Hi hi! I am so happy to be sharing our Fertility Journey Part Three (the final part) today. If you missed it, HERE is Part One, and HERE is Part Two.
Today I’ll be covering our actual Fertility Treatment, from when we started Treatment to getting pregnant with our baby who is due in less than two weeks.
So let’s just dive right in…
THE CANCELLED EGG RETRIEVAL
I left off in the beginning of 2021, when we had finally decided to go the route of IVF and banking embryos before going through surgery to remove my blocked fallopian tube and polyps.
Because my clinic does “batching”, meaning that they do one round of retrievals per month, and they try to get everyone on the same timeline, it made most sense for us to be a part of the February “batch”.
In order to get you on the desired timeline, they start you on birth control in advance. So sometime in January, I took my very first birth control pill EVER. I remember this being a huge deal, because I had never taken birth control in my entire life, so to be taking it now and manipulating my cycle, felt very weird. I had a lot of resistance to actually STARTING to take any sort of interventional drugs, but I just surrendered and hoped for the best and that my body could handle everything.
The point of the birth control was to keep my system suppressed and to prevent me from ovulating. When you start “stims” (the term for the retrieval drugs), they want your body to be quiet. No major follicles, everything quiet. Then, as they give you hormones, they want you to grow as many follicles as possible all at the same pace and time. That way when they go in to retrieve eggs, they can get as many mature eggs as possible.
However, when I went in for my initial scan in February, when they check to make sure things are nice and quiet, they said that my body had somehow overridden the birth control and I was about to ovulate. I had one major follicle that was about to ovulate, which is exactly what they DON’T want.
I was crushed. At this point, I had been gearing up to start for about two months, and was now told that my body didn’t cooperate with the protocol and I had to wait another month and try again in March.
This was another particular low for me in the process. I fell apart after this appointment and started to have so many doubts:
- If I am hitting roadblocks like this already, and we haven’t even started, is this whole thing even going to work?
- I have such a long road ahead of me and I can’t even get past the first hurdle without there being a hiccup
- How long is this going to take??
- I don’t know if I have the strength to get through what this road could look like
- Is this just going to be one roadblock after another and another?
After talking to some friends, letting myself feel all the feels, and processing it all a bit, I pulled myself together and emailed my doctor.
I knew that doing a “cold start” with my natural cycle was a possibility. This basically means that I would not be put on birth control and “batched” with the other people in my clinic. Rather, I would work with my natural cycle. The only downside to doing it this way is that I would have to go to Miami for my retrieval (still monitored at my clinic though). Because Miami is a larger office, they don’t require batching and will do retrievals any day. Since my clinic is in a smaller town, they only do batching.
But something felt right to me about considering doing a cold start and going to Miami for the retrieval. Maybe there’s a reason my body overrode the birth control? I didn’t want to risk that happening again.
So I emailed my doctor about it and said, “we are open to this” if you think it’s a good idea.
I really trust my doctor so much, and knew she’d tell me if it was worth it. Surprisingly, she wrote back and agreed with me. She said, if you are open to going to Miami, then we don’t need to deal with birth control suppression at all.
So that was our new plan… we would wait until I got my natural period, I would be monitored at my clinic in Jupiter, and then on the day of my retrieval, I would drive down to Miami (about an hour and a half), and have my retrieval procedure there, done by a different doctor.
THE EGG RETRIEVAL, ATTEMPT #2
Everything for us went very smoothly for the retrieval this time! When I went in for my initial scan, my ovaries and follicles were nice and quiet, and I was cleared to start the “stims”.
The nurses at my office were SO wonderful about preparing me for how to administer the meds and helping us every step of the way.
We started shots when they told us to and continued for about 9 days. I went in to be monitored about every other day, and after my doctor reviewed my progress each time, they would make adjustments to my meds and leave me a voicemail every day around 3pm with that day’s instructions.
The whole process was SO organized and seamless.
You hear a lot of stories about how “stims” make you feel, and honestly they impact people SO differently. For me, I felt fine. My ovaries started to feel “heavy” about half way through, but emotionally and physically I otherwise really felt ok! I was surprised at how well my body handled everything.
As far as the shots, they weren’t fun, but they also weren’t that bad. We did them around 7pm each night (Ryan did them), and had a nice dinner afterward. I really liked our rhythm of rewarding ourselves with a nice dinner and evening right after the shots, so I always had a relaxing night to look forward to after having to go through the shots.
After about 9 days, I was ready for my retrieval! They gave me the green light for my “trigger shots” which are your last shots that prepare you for the retrieval, and we woke up around 4am for a 7am retrieval down in Miami on March 23rd.
