On Tuesday, November 23, 2016, my husband and I began our first IVF cycle. Since I work for the fertility practice that’s guiding us through this process, I’m offering an inside look at what goes on at every step of the way.
The Day Before – November 22, 2016
Today is our first official anniversary. Brendan and I have never had an actual “anniversary” date – not from our first date, kiss or “I love you.” So now that we’re married, I’m glad we finally have on the books. Annnd, we celebrated it by getting a very in-depth look at how to administer the shots I’m going to have to get every day for the next three weeks.
Let’s back up. I work for the largest OB/GYN and fertility practice in San Antonio, as the director of digital marketing and PR. I was thrilled to get this job when we moved to Texas a year ago – in this time of uncertainty, especially in this state, I wanted to do everything I could to help educate women about their reproductive freedoms and healthcare options. And I’m their perfect demographic – mid-30s, just married, wanting to start a family. It was a terrific fit.
One day this past summer, I was at a meeting at the Advanced Fertility Center, and mentioned how I was nervous about both my advanced age and threat of Zika in terms of starting a family. “Let’s just do a prenatal workup on you,” replied Michelle, the AFC office manager. Michelle is a no-bullshit, super-sharp, kind and compassionate woman who looks like she’s in her early 30s but just celebrated her 25th anniversary working for the Advanced Fertility Center. I love her.
So I agreed to do this prenatal workup, thinking – along with everyone else – that we’d put to rest any fears I was having and just start a prenatal plan while Brendan and I continued to plan our late October wedding.
Instead, here’s what we discovered:
- I have fibroids the size of lemons, which will require a pretty intense surgery to remove them. The good news is, they’re on my uterus, not within it, so the removal will require a couple months of recovery instead of a much longer period. That said, I shouldn’t get pregnant until I have this surgery and get the all-clear for uterine recovery.
- I have a partially blocked right fallopian tube. This isn’t really a surprise, since I had an ectopic pregnancy last summer. Over the course of one incredibly long, emotional day that began with Brendan and I going to the ER at 4 a.m. because I was in so much pain, I was told I was pregnant for the first time, that I needed emergency surgery to address the ectopic pregnancy, and then that I wouldn’t need surgery after all because the pregnancy was “resolving itself.” I was only six weeks along so it was super early, but the pregnancy was seen on the ultrasound in the right tube, so more than a year later, it’s no surprise to hear there’s a blockage there.
- They are 80% sure I have PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. This was explained to me in this way: say you have a can of soda and one solo cup, and a can of soda and five solo cups. Healthy eggs are made by one can filling up one solo cup. PCOS creates eggs the same way one can of soda would fill five solo cups, meaning they’re not fully formed and there’s more of the (cups) than there needs to be.
None of this, obviously, was great news. I spent a couple days feeling pretty defeated, unnecessarily snapped at my mother-in-law when she told – without any knowledge of what was going on – to “be careful what you wish for” when it comes to having kids since they’re a lot of work, and researched everything I could find about any and all of these conditions.
After indulging myself in sadness for a while (my sister calls these “I deserve a cupcake” days), here’s where everything started to fall into place. I’m not someone who believes “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe in the timing of things aligning perfectly in ways that are pretty hard to deny. I found out that one of my best friends – who’s giving birth to her first child next month – had gone through the same fibroid surgery last year. I found out that another friend of mine was currently going through IVF. And, of course, I worked for the Advanced Fertility Center, so I was surrounded by people who I knew well who really wanted to help me.
We got started on putting together a treatment plan, which leads us to today. We had about an hour-long meeting with the AFC about how to do these injectibles, and I had a small freakout about the fact that I might have to do my first one in the bathroom of a goddamn airplane, but they said I could do it a little earlier in the day for the first round so I could avoid this.
- If you’re injecting yourself, stand against the wall and put your non-injecting hand behind your back. Your body’s natural inclination is to defend itself against the needle coming at it, and doing both of these things (should) limit that reaction until you get the hang of this.
- You need to inject shots at least two fingertip-lengths away from your bellybutton. Try to work in a clockwise pattern, moving outwards as you pass “12,” so you’re not injecting yourself in the same place over and over.
- Get a little ice pack and try to numb the injection site about five minutes before you do it.
- Practice. Don’t load up the medication, but hold the needle in your hand, get a feel for it, watch videos instructing you how to do this.
- When the time comes to stop exercising/intercourse, does that mean everything?
- It means you can walk two miles, but not run, and not sweat – they don’t want lactic acid building up in your muscles. Prenatal yoga is fine, too. As for intercourse, it means basically everything. We’re newlyweds, so this….is not great news. Apparently, if your uterus contracts, it can trigger ovulation, which we’re trying to avoid for the next few weeks. I flat out asked this question and was told that orgasms are off the table until after the retrieval. Sorry to everyone who knows me for talking about this, but I’ve seen people asking about it on infertility forums, so let’s just put it out there.
Day One – Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016
Questions I texted Michelle:
- How many mg of caffeine is 300 (this is my recommended limit throughout this process)? Pro tip: a 16-oz. skinny vanilla latte is only 150 mg!
- Where are the “How-To” videos for injections on the website (that I manage, ugh)?
Things that made me cry today:
- The song “Hemiplegia” while running at the gym this morning, especially the lines “you can’t move up with your eyes down.” Ughhhh who knew you could run and cry.
- My friend Jessica’s company HumanWire, which sends travel money, food and supplies to Syrian families in need. I bought a nine year old and a five year old a box of food and two blankets and even just thinking about that now is making me teary-eyed.
- Writing “Fearless” as the word I was picking for myself today in our “Active Gratitude” journal.
- EXERCISE. Especially knowing I only have five days left before I need to stop doing this for about a month. I love running, listening to a really good playlist and feeling those endorphins kick in.
- That we’re headed back to NEPA for Thanksgiving tonight! I can’t wait to see my friends and family.
- The opportunity and ability to do all of this, and with a supportive husband, family and coworkers.