Tag Archives: tips for IVF

Share Your Story

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What has amazed me the most since launching this little baby blog of mine last February, is how just sharing your story can make the difference for someone. If I run into someone or get a message and they commend me, I almost feel silly. All I’ve done is put our journey out there to give someone who’s in the trenches of infertility some glimmer of hope. It’s really quite a simple thing; yet as they say, “Sometimes the simplest things, can mean the world to someone.”

I have to admit, in the midst of our struggle, I was not always so forthcoming with information. However that was more to protect my husband’s privacy. Truth be told, I needed to share/discuss/vent/scream from the rooftops, that we were going through hell and might not even come back with a baby, but that was not his wish. I respected that and kept the details to a select few, which was one of the hardest parts for me. I wanted to talk more about what we were going through for so many reasons.

Mostly, it’s not good to keep it all bottled up inside. It just lends itself to a breaking point, which I had my fair share of. I vividly remember having a complete breakdown during a family spa day after the holidays. We were anticipating our next appointment before the end of December and it was as if I had kept it altogether for the holidays and just couldn’t take another second of putting on a happy face. Some minute thing set me off. I broke. I fell apart. I was embarrassed. I felt weak and guilty. I thought I hope these people {my husband’s family and extended family whom I am extremely close to} don’t think I’m nuts, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Holding it in without discussing what was really happening and what I was really going through became too much. I had my go-to people, even some that had dealt with infertility to talk to openly but I wanted these people-the people I was around 24/7, holidays, birthdays, etc. to know what my days and nights were like (as much as someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand can). The constant stream-of-consciousness playing in my head became too much and I needed to get it out.

Opening up and sharing your story is cathartic. Even though I’ve been much more public about our struggle after the birth of my son, there is still something so therapeutic about putting it out there. In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that even just pen to paper can be rejeuvenating. I wish I had journaled more, documented more details, chronicled the steps more closely and more often. Definitely will the second time around…

Sharing your story can be a scary thing. You’re afraid of opinions, judgements, and possible backlash you’ll receive. You’re not looking to be pitied or for your friends to avoid you about pregnancy/baby/mommy things. Sharing your story is more something you need to do for yourself. It’s almost invigorating, the sense of relief when you put it out there. You’ll find you will receive some nice gestures, such as prayers and lending ears. Then will come others who have been where you’ve been or are in the midst-some you may know about and others that leave you shocked. Yet, just by you telling your story, they’ll feel comfortable enough to confide in you about theirs.

On a larger scale, being open about infertility gets the dialogue going. It shows that all of us 1 in 8 are united in spreading awareness and promoting advocacy. It will help to relinquish the stigma and isolation associated with infertility and the more stories, the more arsenal we have for legislation to cover IVF and other fertility treatments.

I understand and respect the choice to remain private about your struggle. It’s a very delicate matter, but I strongly recommend that in some capacity you share your story. Whether that be keeping a journal, writing it in a letter that you throw in the ocean, or sharing your story on social media. Maybe there is a friend you’ve been contemplating talking to or an acquaintance you know who has been through IVF that you can reach out to. Creating a TTC/infertility-related Instagram account is also a good way to share what you’re going through, while keeping it private from people you may know personally. If you’re not at the point in which you’re ready to go “public”, write your story to me onprayersandneedles@gmail.com. It’s completely confidential and you can remain anonymous if you so choose. Along the same lines, if you have any questions/concerns/are in need of advice, support, prayers, I often put anonymous posts on my Instagram @onprayersandneedles. I’d be happy to post about anything fertility-related for you.

I just know how powerful sharing your story can be. If not for yourself, do it for someone else in whatever way you feel most comfortable. I can assure you, though, that it will be a turning point in your journey. As much as it can mean the world to someone else, it can change your own world too.

When IVF Is Your Best Route

I jumped a little ahead of myself last time with The Box on Your Doorstep post, but it was appropriate for a few of my gal pals at the time.  The majority of the e-mails and messages I receive, though, are along the lines of “I think were going to have to do IVF…,” “We’re having trouble getting pregnant.  What’s IVF like?” or “My doctor said IVF is our best route…”  But what does that actually mean?  I think I’ve  touched in previous posts primarily on the emotional facets of IVF and less on the physical.  So, I thought it was time, to take a step back and explain, at least from my experience, what IVF entails.

I can’t proceed without reiterating that everyone’s experience with IVF differs from protocol to outcomes.  Yet, I’m sure we’d all agree on one thing:  Regardless of whether you had no symptoms at all or you suffered from the list of them, the physical pain you endure is incomparable to the emotional suffering.  I’d be able to do an IVF cycle every single month for the rest of my life if I had to, if it weren’t for the associated roller coaster of high’s and low’s.  With that said, there is some solace in knowing what to expect and having someone to confide in who has been there before.

