Life After Retrieval

I made it to the other side! Here I am, one day post egg retrieval and life is good. I’m still getting used to the new crop of medications. Bye bye suprefact, puregon and menopur, hello prometrium, estrace, baby aspirin and heparin. Oh, and doxycycline and dostinex will also be my friends for the rest of the week.

Yesterday morning was the big day. I’d read as much as I could about what to expect, so was pretty ready for how things went. We arrived at the clinic an hour before the scheduled retrieval time. First, my husband and I got to go into a room where I changed into a nightgown and he changed into scrubs, and soon the Dr. came in with some pills for me to take: 2 tylenols, 1 gravol, and 1 atavan. After that, we sat and waited, and periodically the Dr. or one of the nurses would pop their head in to check on us. The embryologist also came in to introduce herself and tell us about what her role in the process was going to be. In between the visits, we killed time and marveled at the three types of pink floral pattern in the room.

Finally it was time to go across the hall where the retrieval would take place. I got hooked up to an IV and to a machine that tracked my vital signs. We’d been in that room before for monitoring ultrasounds, and also for my endometrial biopsies and sonohysterogram, but somehow on retrieval day it looked different. I don’t know if there were additional machines that day, or if we just noticed the for the first time, but it felt much more like an “operating room” than it normally did.

In no time at all I started feeling woozy and the Dr. started the retrieval. It was uncomfortable, but not as painful as I’d feared. The embryologist had explained to us that she would periodically be yelling out numbers that corresponded to the number of eggs retrieved, so I tried to listen for that, but only remember hearing her say “8” at one point. I also remember turning my head towards the wall to look at the clock. I was amazed that the hands on the clock seemed to be zipping along the clock face at high speed. At one point I asked my husband if the minute hand was whizzing by really quickly, and he had to tell me no. Other times it looked like all three hands were falling down.

And then the retrieval was over. After the retrieval we got to go back to the room we started out in. I was pretty wobbly walking across the hall. Once in the other room, I lay down and the nurse got me hooked up to another IV to administer intralipids. Then my husband got whisked away to do his part.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, and at one point my husband came back. We talked a bit, but I was pretty out of it. Then, once the intralipids were administered, we were done! The nurse came in to report that they retrieved 14 eggs (which was very good apparently as they get 6 to 12 on average), and that we’d get a call the next day between 9:30 and 10:30 to tell us how many fertilized.

We grabbed some lunch, and then went home to rest. I slept most of the afternoon, as my husband worked on his laptop next to me. I felt quite sore (pressure and tenderness on the lower abdomen), but once I took a tylenol it felt much better. Over dinner, we marvelled that our future children (possibly all of them) might be hanging out in a dish at our fertility clinic at that very moment. Afterwards, my husband asked me about the fertilization. “What would be a really good result?” I know that typically all the eggs don’t end up getting fertilized, so I thought for a minute and said “I don’t know, 12?”

He looked at me amazed….”Really? Is that even possible?”. “Sure it is.” I said. “But it will probably be less…maybe 7 is realistic?” We decided that 7 would be great.

This morning, I was on pins and needles waiting for the fertilization call. On the one hand, I felt comfortable that by staring out with 14 eggs, we’d end up with a decent number of fertilized eggs. But then, there was the side of me that worried that very few, or none would fertilize. This fear goes back to our diagnosis of unexplained infertility. On paper, there is nothing wrong with either of us. In fact, I would even go a step further and say that on certain metrics, we even look like we would be spectacularly fertile. And yet, in three years we have never conceived on our own.

So in recent days, I started to wonder if it actually wasn’t me (usually unexplained infertility means an undiagonsed problem with the female), or even him, but something about the two of us together. Maybe his sperm just don’t like my eggs, which would result in a poor fertilization rate.

I kept myself busy this morning while waiting for the phone call, and finally it came. The embryologist started out with some niceties and talking about the process, meanwhile I sat there willing her to just get to the good stuff. Finally she said “Your eggs have done fantastic. Out of 14, 12 fertilized. One of the other eggs was immature, and the other one may have been. We’ll call you tomorrow with an update and let you know what the grades are.”

My husband was at work, so I texted him right away, and he couldn’t believe it. His response back to me consisted of a serious of quick statements punctuated by numerous exclamation marks. And finally, “Amazing! We’re the most fertile infertile couple around!”

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In Six Months…In One Day

So far this week, most of my thoughts and energy have been focused on the IVF. With acupuncture appointments Monday and Wednesday, an RE appointment Tuesday, and making sure I remembered to take the pill (started on Sunday), and twice daily antibiotics (starting on Monday), it’s no wonder I had IVF (and pregnancy) on the brain!

Our appointment on Tuesday went well overall. I had my sonohysterogram (SHG), an ultrasound where saline is injected into the uterus to check for any structural abnormalities, and an endometrial biopsy (this was the reason for taking antibiotics for 5 days, to stave off any potential infection). My uterus passed with flying colours, and we were told that the biopsy results would take a week and we would only be contacted if there was an issue.

After the procedures were over, we met with one of the nurses to go over our protocol, learn about the different medications, and discuss what would happen at each stage of the process.

The first thing that happened is we found out that my protocol was updated from what I’d received on Friday when I got my period. Apparently during the ultrasound I’d just had, my ovaries looked “more prominent” than the Dr. was expecting, so I would be starting off on a lower dose of stimulation drugs (I think this can only be a good thing).

The other change was that most of my timing got pushed back a week, so retrieval and transfer were now projected to happen first week of May, instead of last week of April, as the nurse who sent me the protocol on Friday had made an error in updating all of the start times. So, suppression (and injections!) would only start next Tuesday.