Ryan drove us down in the pitch black, we got checked in, they took me back into the operating room, started administering some sort of relaxing drugs (YAY), and then a doctor who I had never met before came in, introduced himself, and said he was going to do everything he could to get as many eggs as possible. And then I was out!
I woke up to commotion in the room and the nurses telling me I did great and the number of eggs they were able to get. Considering one of my “issues” was a low follicle count and therefore likely a low egg retrieval amount, I was THRILLED with the number they told me. It was much higher than expected!
I was brought to a recovery area, and after a little while, Ryan was allowed to come in and get me.
We drove home and I just remember being on a high. I was SO relieved it was over, SO happy that my body somehow produced a great number of eggs, and SO high on all the drugs they gave me 🙂 LOL.
Now came the anxiety inducing part though… although we started with a great number of eggs, we had no idea how many would be considered “mature”, how many would be fertilized by Ryan’s sperm, or how many would make it to Day 6 embryo stage. We knew that the next morning we’d receive an email with the number that were fertilized, and then 6 days later, we’d get another email with the number that made it to Day 6 (which means they could be sent off for genetic testing).
The next morning… we got the email.
I remember not only my heart pounding, but RYAN’s heart POUNDING. This was HIS moment of truth to see how his swimmers performed, so he was nervous!
We opened the email – shaking – and saw that thankfully, we had a really great rate of fertilization and were off to an excellent start. PHEW!
And then 6 days later… we got our next email. Again, both of our hearts racing as we opened it, to find out that we also had a great number that made it to Day 6 and could be sent off for genetic testing.
We were just so freaking happy and relieved.
Especially after being told that we’d likely have to do multiple retrieval rounds due to my low follicle / egg count, the numbers we got were completely unexpected and meant that, as long as our genetic testing results came back okay, we might actually be…. DONE.
About 10 days later, we received a call from our doctor about our genetic testing results. They were GREAT, and it looked like we were going to be done. We were beyond thrilled and felt incredibly lucky.
A few reflections / lessons / tips from our retrieval:
- The biggest lesson I learned was that our bodies are always changing, and that although there are a lot of “numbers” thrown around during fertility checkups (AMH, follicle count, etc. etc.), things can change. Our bodies are fluid. Our fertility is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. I went into this believing I had a follicle count issue, and would get a low number of eggs, but in the month I did my retrieval, my body had way more follicles. Things really are fluid and always shifting in our bodies.
- The two biggest things that I believe helped prepare my body for a good retrieval: acupuncture weekly for about 3 months before my retrieval, and supplements related directly to egg quality and quantity. I honestly think both of these pieces were hugely supportive to our results.
- Going into trying to have a baby, I felt so much stress about my age and wanting to have multiple kids. In the end, doing IVF and having these embryos banked completely relieved that pressure for me. I now feel SO much more relaxed about our journey to having kids. It has been this weird, unexpected “blessing in disguise” that happened, and I think it can be a huge positive to going this route of IVF. I wouldn’t necessarily go back and “choose” this path, but it provided me with unexpected benefits and so much peace of mind that I am so incredibly grateful for.
- I know people are very scared of the stimulation medication and shots. I also know EVERYONE has a different experience. But I hope that my journey can provide some hope that maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. I know a lot of people who handle the meds very well, and honestly, it’s such a short process – only about 10 days of shots, typically. So just keep in mind that you might be pleasantly surprised at how you handle everything. And even if it’s really hard for you, you CAN get through it, and you WILL. You are SO strong.
SURGERY TO REMOVE MY FALLOPIAN TUBE + POLYPS
By the beginning of April, we knew that we were done with the retrieval process and then went on to schedule the surgery to remove my blocked fallopian tube and polyps and get ready for a transfer.
The surgery was scheduled for the end of April!
The day before my surgery was when I finally felt ready to share my story on my Instagram, with all of YOU! I was waiting and waiting until the time felt right to finally share what had been going on behind the scenes, and this moment felt right. The response was so overwhelmingly supportive and I felt so relieved that it was finally off my chest.
I highly recommend sharing when YOU feel ready to share, if ever. This journey is not only personal but it takes so much out of you – physically, mentally and emotionally – and it’s important to protect yourself. I knew that having so many eyes on my journey before a certain point, before I felt settled and confident enough in my own progress, would ADD stress. But at the same time, continuing to not share, while going through so much behind the scenes, was also hard. For me, sharing after our retrieval but before my surgery was the right balance and the right moment, but it is so personal to each person.