When IVF is your best route, or as in our case, your only route, the acronyms start flying at you: IVF, ICSI, HSG, HCG, FSH, ER, DPT, TWW, and my personal favorite, PUPO.  It’s all so much information to process and I feel as though, once you’re at the point, time finally seems to fly until the dreaded wait of course.   I, obviously, am not a doctor or nurse of any kind and was fortunate to have only undergone one IVF cycle.  Therefore, while I’d like to consider myself fairly knowledgable in this area, there is so much I continue to learn by being part of this community.  The following is a generic timeline for an IVF cycle that includes my specific protocol.

Ovarian Suppression  This is the initial step once the month of a cycle has been determined. Different clinics prefer different protocols, but typically the way in which ovarian suppression is achieved depends on your ovarian reserve, or the number of eggs you still have.  This is determined by Day Three blood work (day three of your period) which evaluates your baseline levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and estradiol (E2).  There are several means of addressing this based on your baseline results.

Three years ago when I was undergoing IVF, I began by taking birth control pills (BCP) for the month before.  However this is less of a common practice now, unless they’re accompanied with an overlapping use of a GnRH agonist (most commonly, Lupron).  Regardless the purpose is to better regulate your hormone levels, while also minimizing the potential for cysts to develop.  To be completely honest, this is the phase of IVF I’m least familiar with.

Ovarian Stimulation  In infertility lingo, when we say we are beginning stims, this is the start of using hormones(s) which stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles.  Each follicle is fluid-filled and houses an egg.  Ovarian Stimulation begins around day 3 of your menstrual cycle and can range for 8 to 12 days, depending on how you’re responding to the medications.  Common side effects include drowsiness, headaches, fever/chills, joint aches, injection site reactions.  Typically, monitoring begins around the fourth day of stims and occurs every other day, until you get closer to the point of trigger.  The purpose of these frequent visits, which include internal ultrasounds and blood work, is to determine how your body is reacting to the hormones.  Estrogen levels are assessed through the blood work and the follicle quantity and size are recorded.   It is anticipated that at 12-14 millimeters, the follicles will begin to grow at a rate of 2 millimeters per day. The larger the follicle, the closer it is to maturation.  Depending on your results, the medication protocol may be increased or decreased.  In many cases an Antagon is added to suppress premature ovulation.  This is usually administered during the latter half of the stimulation phase.   Once the follicles reach between 16-20 millimeters they are ready for the next step, retrieval.

 

I began taking Estradiol by mouth (0.5 mg once in am/once in pm) and two hormone injections daily around day 3 of my menstrual cycle (February 8, 2014).  My protocol included 150 units of Follistim (FSH) and 75 IU of Menopur (HMG) injections which I had my husband give me around 6 pm every evening.  He had already been injecting himself for almost two years, so I was lucky enough to have a skilled injector.  For this reason, I’m sure, I found the injections to be completely tolerable with only slight burning and minimal bleeding here and there.  My husband would squeeze the injection site (my lower abdomen, below my belly button) and inject on alternating sides.  I never needed to ice the area and had very little bruising.   We did add Ganirelix to the mix, but I can’t recall when and for how long.  I do know that I had Ganirelix leftover.

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I continued on these meds for 10 days before triggering.  Between 7 and 9 follicles were monitored and measured.  The greatest advice given by the nurses was quality over quantity.  I had read so many stories online of women with 20-30 follicles and wondered why my quantity was significantly less.  I’d go on to find out that many of these women hyper ovulated, which from what I’ve heard can be very painful.  Over-stmulation occurs when estradiol levels soar too high, too quickly.  Typically if a women suffers from Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), the transfer may be postponed to allow the ovaries and lining of the uterus time to get back to normal.

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HCG Trigger  Triggering refers a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which stimulates the eggs’ release.  Precise timing of triggering is imperative for successful egg retrieval, which occurs within 36 hours of the injection.  This time is crucial as it allows the eggs to go through the final maturation process; without this they’d be incapable to fertilize.

I took the trigger shot, Ovidrel, on February 18, 2014 at 10 pm in the evening.  Like the others, I didn’t experience any side effects.  At this point, the only way I could describe  how I felt was as if I was carrying a fanny pack of golf balls.

Egg Retrieval  For this procedure, you are given intravenous anesthesia because it is considered minimally invasive.  A needle is inserted into each ovary and using an ultrasound to guide them, the doctor is able to aspirate the fluid and egg from the follicle.  It is a fairly quick (20-45 minute) and painless procedure.

My egg retrieval was late morning on February 20, 2014, two days post-trigger.  It was my first time going under and I can only describe it as the best 15-20 minutes of sleep I’ve ever had.  Within no time, I remember waking up and being pushed to the recovery area.  I spent less than a half hour waiting for the anesthesia to wear off and the doctor came in to give us the number of eggs retrieved.  While the nurse had been monitoring between 7 and 9 follicles, 11 eggs were retrieved in total.  We were advised that we would receive a fertilization report the following day via e-mail.

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We also got the green light to begin those oh-so-lovely progesterone shots.  My husband injected me in the bum, alternating sides every time.  They were, by far, the most painful of all the shots, but of course you’ve probably heard by now how I had him stick me with the 18 gauge needle, so that may have traumatized me!

