Back in early 2016, less than 24 hours after making my first pregnancy “Facebook official,” I received a private message from Anjali, one of my closest childhood friends. She was pregnant too, and we would be sharing our pregnancy and motherhood journeys together! We were due within a few weeks of each other.
It has been an amazing experience, bolstering my confidence as a mom and bringing so much joy as we watch the kiddos go through all their firsts together.
At that time, I had an inkling of what this pregnancy meant to Anjali. I knew she’d struggled with miscarriage. I knew they were using IVF. Since then, we’ve had many conversations about the impact of her IVF journey and how it continues to shape her identity as a mother.
Like so many topics surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and families, IVF is a fraught subject. I asked Anjali if she would want to share her story so that others can relate or learn from it. She picks up the story from here…
IVF is a scary topic for a lot of people. Not only does it have a negative stigma attached to it, but so few people talk about it and therefore have little to no knowledge.
I’m sick of being quiet about infertility. So many people face it, and yet no one wants to talk about it. How are we supposed to raise awareness about a topic that no one wants to be aware of? I’m hoping that my experience can shed some light on the subject.
The Path to IVF
After my third miscarriage, I sat down with my husband and basically told him that I can’t do it again. I don’t want to go through another one. Knowing that IVF with PGS (Pre-Genetic Screening) could potentially eliminate almost all of the risk of a chromosomal miscarriage, I knew I wanted to try it.
My husband is very generous and seldom turns me down when it comes to things I’m passionate about. Knowing how badly we both wanted children, this was a no brainer. So we sat down with the doctors as well as the financial department of our clinic and figured out the next steps as well as a plan for payment.
In total, we paid roughly $10,000-$12,000 out of pocket for the egg retrieval, PGS, and 2 transfers. Insurance covered the rest. It’s a lot of money; there’s no way to sugarcoat that. I really think infertility should be covered for everyone seeing how common it is, but that’s another rant for another time.
Step One: Ovarian Stimulation
Once all the financial obligations were met, we started the ovarian stimulation process. I’ve included a calendar for reference so you can see how detailed it gets, how many medications are required, and how much dedication is needed to go through this three-month process.
As you can see, IVF is not something that can be done quickly. It takes several months of getting your body and your eggs ready. What happens is all these medications and injections stimulate the ovaries to make a bunch of follicles and eggs.
The injections leading up to the egg retrieval weren’t bad at all. They were tiny little injections in the stomach. Toward the end of that process, though, my ovaries were actually palpable from outside of my body. It was the weirdest, most uncomfortable feeling.
Step Two: Egg Retrieval
Shortly after I finished the stim cycle, I moved on to the egg retrieval process. Now this, for me, was the worst. I was put under general anesthesia and the doctor basically vacuumed out my eggs. The entire process took about a half hour, but for me, it felt like minutes.
The recovery process was quite painful. One of the side effects of the stim process is OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). That is where your body gets too much of the injectable hormone and your ovaries end up extremely swollen. Thankfully, I never got OHSS, but I did experience some intense discomfort the day or two after my egg retrieval. I basically spent the entire day of retrieval and the following day asleep on the couch while my husband waited on me hand and foot.
The next few days were a waiting game. We waited to see how many of our eggs fertilized the next day and then how many from there became blastocysts. Our doctor was able to retrieve 25 (give or take…I don’t actually remember) eggs. We found out 11 fertilized. Eight made it to day five blastocysts.
At this point, our embryos were sent to the genetics lab to test for chromosomal abnormalities. That process took about a week. We then got a call from my IVF nurse, telling us that we had 6 normal embryos and the genders.
I was so ecstatic after learning this information that I was in tears telling my husband that we could potentially have 6 babies. It was a night worth celebrating for sure.
Step Three: Transfer Preparation
In the next few days, my IVF nurse sent over my calendar for the embryo transfer. That, also, took a couple months to prep for.
The actual embryo transfer procedure was much less invasive than the egg retrieval. Leading up to the transfer, the shots were a little harder. These went into my hip, and the needles were a bit on the intense side (see photo below). However, as long as they were done correctly, the actual injections were relatively painless. The most annoying part was the lumps that formed after a few days of injections where the oil from the progesterone seemed to want to collect.
I would say the only downside to IVF is the length of time that you are on PIO (Progesterone in Oil) hits around a total of 3.5-4 months if you get a positive pregnancy test after your transfer, but I’ll get into that more later on.
Step Four: Embryo Transfer
My clinic did something called a Mock Transfer where they injected a solution instead of the embryo just to see how my body reacted, and to see whether or not I needed to take more than a Vicodin before the transfer. Some people I guess tense up too much and end up needing anesthesia, but I was pretty calm.
The transfer process is painless! I’d say the worst part of it is the wonderful two-week wait until your HCG beta test.
After my first transfer, I went home and spent the first couple days just taking it easy. I spent a lot of the two weeks watching Netflix and relaxing.
When beta day came, I was feeling confident as I had so many symptoms during the two-week wait. Unfortunately, that beta came back negative. Turns out that Progesterone in Oil has side effects that mimic pregnancy.
While I was slightly discouraged, I didn’t give up. It wasn’t a miscarriage. I was told to discontinue my medications, come in to talk to the doctor, and wait for my cycle to start.
Our doctor told us that sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Nothing I did wrong and nothing wrong with the protocol. It’s just not a 100% guarantee, which a lot of people tend to assume it will be when they go into IVF.
A Second Transfer Attempt
Once my cycle started, I had to call the clinic again and basically redo the steps in the calendar above until transfer day. However, this transfer was different. I did the same things after transfer (relaxed, Netflix, positive thinking), but I had different symptoms this time around. I started feeling crampy, my sense of smell was INTENSE. I remember my husband had changed the cat litter and I was in the bedroom and I smelled the unscented fresh litter with our bedroom door shut.
I had a feeling that my little embryo implanted, but I vowed not to take a pregnancy test early so I just let myself feel pregnant. Then the morning of my beta test, my anxiety got the better of me and I knew I needed to know, so that morning, I woke up and took a test and lo and behold…
While IVF is not feasible for everyone, I was among the very lucky ones to have the ability to take that route, and now I have my beautiful, three year old (in September) rainbow baby girl.
All photos courtesy of Anjali.