As I’d mentioned in a previous post (and here too!), trying to make a baby is not the only life changing event we’re going through right now. Basically, every aspect of our life is going through an upheaval due to our pending move this summer. To summarize briefly, in six months, I will be:

1. Living in a different city

2. Working at a new (as yet undetermined) job

3. Living in a new (as yet undetermined) house

4. (Crossing my fingers about this one!) pregnant

Yesterday morning the focus shifted from IVF and pregnancy to housing, or specifically the final steps to listing our house for sale. Our tenants are moving out, and we’ll be getting new carpet into the suite early next week, and listing the house a few days after that.

In the meantime, we had someone who would be a potential private purchaser through the house that morning (he owns the triplex next door to us, and we thought he might be interested in our house as an investment). My husband showed him the house, and he had some initial interest! We couldn’t show him the suite though, as it was too early for our tenants, and he wanted some more information about our costs, so he’ll be coming back early next week for another run through.

In any case, once that was over, all of our attention shifted to the house, and what we would be comfortable selling for privately vs. what we could get if we listed it. It’s such a gamble either way, because you don’t want to sell for too little, but also don’t want to list and then have it sit for too long and have to drop the price later anyways. The market where we are seems okay, but not hot right now. So, of course we’re hoping that if we list at what we think is a fair price, we’ll get interest from several different people and could sell for a bit over list price, but you never know.

Then in the afternoon, attention shifted from the house here, to my husband’s job. As I’ve explained, the driving force for this upcoming move is that my husband was offered a great position in another city. However, even though he’s known for about six weeks now that he has this job (and everyone there knows he’s coming), and we’re proceeding along like it’s a sure deal, even this job is not 100% in the bag yet as he does not yet have the written offer.

I realize that for most people this sounds like a huge red flag, and like we should not be making any plans until he has a signed written offer, but I should explain that he is an academic, and academia plays by its own rules. So even though the Chair of the department who he’ll be working for has worked out all the details of the offer with him, and drafted up the terms, the hire still had to be approved by the Dean, and then finally the Provost of the university.

 The Dean’s approval has now gone through, however we still needed approval from the Provost before we could have the offer in our hands. Originally, the delay with the Provost was because the department had offers out for two positions, and the Provost wanted to approve both offers at the same time. The person who was offered the second position was on the fence and had until the middle of March to decide. Mid March came and went, and he turned down the offer. So, we heard that everything should be approved by the end of last week. Early this week, my husband even got a reassuring email from the Chair that the offer was almost ready.

I felt pretty sure the offer would come yesterday, but instead my husband got an update from the Chair that in order to approve the hire, the Provost wants to see the CV of the best female candidate! My husband is in a male dominated faculty, so I know that a strong female candidate will always get the job over a strong male candidate, and that the university will do what it can to hire females wherever possible. The Chair (who is female, I may add, as is the Dean) did not seem too worried about this and felt that it was a mere formality. However, my husband started freaking out, especially when he saw that the Provost was also female!

So, we’re hoping that at this point it’s just a matter of having the CV on file, and everything can proceed as planned, but there’s always that small chance that the Provost will insist that the female candidate be brought in for an interview before everything is finalized. I figure that if they had any sort of half decent female apply, she would have already been one of the three people interviewed (I know for a fact all three were men), but who knows? So, limbo on the one thing that should be definite at this point continues.

Then, I got home from work to a message from my RE’s office to call them back, and just like that, my thoughts swung back to the IVF cycle! It was too late to call them back, so I had to leave a message and spend the rest of the evening wondering what they could be possibly calling about. Here were the only things I could think of:

1. Change in the protocol/timing – seems unlikely as we had nailed everything down just on Tuesday

2. Update that they got my results of the varicella titre (chicken pox immunity testing) – seems unlikely as I’d already told the nurse I knew that I wasn’t immune and was not going to have the vaccine before doing IVF

3. (The one that really scared me!) Abnormal results of the endometrial biopsy  meaning that we’d have to postpone or cancel our cycle – seems unlikely because it’s only been two days instead of a week, but at the same time I couldn’t help keep coming back to this as it also seemed more likely than the other two options. It doesn’t help that we have unexplained infertility and have passed any other tests with flying colours – maybe this is the smoking gun as to why we can’t conceive?

I started the day imagining our completely changed life in six months. And then, in one day, every single one of those assumptions got questioned.

A Sense of Relief

I’m feeling pretty good today! I was able to sneak a peek at my test results from yesterday (I signed up for online access, so I can see the results as soon as they are sent to my Dr.) and everything looks perfect. Where there is a range for “normal” results, I am right in the middle of the range, and where “normal results” are below a certain number, I am well below. It was nice to see the actual numbers too, because my Dr. doesn’t tell me that, and after seeing other people reference their results, I have wondered what mine were. So it’s comforting to see the data with my own two eyes.

I know that many people struggling with infertility don’t want to hear that they have scored yet another set of perfect test results. While I definitely feel some of the frustration that comes with unexplained infertility, for the most part I am at peace with the diagnosis and happy not to have all of the additional obstacles that some couples have to deal with standing in our way. In this particular case, as I’d had most of the testing (LH, FSH, prolactin, thyroid function, etc.) done previously, a poor test result this time would not have provided THE ANSWER for us. Rather it would be a sign that things have gone downhill, and that whatever the odds were for us before (with the unexplained diagnosis), they were so much worse now (as presumably whatever is causing our infertility would still be there, but magnified by the new diagnosis).

So I am feeling upbeat and looking forward to IVF once my next period comes.