On a serious note, of all the days within my IVF cycle, this was the most stressful.  However, much of that was due to our circumstances.  My husband’s surgery was the morning of my egg retrieval, so you must remember I was going to have the eggs retrieved without knowing for certain if there’d be sperm to use or if the eggs would have to be frozen.  Again, it wasn’t the physicality of the procedure, it was the emotional duress that made that day the most difficult.  Fortunately, they spun the sample extracted during my husband’s surgery and were able to find viable sperm to perform ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).

Egg Fertilization  The embryologist prepares to fertilize the eggs within hours of the retrieval.  Traditionally, a sperm sample is placed around each egg to allow for natural selection.  With ICSI, a single sperm is injected into each egg.  Fertilization rates with ICSI have been found to be slightly higher.  The following day, the embryologist will notify you with an embryology report that discusses how many eggs were mature enough to fertilize and out of those how many actually did.  The embryos remain incubated until day 3 or 5 depending on when the transfer will occur.

In our case, 6 out of the 11 eggs were mature enough for fertilization.  Out of those 6, using ICSI, 4 fertilized.  We received these results on a Friday, the day after retrieval, and were elated to have even gotten to that point.  The report indicated that we would hear from them again within 1-2 days.

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The next day, Saturday, I received a phone call while working with my husband.  The nurse relayed that all 4 embryos were still progressing; however it appeared that only 3 would be quality enough to transfer.  I had prepared myself for the more common day-5 transfer (at which point the embryos are considered blastocysts), so when she went on to say that we would be transferring the following day, day-3, I was discouraged to say the least.  The decision was made based on the number and quality of the embryos at that point and I was told that they’d best survive in the most natural setting.  Unfortunately, this did not put me at ease and I’d consider this the second most difficult day of our cycle.

Embryo Transfer  This procedure involves placing a flexible catheter  into your cervix to inject the embryos.  The number of embryos is decided prior to or the day of transfer and depends on various factors (e.g. patient’s age, number of previous cycles, quality of the embryos, etc.).  Post-transfer, recovery usually takes about thirty minutes before going home.  Every clinic’s recommendations vary, as you’ll read.  However, research suggests that strict bed-rest is counterproductive, but heavy exercise and intercourse should be avoided.

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Meeting with our doctor beforehand and making a final decision on the number of embryos to transfer was the most difficult part of the transfer.  Our circumstances are not common; nor is the recommendation of transferring three embryos.  However, based on the embryo quality and our openness to twins, the doctor assured us that transferring all three would not result in triplets.

We both dressed for the procedure and entered the surgical room on February 23, 2014 (three days post retrieval).  Within a few minutes, the embryologist knocked on the door and presented a catheter containing our three embabies.  She confirmed our last name and the number of embryos before passing it over to the doctor.  Within minutes, the catheter was inserted and we saw as our three embryos were transferred into the cervix.  It was one of the single-most surreal and magical moments of my life.

Recovery was again less than thirty minutes and I went home to let my embabies stick.  Pineapple core, warm socks, laughter and all for the days that followed.  I took full advantage of having meals made for me and laundry folded, but I did make sure to move around and engage in some activity.  I took an extra third day off, as I felt a cold coming on and since I worked with kids at the time, I did not want it to worsen.  Other than that, and a tug around my belly button here and there, I did not have any symptoms.  Given that early pregnancy symptoms and the onset of your period mimic one another, it’s often hard to differentiate.  Please refer to my TWW Survival Guide for enduring the longest 9-14 days (depending on transfer day and clinic) of your life.  Naturally, I continued Progesterone injections and went in for blood work once during this time.

Beta Day  If implantation occurs, it starts to release the pregnancy hormone, HCG into your bloodstream.  It’s imperative for the most accurate results to wait at least 9 days after a day-3 transfer and 7 days post day-5 transfer to ensure that the HCG trigger is out of your system.  Initial beta numbers can range from single to triple digits depending on length of time since transfer and when implantation occurred.  Regardless, the level should double every 48 hours for a singleton pregnancy and even faster for multiples.

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For us, Beta Day was March 10, 2014  and as it turns out was one of the most cherished days of our lives.  We both went for the blood test together; however I received the call that it was in fact positive with a beta of 816, fourteen days post day-3 transfer.  The second beta, a few days later was over 16,000.

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With such high numbers, we were able to finally breathe.  However, we were far from out of the clear.  Unfortunately, especially with IVF, it becomes hard for you to accept positive news and you remain guarded because you’ve encountered so much disappointment.  It wasn’t until we actually saw a heartbeat at 6 weeks and then got past the 9-10 week safety zone, that we truly acknowledge that we were an IVF first timer success.

As I re-read this post, it is certainly the most dry of my entries to date.    My hope, though, is that it brings some clarity to those who are approaching an IVF cycle or think that IVF might be in their future.  There are many common things about our IVF cycle and many unique parts too.  The fact that we were an IVF success the first time around places us in the minority.  Not a day goes by, where I don’t thank my lucky stars, that after at least 84 injections, over a dozen blood drawings, and more suppositories than I’d like to remember (and that’s just for our IVF cycle and doesn’t include my husband’s shots!), we finally had a child of our own.

