Tag Archives: ivf

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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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 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!

How we paid for IVF without going into debt

Something we left out of our IVF week 2 post was that on the Friday Desiree got the ultrasound we also paid for our IVF in full. The grand total was around $15,000 – not an easy amount to write across a check, especially for something we’re not sure will actually work.

Like I’ve written before we never thought IVF would be an option for us. Neither of us come from wealthy families, we’re not living on any trust funds, we’ve never received any inheritances or been gifted any extremely large sources of wealth in cash or assets and we’ve both worked steady jobs since we were 15 years old. On top of that, neither of us have completed any college degree or any sort of certified vocational training. Just before we got married we did something really stupid, we both financed brand new cars, not to mention the credit card debt we had each previously racked up. And so we started our life together living in an apartment with a combined debt of nearly $35,000. Dumb, because it was unnecessary unlike wiser debt such as student loans or a mortgage.

Around 2005, through friends and church, we learned about Dave Ramsey‘s book, The Total Money Makeover; a plan for getting out of debt and becoming financially free. After a season of extreme and often painful sacrifice we finally unloaded all our debt in 2008. It’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done. We’re currently on Baby Step 6, but have paused in order to save money to cash-flow infertility treatments. If we do become pregnant we’ll drop back to Baby Step 5, saving for our child’s college education.

In 2007 I started my own business and it created enough income that we were blessed to have Desiree quit her job and become a homemaker. This was a big deal for us, a goal we often talked about. All Desiree ever wanted to do was be a Mom and a homemaker, I love that about her.

Last year, by the grace of God, we had an unusually good year and so because we’re debt-free we were afforded an extra amount of income to put towards our treatments. This first round of IVF has almost completely emptied our savings. The little we have left will be added to each month as we build it back up for a second round (our clinic offers the second at half cost) in case this one doesn’t take and if we decide on it when the time comes. Or God willing we’ll gladly spend it all on the costs of having a baby, or two.

Infertility adds a touch of bitterness to life and our finances are no different. It’s tough not being able to spend our hard-earned money on things like a second car with low gas mileage, painting the house, a couch that’s not broken, repairing walls and a bathroom floor that looks filthy even when you can eat off it. Even though it takes some convincing we know those things are wants and not needs. When we think of all the things we want, and we often do, we remind ourselves that we’re actually in a great place financially for what we’re going through – not everyone has the opportunity to do IVF. Is our situation the best? Are we independently wealthy with endless funds for treatments and adoptions? No, but we’re happy and blessed to be where we are.

Lupron Injection

IVF Week 1: Lupron Injections

This is what week one literally looked like. Every morning at 9:45 AM I give Desiree 0.2 cc of Lupron in either the top or side of her thigh, alternating legs and locations each day – except for today because she did it herself. She’s been a champ. The trick is to go in fast at a 45-degree angle, inject the drug, hold the needle in place for 1-2 seconds and then pull out fast the same way you went in.

After reading online we realized she’s been prescribed twice the typical dose. The side effects, if any, have been minimal. She’s had some tension headaches, bloating and nausea at night, but we’re not sure how much of that is due to other factors like tasty Mexican food.

Oh, that reminds me, Happy Cinco De Mayo, everyone – tip back a margarita for us tomorrow!

Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

Semen analysis results, ICSI to the rescue

In our IVF orientation we were told by our doctor that if anything in my semen analysis leading up to IVF was questionable (by their standards) that they’d use ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), the process by which they take a single sperm and inject it directly into an egg for fertilization; this is in contrast to normal fertilization where they coat the egg with sperm and let nature do its thing. ICSI costs an extra $1,500 and adds a couple more drugs to our regiment. They also told us that an IVF cycle with ICSI had a slightly higher success rate than one without. Of course when we explained this to our parents they asked, “So, why don’t they just do ICSI regardless of the analysis?” Good question.

We pressed the issue with our infertility coordinator and never really got a straight answer other than that they don’t like to go too far down the road of science if they don’t have to, plus research wasn’t clear on whether or not ICSI was responsible for certain birth defects. We respect that, but considering the amount of drugs already involved with a cycle of IVF, not to mention the invasive procedures, we feel we’re waist-deep in science already (pun intended). But she sympathized saying that she asks herself the same question for us and promised that if they found one little thing questionable in my analysis they’d give us the option. Well unfortunately, but fortunately, they did find something questionable.

I’ve had semen analysis done 5 times between 3 different clinics since 2008. I’ve always been either above-average (we jokingly call this super sperm) or average. When they’re looking at motility, the movement of sperm, they’re wanting to see at least 50% moving and within that they want to see at least 20% moving very fast or rapidly. This time only 19% were moving rapidly; I must have skipped coffee that day (just kidding, it has nothing to do with that). She said overall my results weren’t bad, but that 1% for rapid motility was enough for us to be offered the option of ICSI – we signed and sent the papers this morning. Both of our parents will be very happy to hear the news.

As weird as it sounds we’re happy our doctors will have more of a hand (literally) in fertilizing our eggs – it’s one less thing we need to worry about standing in the way of a successful round of IVF and more importantly a baby.