When I last wrote an update on our infertility journey, I explained our decision to pursue IVF. If you missed my initial post, you can read it here. IVF seems like a distant memory now, but at the time it tested me in every way possible – more about that in a moment. Fast forward to today and I am 16 weeks pregnant! To say that David and I are thrilled, humbled, excited and even slightly scared would be an understatement. We are all those things and MORE! So far, pregnancy has been equal parts challenging and awe-inspiring. Currently, I’m feeling good and our Mini McFarland is thriving – due November 7, 2019! I’ll be writing trimester updates periodically, but first more on where we left off with IVF.
I truly feel like I could write a book on our IVF experience, but I’ll try to keep it brief. In early January 2019, we started IVF. It was a whirlwind and stressful start as I realized on a Saturday night – two days before I was supposed to start IVF – I didn’t have the medications I needed. After many phone calls and messages, we discovered it was an administrative error on the fertility center’s part and the meds were delivered to me the following Monday by same-day air arriving just hours before I was to start giving myself injections.
David was traveling so I was on my own that evening which began a two-week process of abdominal injections. I meticulously watched the instructional videos and with little to no confidence in what I was doing, self-administered the twice-daily medications. It was traumatizing at first, but soon enough, it became a ritual. For the most part, I could continue my workouts and eating healthy helped to manage the notorious IVF weight gain, however I did experience some bloating. Although now two weeks sounds like nothing, at the time – and under the circumstances – it seemed like a lifetime.
With the injections came regular visits to the fertility center every other morning for bloodwork and ultrasound. They were monitoring my hormone levels and also my egg production. The fertility center hours were like an open call audition. Get there anywhere between 7 and 9 a.m., check in and wait to be called. Sometimes I was in and out in minutes but other times took longer than anticipated. If I had to teach an early class, I made sure to arrive at 6:45 am so I could be first in line. Needless to say, I was a zombie during much of this time. By Day 10 of the 2-week cycle, I had to stop exercising and when I had produced enough eggs, we were ready for the retrieval with only a few days notice. Side note: If I had to do it again, I would completely clear my schedule for IVF because it’s like a full-time, unpredictable job. For many people this is not an option and I’m truly in awe of how they do it.
The day of the retrieval was scary because I had no idea what to expect except that I’d be under anesthesia. I arrived for my appointment and was led to triage where I changed into the standard issue hospital gown, hair net and socks. As I waited, I learned that my own doctor would be performing the procedure (at this fertility center, the doctors rotate their schedules) and immediately felt more at ease. Walking into the operating room was scary, but when I arrived, the very calm and kind anesthesiologist by my side, and saw my doctor and one of the friendly, smiling nurses I had come to know from my regular visits, I felt and overwhelming feeling of love and care in the room – something I hadn’t yet experienced in the very clinical setting of fertility care and never expected in an operating room.
In that moment I was flooded with so many emotions. After two years of trying to conceive, months of considering whether IVF was right for us, weeks of preparation including testing, insurance approvals and information sessions and two weeks of injections and hormone surges, this was it. This was the moment for which I had prepared. I shed some tears and then it was time. The procedure took 15 minutes and about an hour later I was sent home from recovery to rest the remainder of the day. I had some cramping and for the next two weeks, I couldn’t exercise. On the recommendation of my doctor and because we were performing genetic testing on our embryos, we chose a 5-day frozen cycle. I learned that they had retrieved 12 eggs, 10 of the 12 fertilized and after 5 days, 7 eggs had survived to be sent for testing. After testing, two embryos came back normal and 2 came back without enough information to know if they’re normal or not, 1 was not viable.
I had to wait another cycle for implantation but chose to do a natural implantation which meant less medication, but more regular visits to the fertility center for monitoring. The early mornings and sleep deprivation followed. I could resume exercise and after about 14 days, I was deemed ready for implantation, again with only a few days notice. We arrived for our appointment and we met with the doctor – not mine this time, but he was so kind and put our minds at ease. He told us that upon thawing, the embryo we were using had a 99% survival rate which indicates a high chance of successful implantation. One thing I wasn’t aware of at the outset is that with IVF, you can choose the sex of the baby. We opted not to choose and told our dotor to use the best embryo. I was awake for the procedure and again, felt so cared for the moment I arrived in the operating room. I was a ball of nerves, but the procedure was panless, took less than 10 minutes and I was able to leave immediately. No exericise for 9 days.
Nine days later, having resisted the many urges to take a home pregnancy test, I arrived at the fertility center for the blood test that would tell us our fate as future parents. I thought I would know immediately, but instead they sent me home to wait for a call. Later that afternoon, I got the call that would change our lives forever – “Congratulations, Marissa, you’re pregnant!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was speechless. All I knew was that at that moment, our lives were forever changed. I was four weeks pregnant.
For the next eight weeks, I could only to do light exercise like light upper body weights and walking. No abdominal crunches. Knowing you’re pregnant that early on is both a blessing and a curse – a blessing in that we knew but a curse in that it felt like a lifetime until we could tell everyone. We were hopeful that after everything we went through the pregnancy would be viable and because we knew the embryo was strong, we believed our chances were good, but we still wanted to wait to announce it to the world for reasons I’ll get to in future posts.
Fast forward to today and we’re immeasurably grateful to be be able to announce a healthy pregnancy and feel indebted to our medical team for making our dreams come true! It was never easy, but so worth it! There’s still so much of this roller coaster ride to share and I’ll be doing so in posts to come.