The Box on Your Doorstep


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You’ve decided, one way or another, that IUI or IVF is your next step. You’ve had some bloodwork and monitoring and probably some procedures. You may have started acupuncture, meds, researching, playing out every scenario in your head. Everyone has a different “aha” moment during their journey, but I’m sure it’s safe to say when that box arrives on your doorstep you realize this is actually happening-shits getting real.

It can be an overwhelming moment when you open that box and sort through its contents. Your nurses may have muttered off your laundry list of meds and they were probably reviewed again with you when you went to place the order with the pharmacy.

Yet there’s nothing that can truly prepare you for the box itself. There’s needles-💉💉💉lots and lots of needles, an overabundance of medications you can barely pronounce; some that need refridgeration and others that need to be mixed. Gauges and mgs, PIO, and suppositories (if you’re so lucky 🙄) that look like they could last you a lifetime of cycles.

With the variety of baby-making concoctions, comes a myriad of emotions. You’re nervous and intimidated. Will you be able to handle the shots? Should you go stomach or thigh? What if you miss a pill or don’t use the right dosage? You’re angry and self-loathing perhaps. Why do I have to go through all this? Why is this happening to us? What could all these hormones do to my body? Above all, though, you’re excited and hopeful. This box signifies that you’re that much closer to holding your baby. It’s a reminder of how incredible you are to have gotten this far and it’s a filled with endless dreams and possibilities.

Just like you have every step of the way during this up-hill battle: Take it one step at a time. Check that you’ve received all that you were supposed to and check them off as you go. Sort the medications in a safe place and once you receive your protocol organize in a way that makes sense to you. For me, I wanted to make IVF pretty. So, I hit up my holy grail aka Target and bought some fancy shmancy hanging travel bag and put my meds in accordingly (except for the refrigerated ones of course-I actually had to label mine and my husbands because we both had Follistim). Do something that makes it yours-for me it was the aesthetically pleasing storage case. For others if may be to keep all of the syringes and empty bottles for a future pregnancy announcement. It’s one way to make a seemingly unconventional
way of making a baby your own.

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Infertility strips you of ever just being able to have intercourse on your fertile days and missing your period ~14 days later. I HATE that about infertility and I don’t use the H-word freely. I dislike that you don’t get the surprise of a BFP and that even when you are pregnant all of this makes you fearful that it could actually be true. I despise the fact that infertility makes you feel guilty for wanting a biological child or moreover for wanting another. Don’t let the infertility win.

Like Pooh said, “Promise me you’ll always remember.  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Now go on.  Open that box on your doorstep like a mother 👊🏻😝!

 

Round & Role Call

Lately, my biggest concern going for #2 and another IVF cycle is the fear of it not working the first time around. I know we really lucked out with our first IVF cycle being a success and that the odds of this happening are not at all in any of our favor.

I know what an IVF cycle entails. I’m a pro at taking shots (of both kind 😝), have a good sense of what the numbers mean, and have acquired the patience of a saint. However, I don’t know if I’m equipped to deal with a failed cycle. It’s extremely unfortunate that I’ve been surrounded by unsuccessful cycles recently. My hearts go out to you~you know who you are 💞.

While I know all the appropriate things to say when someone is encroaching or in the midst of an IVF cycle , I’m clueless when it comes to cycles that end in a BFN.  Sure from my experience, I know better than to say things like “well at least you have some frozen still” or “it’ll be easier next time around”. I’ve become very cogniscent of my words and what they can evoke. I try not to undermine what has really occurred and I encourage these amazingly strong women to take time and grieve the loss. I note that my heart is aching for them and that I’m praying for them, but I don’t discuss the next step until they bring it up to me. I try not to say things like next time will be better because I don’t know that for sure. I certainly don’t try to figure out why it didn’t take this time, because honestly who the hell knows. I don’t know what it’s like to see a BFP, only to get declining Beta numbers or to get a positive beta, but see an empty sac. Therefore I cannot give these ladies the validation of articulating what they’re feeling. That said, I’m inspired by you ladies who have the bravery, courage, and tenacity to pick yourself up for cycle #2, #3, and so on.

What I do believe, though, is that you probably go into each cycle taking on a different role of sorts. In hopes of bringing some humor to infertility, I introduce you to my IVF Characters {{drumroll, please}}

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Meet Positive Penny. She’s bubbly and full of spirit. It’s most likely her first cycle. So while she loves to chat about being bloated and show off her bruises as badges of honor (which they are, girl 🏅🏅🏅) she is uber excited about all these cycle milestones because it’s one step closer to getting her baby. Positive Penny knows this is her time. She looks for affirmations and signs along the way, but mostly just has a gut feeling that this is going to work.

