Newsflash: In Vitro is hard!

Fertility Meds

Every time I think I’ve got the hard stuff of this year behind me and I’m ready to get back on the horse of regular life, the next thing comes along and knocks me flat again. We’re now at a year and a half of health garbage taking over my life – when it wasn’t outright threatening it – all with the hope of having another baby. This kid better be dang cute, that’s all I have to say. And, of course, it better exist.

I have gotten through the egg retrieval phase of IVF, which really really sucked. Like, bad. Over the years I’ve known hundreds of people who have done IVF and everyone said it was hard, but nobody really prepared me for exactly how hard it is. Granted, I am a medical marvel that will find every possible complication, but still. I had to put every single other thing in my life on the back burner and just do this. While Bear got Atti on the bus and raced home from work to pick him up, I laid on the couch watching old episodes of the Bachelor and moaning.

Every ounce of energy that wasn’t necessary for breathing was draining into my ovaries. I slept and slept and slept and I was still exhausted as my egg factories were kicked into hyperdrive, reacting to the oodles of medication I was taking every day. My belly was so swollen I looked like a waterbed, and I was covered from hip to belly button in giant bruises and puncture marks.

Since I’m one of those women who has pain during ovulation, and here I was hyper ovulating, it was not only exhausting, but PAINFUL. And even taking advil freaked me out, panicked I’d be causing harm to the eggs or risking the whole process. I used a heating pad to try and get a little relief but even then I was too worried about making hard boiled eggs to have it help much.

But all of that investment in energy paid off when we got news that there were over 30 eggs waiting to be retrieved. I went in for a quick procedure where they sedated me and then used a needle to aspirate up each of those little eggs. By the time I woke up they were already at the lab being joined by a sperm that had been individually chosen as the best candidate. I had visions of embryologists looking through their microscopes at a little sperm beauty pageant, the winner crowned and injected directly into the egg. Then we just had to wait and let nature take its course.

Of course, since I am, once again, a medical oddity, I had complications even from this little procedure. I had some bleeding that they couldn’t get stopped easily, which resulted in bleeding into my abdominal cavity. Apparently, I’ve learned the hard way, there is a major nerve that runs underneath the diaphragm and sends the impulse to move up and down to breathe. This nerve gets aggressively irritated by blood. So for nearly three weeks this nerve was driving me to distraction. The first night I felt like I was drowning, it felt like I couldn’t get my lungs to fill. Then as my body slowly, slowly, slowly absorbed the blood that was causing all the problems, I began to breathe easier, but I still had intense shooting nerve pain up into my shoulder. After a month of exhaustion making the eggs, I had another month of pain just trying to heal from getting them.

It was disheartening to watch the numbers go down at each stage of development – 30+ eggs retrieved, 16 fertilized, 12 grew to day 2, 8 made it to “blast stage” and on and on. I kept trying to remind myself that it didn’t matter how many embryos we had as long as we got a baby at the end, but it was terrifying to think of everything I’d put in to this process and know that it could all still go wrong at so many different points.

Just before we were ready to proceed to the implantation stage – where they put the embryos into my uterus and wait to see if a pregnancy is achieved – we got yet another twist thanks to my dang malfunctioning body. My hormone levels were out of whack and they felt it was best to wait before trying to get pregnant. So they took our little embryos and popped them in the freezer until I could get everything all cozy for them. I admit, I was crushed. This just felt one too far. After all the pain and exhaustion and sacrifice, to still not have it work out for us, I just about lost it. But once I could calm down and think it all through, I was kind of glad to have a little time to heal before launching into a pregnancy (knock on wood). This whole process has been so rough, it ended up being a good thing to be able to get myself back together before dealing with pregnancy symptoms on top of all the pain and exhaustion I’d just gotten through.

We’ve got four little embryos waiting for us in the freezer, and now we’re just waiting until I can dedicate another month to shots and daily office visits to see if all of this suffering of the last year and a half will prove fruitful. Hopefully August will be a lucky month. Hopefully those four little popsicle babies will actually make it into this world. And hopefully they’ll all be just like Atticus.

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