining before, in fact we’ve always been told it was good. So once again we were staring at the possibility of having our cycle cancelled early. In addition to that news the Follistim dosage was dropped down to 4 clicks from 9. Like I said before we knew things could change overnight, but we didn’t expect it to keep happening. It’s hard not to feel like we’re being betrayed, like they never explained just how much risk was involved emotionally and financially.

And so we were back at home that night praying for another miracle. The best case scenario was we go in on Saturday for the ultrasound and the nurse tells us that she over-measured, that the lining is actually only 16 millimeters. I remember saying that both to Desiree and to my Mom that day after we got home.

So the next morning we’re in the ultrasound and I kid you not the nurse measures the lining at 16 millimeters and tells us that she over-measured the day before. On top of that they found even more follicles. It’s the kind of thing that just makes you laugh to yourself, we couldn’t believe we made it through another scare.

The only thing left to do that day was wait to hear from our doctor. It was the call we’d been waiting for all week, the call where he explained the status of our cycle and whether or not we’d be moving forward with egg retrieval. We hoped we didn’t have to go through another day of drugs because the more drugs the more chance the lining would grow.

Desiree made sure I’d be the one to take the call in case it was bad news. I spent the day trying to keep my mind off it by working. I kept both of our phones next to me on my desk and made sure not to leave the room without them.

He called with great news, he told us to take the HCG shot that night, which triggers ovulation, instead of taking Follisitm and Repronex, and that our egg retrieval was schedule for Monday morning. He mentioned things had been touch and go for a couple of days (didn’t we know it), but he thought it all worked out.

He also said Desiree’s progesterone level was approaching a worrying number. So like the follicle count and lining this was something that could possibly throw a wrench in the machine, an unfortunate reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still a lot that can go wrong, probably more than they’re letting on. So please continue to pray that the retrieval goes well, that we have lots of healthy eggs, that they all fertilize, that we’re able to freeze some, that Desiree’s levels stay optimal and that we get the green light for a transfer.

IVF week 4: The follicle situation

This week started out with an ultrasound and blood work on Monday (5/20). It went well, follicles were starting to grow and no drug dosages changed. The drug regiment is the same as week 3, Lupron (thigh, morning), Follistim (stomach, afternoon) and Repronex (rear, afternoon). Tuesday morning was the same, ultrasound and blood work went well with no change in dosages.

Ideally our IVF drugs would carry us through to milestones like egg retrieval, but since Desiree has been on the lowest possible dosages we were starting to run out of Repronex and Follistim, both of which are a little over $500 a box. Unfortunately we had to order an extra box of each, over $1,000 we hadn’t planned on spending, but what choice did we have?

This was the start of the roller coaster ride that would be the rest of the week and still is even as I write this.

Wednesday’s ultrasound showed that Desiree had only produced 5 follicles which is low for this stage in the game. It’s important that our doctor has 10-15 follicles for a successful retrieval. Let me explain.

Typically there’s only 1 egg in each follicle, and it’s possible for a follicle to be empty. Beyond that not all eggs retrieved will be good, some may be too mature while others aren’t mature enough. Even beyond that not all eggs may fertilize afterwards. Basically there’s a few hurtles in the process before we arrive at 2 perfect, fertilized eggs to transfer back into the uterus. The rule of thumb is the more follicles our doctor has to work with the better our chances for success and that’s why he wants 10-15 at just the right size.

When our infertility coordinator explained the follicle situation she told us that at this point our chances for a successful round had been significantly reduced. It sounds blunt, be she explained it with empathy and didn’t want to concern us, but felt it was important to explain things along the way. We were scared and staring at the possibility of losing our money without any chance to move forward.

After that we received a huge blessing. When women finish a round of IVF they often have drugs leftover. Those drugs can’t be sold back to the pharmacy so they donate them to the clinic for couples like Desiree and I who pay out-of-pocket (as opposed to treatments being covered by health insurance). So our coordinator had us cancel the Repronex order we had placed the day before and gave us a free box. We were very grateful and hopefully we’ll be able to donate something in the end too.

That night we went home and prayed for more follicles. Desiree did some research online and read about putting her legs up on a wall, supposedly the blood rushes to the pelvis and expedites the process – we called it “the leg trick”. We knew there was no way to measure if it was working, but at that point we’d try anything. The best thing that could happen was tomorrow’s ultrasound would miraculously show that she had developed new follicles overnight which can happen.

The next day we went in for the ultrasound and, wouldn’t ya know, it did miraculously show that she had developed at least 5 new follicles overnight. We couldn’t believe it, we now had about 10 follicles for our doctor to work with. The blood work came back good and our dosages stayed the same, we were in the clear. At this point it looks like our egg retrieval, granted nothing goes wrong, will either be on Monday (Memorial Day) or Tuesday.

Since we’re at the clinic every day this week and things are happening so fast I’m trying to dole out updates in chunks. We’re still on a bit of a roller coaster ride, and I’ll write more about it soon, so please continue to pray that we’ll make it through the entire cycle and that we have a successful one at that!