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Next, I’d like to introduce, Realistic Rachel. Realistic Rachel is probably a left-brainer, good with numbers and stuff. She’s as excited as she is nervous, but goes into every appointment cautiously optimistic. She never loses sight of her end goal, but realizes that the odds of it working the first time around are much less than 50/50. Realistic Rachel has prepared herself imperviously for either outcome: BFP or BFN.

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Have you met my friend, Aloof Alice?  There aren’t many of her kind ’round these parts, but when you come across one it makes you all like 🤔. Aloof Alice, also typically a first time IVFer, sort of knows what’s involved with an IVF cycle. She’s kind of baffled with all the appointments, acronyms, and bloodwork results. She wants a baby just as bad as her other fertility friends, she’d just rather not scour the Internet incessantly for hours on end. Aloof Alice definitely hasn’t researched tirelessly, she kind of just does what she’s told. She has no idea about fertility herb diets, why everyone has pineapples on their IG page 🍍, and thinks to herself wtf is a #TTCtribe?

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This is Scared Sally.  She’s literally scared shitless about everything.  It doesn’t matter if it’s her first or third round of IVF.  Scared Sally is afraid of needles.  She’s too embarrassed to ask questions.  She follows you on social media but only puts generic quotes, enough to make you wonder is she struggling with infertility too?  But Scared Sally is too nervous to tell anyone and is worried they might think less of her.  She’s scared to POAS before beta, but she’s just as sacred not to.  Even when she gets a beta of 816, she’s afraid it’s not high enough.  She worries at each subsequent appointment if there’s still a heartbeat.  She gets through each test, each procedure, each ultrasound beautifully but she’s scared to see how courageous she really is.  Scared Sally, let me be the one to tell you, you’re a heck of a lot braver than most.  You’re an infertility warrior 💪🏼.

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Last but certainly not least, is Drained, Damaged, Drained Debbie. Drained sounds nicer, but let’s face it’s she’s a bit of both and rightfully so. Usually Drained Debbie has been through the ringer. She’s suffered failed IUI’s, multiple losses, and, if that’s not enough, has also maxed out her IVF coverage. Drained Debbie questions her doctor if changes aren’t being made next time because let’s face it, she doesn’t know how much more she can take this shit.   She may be rushing into another cycle without recovering from the last, but just like the rest of her friends, no matter how drained she is, she’s still holding onto that glimmer of hope.

I wanted to get you better acquainted with these ladies to see if you could relate.  Let me know if I’ve forgotten anyone.  I’m sure I must have.  Not only is our circle big, but I presume that we change roles with each round.  I, for example, was the ever-so-popular Postive Penny the first time around.  To be honest, I don’t know if it was because I was so shocked to actually get to that point or what.  I didn’t really give the whole IVF failure much thought because I was too consumed with if we were even going to have sperm to work with.  This may, in some odd way, have been a blessing in disguise.  It also may have been the reason I wasn’t a Realistic Rachel or Scared Sally.

Given that I’m on the “other side of infertility”, and an IVF First-Timer Success you’d probably suspect that I’d remain a Positive Penny.  I don’t know, though, because my emotions and feelings are so different now.  We aren’t there just yet, but even thinking about another IVF cycle I feel much more guarded, more of a Realistic Rachel.  I’m doubtful that we could get this lucky twice.  My husband and I are so blessed and in such a happy place, raising and loving on our son, that I’m literally more scared than Sally to go back to that place.  That place can be so alienating, life-sucking, and dark that the distant memories still haunt me from time to time.  I’d prefer this happy place of changing dirty diapers, family date nights, and 2,461,085 toddler timeouts for a little while longer.  Yet, just like you gals, I know all too well how worth it going back there could be.

Lefty or Righty

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Pic via seltzergoods.com

With infertility sometimes you don’t know what direction you’re going in and/or you’re being pulled in a million different directions. You don’t know which way to turn, left or right.

Lately, I’ve been connecting with so many women on social media who are courageous enough to share their infertility. Sometimes reading these makes me feel guilty because so many journeys are longer and harder than ours. That’s when I had an “aha” moment about our particular story and began to look at it through a different lense.

Now stick with me, but I’m visualizing a successful pregnancy/IVF/IUI as the middle ground. To the left is the journey to get there and to the right is the point past the initial positive test result or completion of IVF or IUI.

For all of us, the IUI or IVF is relatively the same-a conglomerate of injections, bloodwork, procedures, monitoring, doctors appointments, and waiting. Some might get more side effects. Some might suffer from Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHHS). Your trigger shot or protocol may differ.  Yet, they all remotely resemble one another.

Our struggles, however, tend to vary greatly. Even if two women are suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) their journeys could look drastically different. Many of us infertility warriors struggle with infertility to the “left” or before we get to the point of IUI/IVF/conceiving some way; while others find their difficulty after, either with failed cycles, chemical pregnancies, miscarriages, etc.

