And then there were two: PGS results

After the cliffhanger of my last post, I’ll go ahead and immediately spoil the ending of this one with the title. We have two PGS-normal embryos.

TWO. NORMAL. EMBRYOS.

I felt a little like this:

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Okay, rewind… As of day 3, I had 14. I knew well enough to know that over the next two and three days, the lab would see a drop-off of at least half, and I was fine with that. The entire goal of Stim Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo was quality over quantity. Quantity, in my previous experience, hasn’t made a damn bit of difference for me. Five of my six embryos from my first stim cycle didn’t stick, and Kristoff, the lone embryo still frozen, had the lowest grading of that pack. The odds weren’t in his favor.

Quality, of course, is much harder to measure. I’d done the work I could do to potentially improve the quality of my much-older-than-my-age-and-AMH eggs by losing 35 pounds. But, other than feeling better than I had in a long time, I didn’t know if that would prove fruitful fertility-wise.

When day 5 arrived I think I stared at my phone all day. For previous updates the lab had emailed me in the morning, so by lunchtime I was a ball of anxiety. Did this mean none had progressed? Was the news so bad that the lab would have my doctor break it to me? What day is it? Do I still remember how to count to five? By 3:00, I simply couldn’t stand it anymore and emailed the greatest nurse on the planet. Hey if you could just do me a solid and walk down the hall to the lab… She was like calm down, crazy, since you’re doing PGS the lab will wait until tomorrow to give you the final results of how many made it to blastocyst to be biopsied.

“However, you have 2 for biopsy today 🙂 And likely many more for tomorrow. Yay!!!!”

There was crying.

Day 6 went by so damn slowly. But then the email came…

Five.

Plus, Kristoff had survived the thaw for biopsy and continued to develop.

Even more crying. So much crying that my husband only understood every seven words that I said on the phone when I called with the news.

Six embryos held all of my hopes and dreams: 5BB, 5BB, 6AA, 5AA, 5CB and 5BC. No pressure, kids, but my entire future is riding on you…

The nine days between hearing that number from the lab and getting the call from the greatest nurse on the planet with our PGS results were absolutely on-par with the two-week wait. I did my best to stay busy and keep my mind occupied, but if I’m being real those results were the only thing of substance I could think about.

On the afternoon when my nurse called, she admitted she was very scared to tell me there were two normal embryos. Two of six is a poor ratio, all things considered. But as soon as she said two, everything else fell away. I’d save the questions about the others for another day. When you’re terrified that you’re going to hear zero, two sounds like a million. I was so unbelievably grateful for two.

Lots more crying. All the crying.

So here we are… Two. It’s my new favorite number.

Ps… Kristoff wasn’t one of the normals. And she’s actually a Kristoffina.

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Infertility is really just a crap-ton of waiting

I’m a few days from starting my period. While nothing tops the two-week wait (TWW) on the anxiety scale, the time waiting to start your next IVF cycle is also stressful. In early January my husband and I repeated our lab work, and I had my 8,000th mock transfer and saline ultrasound to ensure all systems were go to start my last stim cycle. Other than a high TSH (thyroid) level, I’m all set. I wasn’t that surprised that my thyroid check was elevated since I’d been off my hypothyroidism meds for about 10 weeks because it conflicted with the prescribed appetite suppressant I was on for weight loss.

[Quick update on the weight loss: Somehow I’ve managed to quell my emotional eating inner demons, and am down 29.5 pounds! I picked up good habits and flipped that elusive switch that allowed me to rethink how I approach food. Particularly sugar. Perhaps the only person more surprised with my progress than me is my husband who knew all too well how unlikely I was to follow-through with this. It certainly has been challenging, but it’s pretty nice to feel like I am crushing. it. in just this one aspect of my life. Having said that, I’m about to stim again with hormones aplenty, so we’ll see what I’m made of over the next few weeks.]

It feels like there’s nothing but waiting. It’s often infuriating. Particularly in those rare time frames when I actually feel physically and emotionally ready to go down the IVF rabbit hole again. Like, ya know, now.

The downtime between completing one cycle and starting another always varies wildly. In my case, it’s almost always been months when it comes to IVF. I did my first stim (and fresh transfer) in June 2016. In fertility terms, that’s probably 25 potentially good eggs ago. Who knows if it was one of those “wasted” eggs that was the golden one?

