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Taking the Big Leap to IVF

As I mentioned last week, our decision to try IVF next wasn’t an easy one, but we decided to take the big leap because there are better success rates with IVF vs. IUI—based on my diagnosis and age, we were given about a 60 percent success rate. Plus, two things: We had insurance coverage for four IVF cycles (with a co-pay), and it’s easier to control the risk of having multiples with IVF because you control how many embryos you implant. A risk we’ve been very nervous about since we headed down this path.

If we didn’t already have a child, I think I’d be a little less freaked out about having twins at this point in my life. Truthfully? Going from one kid to three kids overnight scares the hell out of me. Going from one to two kids, by the way, doesn’t seem like a piece of cake either.

 

A few reasons we didn’t feel ready for multiples:

  1. There’s a higher risk of complications.
  2. I’m a petite 5-foot-2 on a good day; carrying two babies in my little belly seems like a big undertaking for my body.
  3. The cost of three kids versus two was a big factor.
  4. I’m a full-time working mom with a demanding career. Juggling one kid with two full-time working parents is hard; juggling three kids with two full-time working parents? Hard to imagine.
  5. Many women end up on bed rest and go into pre-term labor with multiples (i.e. high-risk pregnancies).

All that said, there have been times over the last couple months that I’ve wondered why we didn’t give IUI or Clomid another try, even with the higher risk of having multiples. If my age weren’t such a nagging factor, I probably would’ve given each of them at least a couple more attempts before moving on to more aggressive treatments. Especially now knowing how difficult the IVF process is. (Isn't hindsight always 20/20 though?)

And it was extremely difficult. As is the protocol for IVF, I was on birth control pills for the first three weeks before starting the stims (stimulating medications). We started the process at the end of July; the stims began at the end of August: I was on 225 IUs of Follistim (injected subcutaneously, in my stomach). After what I’d already gone through with injectable meds for my IUI cycle, this part seemed like a breeze.

When you’re on stims, especially before an egg retrieval, you’re at the clinic every other day to monitor the progress of new follicle growth. During a regular cycle, a woman grows one new follicle a month (follicles hold the eggs). During my IVF cycle, I grew 33 new follicles. Great for IVF success; not so great for how it makes you feel.

It was after my egg retrieval on Sept. 4 (a procedure they put you out for) that I became so ill from what they deemed “mild” Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). Mild my ass—I thought I was dying. I remember lying on my bathroom floor, praying for mercy: What did I do to deserve this kind of pain? It’s a kind of sick you can’t really describe because you sort of block it out.

There was a point between my egg retrieval and my scheduled embryo transfer that I must’ve called the clinic 20 times in desperation. My doctor was out of town and we couldn’t reach him. My parents were on vacation and ended up flying home early because I was in such bad shape. My husband was at work, and did I mention I was lying on my cold bathroom floor, apologizing to no one in particular for anything I had ever done in my life to deserve this kind of misery?

I showed up at the clinic at 7 a.m. the day of my scheduled transfer with my parents (whom I was staying with at this point) and my husband, hoping that despite a distended stomach filled up with fluid that made me look four months pregnant and made breathing painful, I could still go through with it. After all, I had 14 fertilized day-5 blastocysts (embryos). I wanted those embryos implanted dammit—or at least one of them. Despite all the horrible symptoms of OHSS, I still had high hopes I could somehow go through with this, and walk out of there a pregnant woman, nausea, dizziness, fever and all.

The thought of canceling the transfer after everything I’d been through was simply not an option.

Until someone talked some sense into me. If it weren’t for the advice of one of the female IVF doctors at the clinic who happened to be on call that day—she’d been through multiple IVF cycles herself and had twins—I probably would’ve gone through with it. She warned me that if I did the transfer and got pregnant, I was looking at another eight weeks of these painful symptoms. And the truth was, I couldn’t handle another minute like this.

Our first embryo transfer was canceled on Sept. 9, and it was every bit as devastating as I imagined it would be.

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