In our case, obviously, the bulk of our infertility fight took place to the left.  Us “lefties” might have to endure months, even years, of struggle to get to the point where IUI and IVF are even a possibility.  For example, my husband needed to remain on medication for almost two years before IVF was in the cards and, even then [right up to his TESE procedure and my egg retrieval] we didn’t know if we’d make it to the point of having viable sperm for fertilization.  Our extreme highs and extreme lows came before the initial BFP.  The waiting and longing, tears and angst occurred prior to our IVF cycle.   However the culmination of our struggle was the point in which our little Mikie “stuck” and , thanks be to God, stayed.  The IVF and entire pregnancy were smooth sailing for us and as some might say, we were finally on the other side of infertility.

“Righties” have a different experience.  They might get diagnosed with infertility and move forward with an IUI or IVF cycle within a couple of months.  It all might seem like a blink of the eye, and before they know it they are Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise [PUPO].  That is, until the otherwise comes.  Maybe the cycle failed.  Maybe their beta confirms a positive pregnancy, but there’s no heartbeat at the 6 or 8-week ultrasound.  Maybe this keeps happening time after time after time.  Just like “lefties”, it’s not the injections and procedures that are the most painful for “righties”. It’s the roller coaster of emotions that’s associated with the ecstasy of hearing “You’re pregnant,” only to hear “I’m sorry for your loss.”

As a “lefty”, I cannot fathom the heartache that failed cycles and miscarriages must incur.  It makes me feel so fortunate, and almost embarrassed in some respect, to ‘wallow’ in my struggle.

What I’m trying to get to is the realization that infertility is not a battle.  Whatever your story is, first time success or multiple failed attempts, months or years, “lefty” or “righty” is really irregardless.  Infertility is a struggle and the struggle is real.

While all of our circumstances and experiences differ, “lefties” and “righties” are still one in the same.  We all cringe at the thought of hearing another pregnancy announcement.  We all “trick” ourselves into believing we’re pregnant, even when it’s nearly impossible.  We all yearn to rest a newborn on our chest and hear a little voice coo “Mama” for the first time.  We all could write a book on trying to conceive and could pass a phlebotomist test with flying colors.  We all cry and we all pick ourselves back up, with a little help along the way.  We all have the same common goal: to carry, love, and raise a child of our own.

When 3 Become 1 and 1 Makes 3


Sounds like some mathematics problem, eh? Math is not my thang by any means, but when it came to fertility, probability mattered. By the point of transfer, I think we were both in so much shock that we actually made it that far, that the thought of three embryos didn’t even phase us. To boot, Dr. Lavy and his staff had gotten us that far that we weren’t going to doubt his recommendations then…or ever.

Recently, I have seen a lot of posts regarding transferring one or two embryos and I have received some outreach on the matter as well. The truth is it all comes down to numberscircumstancenumbers~ well I guess both.  In the end your circumstance relates to your numbers, right?  If you have 11 frosties (frozen embryo babies)  then chances are your doctor is going to suggest transferring one.  If you’re on your third round of IVF, with only a handful of embryos left to spare, they’ll probably recommend using two.  If you’re us, everyone’s so dumbfounded how you even have embryos they say screw it, transfer them all.  Just kidding…sort of.  I mean our circumstances and our numbers were grim.  At the day of transfer we had 3 embryos quality enough to use.  Basically there was nothing left and it was a miracle in and of itself that we had gotten the two handfuls or so of sperm to even attempt IVF with ICSI at all.  Moreso, we were open, maybe even hopeful, to the idea of having twins.

While I had envisioned transferring 2 embryos on a day 5 transfer, that was not the case.  See, I couldn’t help myself.  I was still planning it all out.  Getting the call that we would be doing a day 3 transfer threw me off more than the idea of transferring three embryos.  Strange, right?  But as the doctor sat in front of us, scribbling as he usually did, he flat out said, “You won’t be having triplets.”  He knew our circumstances.  His recommendation was transferring three to get two or even just that “one”-it was the best probability.

That “one”.  If only you could see him morning, noon, and night like I do.  He is something special.  My husband has recently been joking that he thinks the doctor added a little something to the embryo because being this cute and perfect couldn’t possibly be from just us.  He amazes me each day as he combines words and “talks” about things we did the days before.  He’s loving and affectionate, wild and sassy all- in-one.  As his second birthday approaches, he’s a combination of that little infant that relied on me for everything and this autonomy-aspiring, mini spitfire who says “No, mommy” when I try to help him from tipping over the cereal bowl.  He’s our “one” that was chosen just for us to protect, teach, raise, and adore.  He’s the “one” who made us a family.

So as we dabble with the notion of turning 3 into 4, I get a lot of questions about if we try for another, will we have to do IVF again.  Yes, we most certainly will and more likely than not my husband will have to have the TESE surgery again as well.  We are not that infertile couple that had to do IVF the first time and then, as fate should have it, wound up pregnant naturally the second time.  I sometimes envision it, but then am reminded of the circumstance.  What’s the probability of getting this lucky twice?!