I went into the surgery feeling so nervous – just because surgery and going under anesthesia is never fun!
When I woke up from it, my doctor told me… we re-tested your tubes (both of them) and NEITHER were blocked.
Part of me totally “got this” on an intuitive level, because I really had no risk factors for a blocked tube, so the whole thing felt bizarre, but I was still so surprised.
But, pleasantly surprised. I got to keep both of my fallopian tubes!!
My doctor did remove the polyps in my uterus, which is crucial for an embryo to be able to implant, and she also found some stage 1 endometriosis in various spots (which I figured she would because I had painful periods for the last decade), and she removed what she could.
I had a really hard time coming out of anesthesia (nauseas, just felt SO drugged, couldn’t pee for hours and hours, etc.), but eventually recovered and was fine.
I now have three little scars on my abdomen – one in my belly button that is very hard to see and two other ones about a centimeter wide on the left side of my lower abdomen. They don’t bother me at all, and are just part of the battle wounds of this process!
To be honest, the whole surgery thing was a bit of a mind-f&ck.
I went through IVF BECAUSE we thought I had a blocked tube, and that removing the tube could further reduce my ovarian reserve, making it harder to have kids naturally. To find out I didn’t actually have a blocked tube did make us question if we needed to go through the “banking embryos” process.
But… I didn’t spend a ton of time and energy asking the “what ifs”. This is where our path led us. The initial test DID show a blocked tube. And honestly… at that point I was so happy that we banked embryos and I didn’t have to worry about age and my egg quality declining.
I could spend time questioning the whole thing, but I just don’t see the benefit in that. This is where we got – we may have gone through some things unnecessarily, but it is what it is and I feel like it was somehow the path we were meant to be on.
THE TRANSFER PREP
After the surgery, my doctor wanted me to take about 6 weeks to recover before we started transfer prep.
Again, our clinic does “batching” for transfers, too, so I had to decide which month I wanted to do. My doctor said we can do as early as July (starting prep in June) and felt confident that my body would be recovered enough by then to do it.
I was a little hesitant – was it too rushed? would my body be ready? – but I decided to trust my doctor and go with it.
May was a complete month off, just to recover from the surgery. It was SO nice to have that time to just be – no meds, no appointments, nothing scheduled.
If you are in this fertility process, you know that it’s very rare to have time “off”. Between scheduling, and figuring out next steps, and appointments, it truly feels like a part-time job, so whenever you get a break, it’s a really nice feeling.
And then in June… the prep started. Eek! Essentially, they give you a lot of estrogen to build your lining and create a nice, cushy home for the little embryo. Then, once they feel your lining is where they want it to be, you start taking progesterone to get ready for the potential pregnancy.
I was put on estrogen patches, and estrogen pills for the first couple of weeks, and then once they were happy with my lining, I started progesterone suppositories and the dreaded progesterone shots (in the butt) after that.
I had been told by several people… the transfer process is a breeze compared to the retrieval! You have WAY less appointments and it’s just more low key.
Interestingly, I felt the transfer prep / process was harder for me. Yes, there was way less monitoring and appointments, but I thought the progesterone shots / suppositories were the hardest, plus mentally the magnitude of “holy shit we are about to actually try to get pregnant after ALL OF THIS” felt very serious and real to me.
It’s like you do all of this prep for game day, and then game day is here and it suddenly gets very real.
I also describe this time as the “quiet before the storm”. Things just felt… eerily quiet. Like the whole process finally slowed down. There was less “to do”. Less appointments. I was just following my instructions, and getting ready for this big moment.
The down time before our transfer gave me space to feel everything, and I remember being very emotional for the month before our transfer. Like, we had done the work, and now this little embryo, which could turn into our baby, is about to be put inside of me. This could be our child. I could feel the energy of this little being swirling around me all the time, and it just all felt… huge.
I’m so grateful that I got to slow down and feel everything before our transfer. I’ll never forget that “quiet” phase and how deeply I felt the magnitude of everything that was happening.
The prep went very smoothly. My lining progressed well, and everything went according to schedule with the meds.
Our transfer date was officially scheduled…
The morning before, I was so incredibly nervous. I went to acupuncture (tip: if you can, go to acupuncture the day of your transfer), and then Ryan and I killed time by going for a quick stroll on the beach before heading to our doctor.
He was so calm, and I was doing everything I could to try to be, too. But there was no way I could hide my nerves. It felt like such a big moment.
