Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Waiting for An Egg to Hatch

Last year my husband and I decided to go ahead and go for it. We were going to give IVF a try. After talking with our team of doctors and learning how the process would work, we decided that we would wait until school was out. We figured it would be best to be able to relax after the procedure and summer would be the best time to do that.

The day the box arrived at our house containing all the medicine and needles we would need, I was in shock! The box was as big as a TV, contained a cooler full of medicine, and had more needles in it then I had ever seen. I immediately looked at my husband to see what his facial expression was, as I was beginning to have second thoughts.

We went through the box, checking the specialty pharmacy slips (our insurance required us to use a special mail order pharmacy) to make sure that everything we needed was there. The idea that all of this medicine was needed to have a baby was devastating. This was not the picture I had in my mind when I had dreamed of having a child. I never once thought that timed shots full of burning medicine would have any place in my journey to becoming a mother.

The first night of shots was interesting. We tried our best to remember what the nurses had told us and remind ourselves what we had learned when they taught us how to give the shots into a rubber ball. Pushing the needles into the rubber was no big deal, but the thought of pushing needles into my abdomen, thigh, and hip was awful. I wasn't sure I would be able to do it all without breaking down.

My husband gave me the 3 shots every night at the assigned time. Some of the needles were large gauge needles and some were insulin size. Some of the medicine was ok and some burned like crazy when injected. Every third day I had to go get blood drawn at the U of I to see what shots, what amount of medicine, and at what time we should do the next round of injections. Between the injections and blood draws, I was a bloody, bruised up mess.

Finally after several weeks of oral medicine and injections, my blood tests showed that my levels were good for egg retrieval. During the egg retrieval, you are put under and your eggs are basically harvested out using a needle. They suck the eggs right out! Luckily you feel nothing as you are asleep, but it doesn't feel very good once you wake up. I will spare you the details.

My husband tells me that when I was waking up from the procedure, I was hilarious. I apparently was telling funny stories about our dogs to the nurses. They really got a kick out of me! They were the best nurses though and I am so grateful that they were there to help us that day.

After egg retrieval, they send you home and you rest and take it easy until implantation day. On the day of implantation, they take the embryo (the egg and sperm that they have watched in a dish in the lab) and they implant it into your uterus. They can do the implantation after 3-5 days.

On one of those days, we woke up to a phone call. It was the doctors from the clinic telling us that we had stumped them. What do you mean we have stumped you? After all we have been through, the months of testing, the weeks medicine, the who-knows-how-many number of shots, and you have bad news to tell me and you can't explain it to me? You are a specialist that has been working in this clinic for many years and you're telling me that our egg and sperm have defied science and you have no explination for it? Excuse me? I didn't just spend tens of thousands of dollars on this to not have a baby and have you tell me that we STUMPED YOU!!!

I cried and cried and cried. My husband cried and cried and cried. It was not a good day. Our embryos were not growing and the ones that were, were not looking healthy. There was a large chance that we would have nothing that would be healthy enough to implant. They asked us if we would be willing to let them do ICSI, which is where they intervene in the lab and basically force the egg to allow the sperm to enter. Some couples opt out of ICSI because it goes against their religious beliefs. I on the other hand told them to do whatever they needed to do to make this work and I hung up the phone.

They watched the embryos for a few days, updating us on what was happening. A few ended up growing, but the success rate since we had to wait so many days, was going down by the minute. They decided that two of them were healthy enough to implant. We crossed our fingers that even though the odds were so far against us, it just might work.

During the implantation procedure, you are wide awake. Your spouse is allowed in the surgical suite with you, as well as a few nurses and your main doctor. They have warm blankets, music, and a little window that they hand the embryo through straight from the lab. It's so weird because they actually had a CD that said "IVF Mix" on it to play. They didn't play that one for us, but we have always wondered what songs are on that CD!

They give you a little report card where they have rated your embryos and show you pictures of how they have grown. You actually get to watch on a screen as the embryo is implanted into your uterus. It's the only time that you can actually see the conception of your child. Weird, I know, but true.

After it's over, you stay in the surgical suite for quite some time. They give you a little picture of the embryo in your womb, as sort of the baby's first photo. After you've stayed your required time, you leave the hospital and go home. Then you play the waiting game. About 15 days later you return to the clinic for a blood test to tell you if it was successful. For someone like me that has no patience, those 15 days were the worst ever!

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