So we try IVF

After the dramatic IUI failure of early 2019, we were then told we would only be able to get pregnant if we tried IVF. I remember the previous me of about a year ago, when all this nonsense started, vehemently arguing against IVF: the pills, the shots, the meds–the weight gain and hormonal swings…all of it terrified me. I could never believe I was ever going to be one of “those people” who needed to do this. Funny how your perception changes when it’s you who’s living the story!

And yet, here I was, sitting in the doctor’s office with this option the only one that was going to get us from point a to point baby. We simply couldn’t get my husband’s sperm to mix and mingle with my eggs any other way.

So we agreed, and after another couple of months’ wait, during which my husband had his own set of decidedly uncomfortable clinic visits and had his sperm surgically removed from his testicles, we were on our way. I started my injections, which, although I first balked at the cases of sharps and the bags of syringes, were not that bad.

I think the worst part for me was the time, and the sneaking around work. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I have a job that I love, and I’m trying to remain in the running for new and emerging leadership opportunities. While my workplace is full of, thankfully, a rare breed of high-performing and growth-enabling professionals, I was still afraid that I was not going to be perceived as “at the table” if I told anyone I was trying to get pregnant. So I didn’t.

Instead, I made notes in my calendar and set up my injections on a side table in my office so I’d make sure I did them on time. I went to the clinic to line up before the doors opened at 6:00 a.m. so I’d be able to get into work at a reasonable hour that nobody would question. Over and above the needles, the tests, the internal ultrasounds (all of which I got strangely used to, despite being terribly uncomfortable with the whole thing), the running around at work was the hardest part.

I even managed to do my egg retrieval on a Saturday, so I could recover Sunday and be at work more or less as normal on Monday. It was hard, but not impossible, and I was so proud when I had completed all the steps needed to ensure we had the most eggs we could.

We ended up with 12 eggs, 11 of which were mature, and 6 of which fertilized. At first, I thought this was pretty low, in terms of numbers, but the lovely embryologist told me that we were looking good. For the next five days, I got a call every morning with the status of my eggs. It was fascinating to learn about the mitosis process, and how eggs go through the phases they need to become blastocysts and eventually babies.

On day five after the extraction, I was told to come in for a transfer. Unfortunately that happened to be right in the middle of a conference that my boss had kindly invited me to, so I had to make a lame excuse and duck out for an hour in the middle to go and get the embryos transferred.

I was told that the two embryos they transferred were not quite at the level they needed to be, but they would be “better in than out” and there was still a good chance they would be okay. My lining was great, my health was great, there were no issues they could forsee that would negatively affect the outcome–now all there was to do was wait. And wait.

The next day, they told me that the rest of my embryos had “arrested,” and stopped growing. There was nothing to freeze and so the ones they transferred were my only hope.

That two weeks was awful. I barely slept, I worried all the time, I wavered between bouts of depression and anxiety and hope and expectation. I was terrified to test early for fear I’d jinx the outcome, so I waited until the correct date to do my blood test and then ever more impatiently for the results to come in.

And then they did. And they were negative. All the efforts we had done so far had failed. There were no babies, no frozen embryos, and less hope for success than there was at the beginning of this whole process. It took a long time for me to come to terms with the idea that I had been falsely protecting a womb in which nothing was growing. I felt foolish and silly and embarrassed, and deceived by my own body. I felt like a biological failure.

After a couple of days of wallowing and Netflixing, I tried to put the pieces back together. Thankfully it was Easter weekend, so I had a bit of time off work to get my head back on straight. My husband took the night shifts off (he works shifts, and was supposed to be working through the weekend) and stayed with me, and the two of us tried to come to terms with our most recent disappointment (I’ve been told not to call it a failure, but really…isn’t that what it is?).

As part of the process, the clinic scheduled us an appointment with the doctor to go over what went wrong. And apparently, despite all the months of us thinking that as soon as my husband’s sperm met my eggs, things would be okay–they weren’t. For reasons unbeknownst to my doctor, my eggs were not good quality.

Now, I’m not super old, so that shouldn’t have made such a great difference in ALL embryos, but for some reason, none of the eggs had enough “oomph” to make full babies. This is a bit frustrating, for a number of reasons. And I’m more than a little annoyed, disappointed, and frankly depressed that after all the work we did, the potions and powders and pills and appointments (of which there were many: acupuncture, neuro-feedback, massage, yoga, counselling…you name it) that we ended up with nothing.

Sigh.

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