The “I” in Infertility


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There’s a very fine line between living with infertility and letting it take over your life.  The quest to have a baby can be consuming.  Compound that with infertility and it’s hard to see life outside of doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, OPK’s, two week waits (TWW) and pregnancy tests.  It can be difficult to not let it overcome you because infertility is a beast.  But I’m here, on the other side, to tell you that it doesn’t need to be your be-all and end-all.

It’s all about finding the balance in life, which can always be extra tricky when you’re dealing with a stressor of some sort.   Sometimes when the topic comes up, you might say “We are trying.” Other days you might feel like giving a 20-minute mini-lesson on your infertility diagnosis.  There are days when it’s just easier to wear a smile and yet other times when you need to let the tears stream down your face to get out a good cry.  Allowing yourself good and bad days helps to keep the balls juggling so to speak.  The moment you go too much one way or too much the other, the balls start to drop.

Much like anything that’s worth fighting for, you will also have to make sacrifices and not just the financial kind.    Infertility tends to plan some days and months {even years} for you because of the intense scheduling, especially when in the midst of an IVF cycle.  However, don’t let it dictate your life.  Don’t waste away your days waiting for that one moment. Do girls nights and spontaneous romantic weekend getaways.  Take on daring adventures, indulge in retail therapy, and pound back way too many shots.  The infertility doesn’t go away but at least life isn’t slipping by either.  Sure there will be times you have to “sit out” or say “Now isn’t a good time,”  but more often then not, the infertility will still be there and those opportunities won’t.  I found (and still find) myself so many times opting out of a bachelorette or putting off a vacation out of fear that a procedure or doctor’s appointment might come up.  But it’s important to remember, infertility causes you to make enough sacrifices, so do yourself a favor-you deserve it.

That’s not to say it’s easy, nor will there be times that you can’t help but fall victim to letting infertility get the best of you.  At those times, remember:

The “I” in infertility does not stand for identity. Infertility does not define who I am. It does not encompass all of me. Rather, it is just part of my story, as is being a daughter, sister, friend, wife, speech-pathologist, and so fortunately, a mother.

Since initiating this blog, I’ve had so many people, even my own dad, remark that they knew we were having issues but didn’t realize that it was that bad.  That’s because I didn’t want infertility to define me and I still don’t.  Even though I’ve overcome it, infertility is and always will be part of me.  As part of my story, I’m inclined to share it to help others.  So while the “I” in infertility doesn’t stand for my identity, I think I’ll let it stand for impact.  It has made a profound impact on the individual and, more importantly, the  mommy I have become.  I hope that, through this blog and a support group, I can use my infertility journey to make an impact.

My IVF Tips

 

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Before I even get started here let me give my big, huge DISCLAIMER: I have no medical background in infertility and by no means am I any kind of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Guru. I am quite simply a girl who went through IVF, researched a little, and decided to take a few steps, which may or may not have made my first IVF cycle a success! Many of the tips here have no or limited scientific correlation to a pregnancy subsequent to IVF.  My train of thought, though, was if it wasn’t harmful and had led to a pregnancy for some, than why not give it a shot 💉🎯.

  1. No MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) 

The only restriction I was given from my infertility Doctor was to avoid MSG.  I figured that just meant no Chinese food, which was no biggie for me, but for my husband, would be comparable to going to the electric chair.  Seriously, though, MSG is in a lot more than you’d think.  So once I began the meds, I read every label and made every waitress swear on the Bible that there was no MSG in whatever I was consuming.  Literally, I’d look at a Tic-Tac label just to make sure.  MSG wasn’t going to mess with me.

2.  AAA (Abstaining from Aspertame & Alcohol)

Now this was a little trickier for me than the whole MSG thing and was not something I was told to do.  But AAA is my own little acronym for what I decided to do the month of my cycle and obviously the next 9 months plus!

We all know that Aspertame is not healthy for us, but like anything we shouldn’t have its so damn good.  Not having Splenda in my coffee actually made me give up my cup of joe during my cycle, pregnancy, and the majority of my year nursing.  Let’s just say I’m making up for it now.  Basically, I live off coffee and goldfish these days.

And if you think that was hard, imagine the alcohol part.  I’m not a huge drinker per say.  As one of my BFF’s mom once put it, more of a social drinker and “I’m very social!” 😝  To be quite frank, champagne and I became very well acquainted, especially during my infertility struggles.  Another pregnancy announcement…pop a bottle!  Baby shower…drink the champagne punch bowl dry!  My mantra was is kind of like “Save water, drink champagne. ” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼  

I just felt like cleaning out my system and not having the alcohol mix with the meds was the best choice for me.  To be honest the alcohol part was easier than the coffee.