We got to the doctor, and were soon brought back into the room where they do the transfers. The room connected to an embryology lab, where someone had thawed our embryo. We had told our doctor to just choose the best embryo for our first transfer. We didn’t care which gender, and didn’t want to know, we just wanted whichever one her and the embryologists thought looked best (they do rate them, and we knew the ratings for each one. We also did previously find out how many of each gender we had).
I laid back and watched the screen as they put a catheter type of thing in me and then used a probe to feed the microscopic embryo into my uterus. My friend had told me that it looks like a shooting star when it “shoots” into your uterus and it was so true. There went our little shooting star!
My doctor then pulled out the probe, the embryologist went to check that the embryo was no longer on the probe, and we were done. My doctor said a little prayer over my belly (so cute) and told the embryo to do it’s thing, and then I got up and peed (they make you do this as you have a full bladder going in) and went home.
Protocol at my clinic is to essentially be on bed rest for a day or two after the transfer– you can do light house things, but no lifting things or exercising. Essentially, just taking it easy and really nourishing yourself.
Ryan made chicken soup, I drank lots of broth, and laid in bed watching movies. My doctor also told me to watch funny movies because apparently laughter after transfers is shown to help the odds!
WAITING TO SEE IF WE WERE PREGNANT
It was such a weird feeling knowing that the embryo was inside of me, and I just had to wait and pray that it implanted. I was so tuned in to every sensation I was feeling – I had some cramping at the beginning which CAN indicate implantation but also could mean absolutely nothing, but of course your brain tries to figure everything out, when in reality there is just no way to know.
I went to acupuncture again on Day 3 which my acupuncturist recommended to help with implantation, and then resumed our normal weekly schedule.
And then I basically went back to a normal schedule. I focused on work, did my thing, and just… waited.
My transfer was on a Thursday. I was scheduled to go in for my blood test to determine if I was pregnant on the following Monday.
The first several days of waiting I was mentally fine, but then around Thursday / Friday I started going crazy wanting to know so badly if I was pregnant!
Ryan didn’t really want to take a home test until Monday morning (my doctor did recommend taking a home test the morning of the blood test just so we knew on our own first), but I convinced him to take one over the weekend. I just needed to know at that point and it was getting so hard to wait.
But, while I did want to take a test, I was also PETRIFIED.
We decided to do it on Saturday morning. We were on Day 10 at that point, so it should have been reliable.
I could barely sleep the night before, and woke up around 6am and couldn’t fall back asleep. I needed to do this.
Ryan was not happy about this 6am wake up call, but I asked him to just do this with me and then we can go back to bed.
We went into the bathroom, so tired and groggy, and did the test.
We did the one with the two lines, because it has a lower HSG threshold, and I just prayed for it to be definitive. The one time we had a positive pregnancy test back in 2020, but miscarried, we had the faintest pregnancy line, and I just prayed that if we were pregnant, that it looked definitive and strong.
I will never forget how nervous I was in that moment. Shaking. Sweating. This was it.
We waited… but we didn’t have to wait long… the second line appeared very quickly and very strongly. Exactly what I had hoped and prayed for. There was no ambiguity. We were PREGNANT!
I did a digital test right after and it confirmed, “pregnant”.
One of the best moments of my life, truly.
Thankfully, my mom gets up very early, so I was able to call her. We had told our families that we were not testing on our own before Monday, so nobody was expecting any news.
I called my mom on Facetime, she picked up and asked what was wrong, and I held up the pregnancy test.
The look on her face was just the best. That moment was the best. Getting to call my mom and tell her the news… ugh, just the best.
She then yelled to my Dad, “Steve, Jamie is pregnant!!” and he came onto the FaceTime too.
It was such a sweet moment, and then I crawled back in bed with Ryan and we just cuddled and basked in this one moment.
We had no idea if it would stick – if it would work out – but for now, we had gotten past this very important hurdle.
We were coincidentally meeting Ryan’s parents for lunch that day, so I brought the pregnancy tests in my purse. After we ordered, I put them down on the center of the table. They were so confused but finally realized what we were doing…
“You’re pregnant!!? It worked!”
Another highlight of that day… just getting to finally relax and celebrate with Ryan’s family that we had gotten to this point.
On Monday, I went in for my blood test. The way it works is you go in early in the morning for your test, and then someone calls you around 2-3pm to confirm your results. You then repeat this after 48 hours and then another 48 hours to make sure your HSG numbers are rising the way they want (otherwise it likely means a chemical pregnancy / miscarriage).
THIS WAS THE MOST NERVE WRECKING WEEK FOR ME EVER. OMG.
I truly hated this week! I knew I was pregnant, but I was terrified of losing it. Since we had lost our previous pregnancy during this exact time (week 5), I was so scared it would happen again.
