But I'll save pregnancy thoughts for another post because today I want to go back to where I left off with my IVF treatment, which was giving myself hormone injections in the stomach to stimulate my ovaries to produce lots of viable eggs for conception. After self-administering the injections for thirteen days, an ultrasound revealed that my ovaries were ready for the egg retrieval. On August 27th, two days before the retrieval process, Chris had to inject me with the HCG trigger shot. HCG is a natural hormone that the body produces when a person becomes pregnant. The HCG shot for fertility treatments is a synthetic version of that hormone with the purpose of triggering the release of mature eggs from the follicles for the egg retrieval (IVF) or for artificial insemination (IUI). It's an intra-muscular shot that should be give in the upper right or left butt quadrant and the needle is big and the drug is thick so it's not an enjoyable shot to receive. My best word of advice: ice the area beforehand.
On a sunny Saturday morning at the end of August, with nothing to eat or drink for twelve hours, I underwent the egg retrieval surgery. First, Chris had to hand over his, ahem, morning's "collection" for processing. Then I had to change into a gown, hair net, and booties. I was taken to the pre-operating room where I layed on a gurney and awaited to be prepped by the anesthesiologist. Once all the IV was in the right place I was wheeled into the operating room where my arms and waist were strapped down to keep me from moving. Then the anesthesiologist said "Now you'll be getting some fun medicine." About a minute later I asked him if the medication was already being adminstered and he asked if I felt any differently, to which I responded "I think so..." and then must have knocked-out because when I woke up I was back in the pre-operating room.
*Just a random, peaceful photo to break up a wordy section and add a moment of tranquility to a stressful subject*
I rested for about two hours before I was allowed to go home. During that time I was checked on every thirty minutes. At one point my doctor came in to tell me that she had retrieved twenty eggs! She said sixteen of them looked good for fertilization and that probably half of those would be viable candidates for implanting inside my uterus in October. She also said that she'd dilated my cervix, since I have scar tissue covering most of the opening, so that the day of the transfer it would be easier and more comfortable to do the implantation. When I was given the OK to go home I changed back into my lose, comfy clothing and was wheeled out to the parking lot where Chris was waiting with the car. I was told to eat greasy food so we ordered take-out from Veggie Grill, our favorite vegan fast-food restaurant. I was also ordered to be a couch potato for two days so I spent that weekend lounging around the house watching Netflix and reading. Not a bad way to spend the weekend before the first day of school!
A couple of days after the egg-retrieval I began the next round of IVF medications: it started with progesterone suppositories which I had to insert for ten days to induce my period, baby aspirin (to thin the blood in order to prevent stroke from all the hormones) and prenatal vitamins (which I'd already been taking for years). A few days after the end of my progesterone-induced period I started wearing estrogen patches, beginning with two and increasing to four by my transfer date in October. The purpose of the patches is to prepare the uterus for implantation by forming a nice, thick lining.
On October 8th I began the progesterone injections, which were very similar to the HCG trigger in terms of location and discomfort. This time, though, the RN drew a couple of happy face targets on each side of my rear where the injections needed to go, making it easier for Chris to give them and for me to take them, since I wasn't worried that Chris would stab me in the wrong spot. The progesterone shots were administered every night for eleven weeks; basically the week before the embryo-transfer and then most of the first trimester. Know what really sucks? Feeling nauseous and exhausted on the couch only to be told it's time to pull your pants down, have an ice-pack thrown on your butt until it's numb, and then get a shot. There were a couple of times during the first trimester that I was so totally tired and overwhelmed that I'd fall asleep with the ice on my butt only to be awaken by the feeling of a needle piercing my skin. Fun times!
During the six weeks between the egg-retrieval and the embryo-transfer I had to go to Labcorps every week for a blood draw to check my estrogen and progesterone levels. Those results, coupled with a weekly ultrasound, determined if I had to increase or decrease the levels of medication and also affected the potential embryo-transfer date. Finally it was settled that the transfer would be on October 13th. On the transfer day I was brought back to the operating room but instead of anesthesia I was given two valium and didn't have my arms or waist strapped down. My doctor implanted two embryos because we wanted to make sure that at least one of them stuck. I took three days off from work because I had to be on strict bed rest the day of the transfer and the two days following it. Chris continued to work but was able to do so from our home office so that he could take care of me during that time.
On October 24th, eleven days after the transfer, I took a home pregnancy test and FINALLY got a positive result. On the 26th I took a blood test to check my HCG levels, which would officially indicate a pregnancy. At 1:00 that afternoon my fertility doctor and her RN called to congratulate me. Two weeks later I had my first pregnancy ultrasound, which showed one tiny little mass inside my uterus, meaning that the other embryo hadn't made it. My doctor told me not to be too sad about it because that was my body's way of saying, "nope, I can only handle one right now", so I should listen to and trust my body. A couple of weeks after that I had the second ultrasound and we were able to hear the heartbeat, which was strong and fast, like a hummingbird's, so we started referring to the baby as Little Bird.
Most of November was rough with the typical first trimester symptoms but towards the end of the month I started to feel a little better. I was able to travel to Phoenix ,by car, to attend a wedding (with syringes, needles, and drugs in tow). I even stayed up till midnight one night! Week ten of my pregnancy I had my last ultrasound at the reproductive center with my RE, I was able to stop all fertility medications, and I graduated to a regular OB-GYN; I became a normal pregnant person!
On December 13th Chris and I met our OB and I had my first over-the-belly ultrasound. We saw Little Bird squirming and jumping around, heard the fast heart beat again, and were given a new due date: June 29th, 2016. So, after two years of trying to get pregnant now we cross our fingers and wait...