3.  Leave the Avocado, Take the Prosecco                                                                            

I decided to do a little research when it came to the point of moving forward with IVF.  Afterall I was about to inject myself with hormones and wanted to know what impact it was going to have on my body.  I must confess, I use the word research in the loosest sense.  By research, I mean mostly googling.  And good ‘ole Pinterest was flooded with this study (Link 👉🏻http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2168494/Avocado-diet-triples-chance-success-couples-undergoing-IVF.html).  That’s all I needed to read to gather my Big Y coins and shell them out on that bag of avocados.  By the way do you like my play on the Godfather’s “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”?! Nothing like a little mafia humor to keep you going.  Speaking of humor…

4.  Laughter Post-Transfer

I also researched a study that indicated that laughing immediately after transfer increased success rates.  The theory as discussed here 👉🏻 http://healthland.time.com/2011/01/31/youre-kidding-medical-clown-increases-pregnancy-rates-with-ivf/ is basically that the more relaxed a woman is at the point of transfer, the more likely the embryos will implant.

Maybe the age-old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine” is true afterall.  Regardless, I told my husband to gear up and put together a little comedy skit once our little embies were transferred.  Turns out, joke was on me.  All he had to do was tell the nurse I had him inject me with the progesterone, without changing the needle, and we were all on the floor laughing at her reaction.

5.  Acupuncture

I think acupuncture is one of those things you love or hate.  I, admittedly, was skeptical in the beginning, especially because it wasn’t like I was going to treat an ailment or quit smoking.  What I mean by that was, in the midst, I couldn’t tell if it was working or not.  When people ask me my thoughts on acupuncture, my response is always it may or may not have helped, but at least it was about an hour of relaxation each appointment.  That probably helped in and of itself.

If you’re in my neck of the woods, I’d highly recommend Craig at Kos Chiropractic in North Branford, Connectiut.  The chiropractor, Jackie, was also fabulous and uber intuitive which had me intrigued to say the least.  She’d recommend a certain colored panty to bring out my chakras and was very knowledgable about infertility and the IVF process.  They both seemed experienced and were beyond supportive.  At one point, Jackie told me to remember the number 4.  I nearly almost fell out of the car door when I received our embryology report that said 4 out of the 6 mature eggs fertilized.  How’s that for being on point?

6.  Pineapple Core 

This is a pretty common tip.  Having the core of a pineapple supposedly can enhance implantation because of a particular enzyme found specifically in the core.  For me, we cut the pineapple into fifths horizontally and I ate the pineapple and core starting on the day of transfer and four subsequent days.  I love pineapple (especially with Citron vodka 🙊) so it was fine for me.  A pineapple is a traditional symbol of “welcome” so just think of it as a way to welcome the embryos into your uterus. 🍍

7.  R & R

I’m not one to slow down, but when it came to this, I knew I needed rest and relaxation.  My egg retrieval was on a Thursday, so I decided to take Friday off.  We ended up doing a day 3 transfer on Sunday.  While I intended on taking that Monday and Tuesday off, I felt a cold coming on.  I decided to take an extra day that Wednesday.    I spent most of those days on the couch and took full advantage of being waited on.  Even when I went back to work, I tried to not go a million miles per hour like I usually did.  I worked with kids with special needs, many of whom had behavioral problems.  Therefore I was extra cautious as if I were pregnant.  Well I guess I was PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise) and luckily the otherwise never happened and I was just…pregnant!

8.  Stay Positive

I know it’s cliche and easy for someone whom IVF worked for the first time, but there’s a power in positivity.  I stayed positive because it was all I could do.  Eleven eggs were retrieved and of those, six were mature enough to fertilize.  As I mentioned before, four of the six fertilized.  At Day 3, there were still four embryos but only three were quality enough to transfer. We transferred all 3, so literally we were at the end of the road with nothing left to freeze.  At that point it was in God’s hands.

In our case, staying positive meant two things:  no googling and no testing before Beta.  Not being able to google meant less symptom spotting, less negative thoughts.  Avoiding taking a pregnancy test before Beta also was key for us.  I wasn’t testing too early and defeated not seeing the second line.

We remained as we had throughout our whole journey, cautiously optimistic.

9.  Pray

This probably should have gone a little higher on the list, but I’ll admit throughout my journey there were many times I was mad at God.  What did I do to You to deserve this?  In the end,  though, all we have is faith.  As I sat there waiting for my husband while he was in surgery, all I had left to do was pray. After our transfer, all there was left to do was pray and, just like positivity, there’s a power in prayer.

Whatever higher power you believe in will give you strength and help you endure the process.  If you’re ever in doubt that there is a God (or whomever you pray to), you’re faith will certainly be restored when you finally welcome your little bundle.  Because pregnancy and new life are nothing short of miracles from above.

I thank God everyday for our baby and this blessed life.  One day when Mikie asks and I have to explain the “special” way he was born, I will be certain to emphasize that God was key in bringing him to us .  Afterall, Michael is “he who is like the Lord”.

10.  Seek Support

There is nothing more reassuring when going through IVF than having someone who has been there.  Whether it be a friend or complete stranger, find that one person who can share their story and guide you along the way.

If you’re approaching or currently undergoing an IVF cycle and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.  Even if you just need a positive word, contact me.  I’m available via email at onprayersandneedles@gmail.com or on Instagram and Facebook you can private messgage me @onprayersandneedles.

Positive Vibes & Baby Dust ✌🏼️👶🏼✨