Monday’s results came in… my HSG number was actually REALLY high. They said it indicated the embryo may have split, and I might be having twins! Hahaha. We freaked out, but just sat tight to see how the week progressed. There was no way to tell if the embryo split until our first ultrasound.
I went in Wednesday morning for my 2nd test (they’re called Beta tests). Waiting until 2-3pm was excruciating for me, but finally got the call. My number doubled, YAY!
I then went in Friday again, got the number later in the day, and my number didn’t quite double but rose enough that there was zero concern. Of course I wanted it to double to remove any shred of doubt, but I tried to trust what they said that it was perfectly fine. The fact that my numbers didn’t skyrocket did also indicate that it was likely just one embryo, but we weren’t sure.
Right after this last Beta, at around 5.5 weeks, I started getting sick. Major major food aversions, nausea, and full-on exhaustion. The progesterone shots we also adding to my fatigue, and these few weeks were rough. However, I felt grateful that at least I felt some sort of reassurance that something was happening in my body.
I waited two VERY HARD weeks to go in for our first ultrasound on August 5th (I believe it was around 7.5 weeks). Our doctor doesn’t like bringing people in earlier before there would be a definite heart beat.
I was so insanely nervous for this appointment – can you sense a theme? This entire process was so nerve-wrecking for me. It truly was really really hard, but I don’t think there’s any way around the nerves. You just go day by day and manage the anxiety the best you can.
Ryan and I went in, our doctor came in, and said “okay let’s take a look!”.
She did a transvagical ultrasound, and pretty quickly we saw what you want to see… that beautiful flicker on the screen… the baby’s heart beating. I am tearing up just typing this, thinking back to that first moment when we saw her little heart and we knew she was real.
Our doctor measured her, she was measuring on track, and we got our first little Ultrasound picture.
We had gotten past another hurdle. Phew. Deep breaths.
We went back again at 10 weeks. Yes, those weeks in between were SO HARD, but we somehow made it.
Again, I was so nervous for this appointment too. Is the baby still okay? Those early days are so fragile, and you just don’t know.
We went in, our doctor came in, took a look… and everything was perfect. Our babe was growing and looking so good.
At this point, my doctor told me to stop all of my meds. I was done and graduating to a regular OBGYN, and got to be a “normal pregnant person” now.
We were SO relieved after this appointment and it was finally starting to feel real. At this point, the chance of miscarriage was pretty low, and we were starting to believe that maybe this was really happening.
Our doctor wrote down the gender for us on a card, but we weren’t ready to open it yet. However, my birthday was coming up in a couple weeks, right when we were hitting 12 weeks, and we were starting to feel like maybe we could think about knowing the gender at this point. Up until then, I didn’t care at all. I just prayed and prayed for a healthy next step. Now that it was beginning to feel real, we felt like we could handle knowing the gender.
I scheduled with my OBGYN, went in for an appointment the following week, and then we went away with my family the week after.
We were hitting Week 12, I was turning 35, and we were with my whole family. We decided to do the gender reveal on our trip, with Ryan’s family on Zoom. It was perfect.
And from that point it, it was relatively smooth sailing, thankfully. We had a hiccup or two along the way, but it was very smooth and easy for the most part, and at the point of me publishing this, we are about a week and a half away from our due date (March 25th, 2022).
MY THOUGHTS TO YOU IF YOU’RE ON THIS PATH…
If you’re reading this, I hope that this post served you in some way. I never thought that we would be on the road we are on, but it ended up really working out for us, and I hope that it provides some hope, strength, or a feeling of what’s possible.
And if you are on this road, I want you to know that I know how incredibly hard it is. Nobody will ever really understand unless they’ve been through it, so from one woman to another who has traveled down this path, I want you to know I see you. Our paths probably look different, but I can relate to the physical, mental and emotional toll this all takes on you and how it requires every last bit of your strength. You are amazing, you are so strong, you are a warrior, and I am so proud of you.
I also want to acknowledge that while our path was really hard, we did get really lucky in a lot of ways, and it wasn’t as long or hard as so many others’ (so far). For that I am so grateful, but I want to acknowledge that so many people out there have way more twists and turns on their path to pregnancy than we did. However, I still wanted to share our story because it is our story… and I hope that for some, it shows how sometimes things can go better than you think. And I truly hope that it provides hope.
For more on my story and the story of three of my friends who all went through this, too, you can always listen to a recording of a free Community Fertility Call that we held in the fall of 2021. We got such great feedback that this call was so helpful to many, and we hope it serves you too.
Sending you so much love and strength.