34 Farm-fresh eggs

I am, once again, a human farm animal. Such is #IVFlife.

And as I suspected, each stim cycle is a little bit different.  To recap: During my first, in June 2016, the doctors retrieved 23 mature eggs, which resulted in six embryos making it to blastocyst stage. While the meds no doubt kicked my ass then, the much more (physically) unpleasant experience came following my egg retrieval.

I’ll get to the good stuff straight-away, I know that’s what you’re here for… Somehow my doctor managed to find 34 eggs in my swollen stomach. As I was coming out of my anesthesia following the procedure, the greatest nurse on the planet popped her head in to say, “34,” with her big, bright smile. If I didn’t actually ask her at the time, I certainly wanted to say, geez, are you sure they were all mine? They claim they are. Thirty-four was more than my brain could actually process in the moment. Then she said something that I will stick with me, and will be a key piece of the story I tell my daughter or son about how they came into our family…

“One of those eggs is your baby.”

She said it with such hope and conviction that my heart swelled to match my enormous ovaries and I felt so strongly that she was going to be right.

“One of those eggs is your baby.”

To every woman who has felt beaten and broken by infertility, I wish you a moment just like this. I felt renewed and ready. I’ve been so careful not to ever really let myself believe this could still be possible in case it wasn’t. In that moment I let go of so much negativity, and let those words sink in.

Of those 34 eggs retrieved, 21 were mature. I did find it pretty surprising (and encouraging) that it was only two fewer than my first cycle, when I was the better part of two years younger. Physically the process of stimming felt much more intense this time than I remembered, and I again went for the full 12 nights. Perhaps it was because I knew this would be my last time, but I was feeling SO done before I’d even gotten to the trigger shot. The bloat and the fatigue felt especially powerful in the last few days of injections. And I was a straight-up nightmare emotionally-speaking.

Despite the more intense stim (guess that meant it I was firing on all cylinders?), the retrieval recovery was a breeze compared to my Dark Willow situation last time.

When the lab reported that 21 eggs were mature, they relayed that 14 of those had fertilized. This was virtually the same ratio as my previous IVF cycle, and I felt fine with that and eager to see how many of those would progress.

On day three, I waited for news from the lab. And it was good… ALL 14 embryos were developing! I read the message a few times, and then squealed and cried. Things hadn’t gone down this way before. To still have all of them thriving on day three? It was the injection (ha!) of encouragement we needed.

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I agree, Ron. Stay tuned…

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Stim Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo

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Friends, the day has arrived (finally): Day one of my stim cycle. Let’s grow some follicles and make some good quality eggs, shall we?

Pending the results of this morning’s progesterone check, I begin Lupron injections this evening. Here’s a fun refresher on the types of side effects I may experience during this phase of the cycle: fatigue, increased sweating, headaches, acne, trouble sleeping… Oh boy! During my first cycle nearly two years ago, I wrote about the frequent urination hitting me hard by day 8. Guaranteed that one pops up again.

Knowing what to expect physically and emotionally during a stimulation doesn’t make me excited to start injecting myself with hormones every night, but it does give me some comfort. One of the most difficult mental hurdles last time I did this was overcoming the fear of the unknown. Perhaps no two cycles are alike, though?

Mentally, where am I? That is, of course, more complicated. Knowing that I can get through to the egg retrieval is one thing. I can handle tired, peeing a lot and crying at the drop of a hat. After the retrieval, though, the next six days are out of my hands. I’ll wait to hear how many eggs fertilize and grow to blastocyst stage. Then the embryos are biopsied and shipped for PGS and I’ll wait some more. That wait, though… that’s going to be the toughest one. It determines our next few months, our entire path for moving forward. Will there be any normal embryos? If so, how many? If not, how will I feel? Will I want to move right into adoption, or will I need to grieve the loss of my fertility?

None of these questions will have answers for at least the next month. As we get dangerously close to April, no less. The worst month of the year.

So stay tuned for some fun!

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(I really love Happy Endings. Can you tell?)

23 eggs and 12 embryos later

I am basically a human farm animal.

My IVF cocktail of Lupron, Follistim and Menopur worked so well that, even though the growing took the full 12 nights, my doctors were able to retrieve 23 eggs from my incredibly swollen ovaries. The last few injections had become uncomfortable, for sure, but I was anticipating that the discomfort would subside not long after the retrieval procedure.

Nope.

While getting 23 eggs was incredibly successful by any measure, the discomfort was really just beginning. Apparently it’s pretty uncommon, but the days following my retrieval were very painful. Aside from the normal bloating going into it, the bloating became worse and was accompanied by shooting pains in my lower abdomen basically any time I moved. My retrieval was on Friday, and by Saturday night — feeling worse than I had the previous day (shout out to my anesthesia for keeping me fairly out of it!) — I emailed my nurse to say “the good news is that the lab called and said we have THIRTEEN embryos that have fertilized and appear normal, but the bad news is I feel like someone tried to gut me like a fish, but failed.”

I’m not a religious person, but IVF nurses are angels and should be carried around by stunning shirtless men (or women, if they prefer) while being fed grapes. I’ve only known my IVF nurse for about six weeks but I trust her more than I do some of my own family members. She is, no lie, one of the best people I’ve ever met, and regardless of what happens next, I am so grateful for her help and encouragement in my life. Thank you.

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#IVFnursesFTW

After spending the weekend almost exclusively in bed with varying degrees of pain, I was called back to the doctor today to ensure that nothing was wrong, since it’s abnormal to still be experiencing discomfort several days after retrieval. The very straight forward doc that I’ve seen only once before checked me out, while noting that I am not one of those annoying patients that complains about everything. With help of the ultrasound, he said that my left ovary was “enormous,” and would most certainly be the cause of most of the discomfort. I also had some fluid behind my uterus, but not enough to cause for concern. Non-medically speaking this means that my ovary is saying, “WTF did you do to me?!” and is seriously pissed. Not that I blame her.

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My left ovary has gone all Dark Willow on me.

In much more positive news, I am the very lucky winner of TWELVE “good” embryos! #13 is lagging behind a bit, but still of the “fair” camp. Despite leading with what a crappy retrieval experience I’ve had physically, I am thrilled that, if I had any desire to, I could make a football team with these little guys (or girls). While I don’t have any intention of creating a family of Duggars, it makes me feel quite positive that the embryologist will have lots of squirmy cell clusters from which to choose the best one. YAY 12!!

My transfer is scheduled for Wednesday. To be continued…