Then we did our first FET in November 2016. Bust. The second FET didn’t happen for another ten months. Then I got a little bit pregnant. While money was probably the most significant factor in that span of time, getting answers to why three perfectly normal-looking embryos in an otherwise healthy woman simply didn’t stick (spoiler alert: it was endometritis) was also on the list. Not to mention my emotional health.

Moving into this last cycle, we’re already several months removed from the chemical pregnancy, and we’ve decided to leave our last frozen embryo from our OG stim cycle in the freezer (we’ll test Kristoff with his future embryo sibs). Which, another aside: If Kristoff is the ONE embryo that turns out to be genetically normal after PGS I think my brain may actually explode.

While the Clomid made me insane and pack on the pounds, at least IUIs keep the pace moving. I knocked a bunch of those out in a couple of months.

So we’re into another year of this waiting. Year five. We’ve reached the five-year milestone in infertility even before we did in our marriage. How’s that irony. Just delightful.

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One last time: Olaf and Anakin

I’m in a weird place fertility-wise.

After several months of considering and discussing our next steps, we’ve decided to do one more FET before pursing non-treatment options in earnest. I didn’t come to this decision lightly, of course. I say I here, because it was primarily my call. My husband has graciously allowed me to steer the ship since we began fertility treatment two and a half years ago, and he weighs in when he has strong feelings one way or another about something. While this decision-making compromise can feel lonely for me at times, I’m ultimately grateful that he understands it is important for me to dictate what happens to my body. The feminist in me has trouble with that phrasing, but I’m going to leave it be. Infertility is complicated and does affect both partners.

Much of the continuing conversation about how to proceed happened between me and my therapist, actually. Last fall, after our second failed FET, my therapy sessions started to revolve around moving forward. I questioned whether I was ready to try again. What if that meant another failure? Or worse, another miscarriage.

One of the very important things I had to start working through was if I could forgive my body for failing me. Following my diagnosis of chronic endometritis earlier this year, I started to make peace with myself. This was the reason I wasn’t pregnant and once it had cleared, I felt almost renewed.

That feeling of renewal was short-lived.

I’ve worked hard in therapy to better understand myself and accept that, without unlimited resources at my disposal, perhaps my body cannot sustain a pregnancy. I’m still working on this acceptance. In many ways, it feels just as emotionally painful as my miscarriages. Accepting that I can’t do what I want is as much a loss.

So the decision to conclude our treatment following this last IVF cycle didn’t come easily. But we’re preparing to move on.

My period should arrive this week, we’ll shell out the cash, and I should begin the preparation to transfer two of our last embryos, Olaf and Anakin (Kristoff will remain frozen for the foreseeable future, provided O and A survive the thaw).

So I’ll be here, singing “One Last Time” from Hamilton under my breath. Apt and giving me all the feels.

IVF: TWW

Right now, there’s a blastocyst swimming around in my uterus looking for a cozy spot to park and grow. I picture it a little like Dory in Finding Nemo, actually, but I biologically know it doesn’t really swim. The embryo we transferred on Wednesday was a grade 3AB, which I’m told by the many, many trained professionals that have seen my anatomy in the last week, is great.

The transfer went smoothly and was not at all painful like my egg retrieval. Some discomfort and pressure with a very full bladder, but a cake-walk, relatively speaking. It took about 10 minutes from start to finish and was fascinating to watch on the ultrasound screen. On the grainy screen, my husband and I watched the entire process as my doctor put little 3AB in where he/she belongs.

Now, we wait…

I’m relieved to have the injections over, and certainly grateful for the end of the pain of my Dark Willow ovary. Every other time I’ve been in this TWW limbo has been me white-knuckling through the anxiety of the wait. And while I’m certainly eager to see if 3AB is successful, I feel mostly relief that I have my first IVF cycle behind me, regardless of the outcome. 3AB is in there now and I just have to keep it as safe as I can.

While 3AB swims around looking for that warm and inviting spot, Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and Anakin are now on ice. We were able to freeze five embryos. Two more of good quality (two more 3ABs), and three more of good/fair that appeared likely to survive the freezing and thawing process. When I texted my sister-in-law  about this process, she sent me a gif from Frozen, and the embryo “names” were born. Its become an amusing inside joke, and one I’m sure I’ll repeat pretty regularly over the next few decades. I’ve denoted Anna and Elsa as the two superior embryos, only because they were frozen together, but I’m personally pulling for Olaf to make it to my uterus next time. If only because it will be endlessly funny to call him Olaf in utero.

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