January 2021: A Month of Nurses, Needles, Numbers & News
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
That headline might seem a little strange if you didn't know I was referring to my IVF experience. But with assisted reproduction, it's all the norm.
Earlier this month, I (okay, my body!) was finally ready to try again and start round three, the first one since my chemical pregnancy in October. It's been a whirlwind of a month, with regular monitoring appointments, acupuncture appointments, shots, and phone calls with updates and instructions. And that's just for IVF. I also have a life outside of this, and this month required some juggling due to a new freelance role, some crazy hours for my part-time job, and, oh yeah, and random deposition I had to go to downtown at 10am on a Thursday.
So here's my rundown of my first month of IVF round 3, including what you might expect if you begin the journey as well:
I mention "nurses" because I see them a lot. Coincidentally, I also administer the NCLEX, the nursing licensing exam for new nurses, at my part-time job at Pearson. Fortunately, at the clinic I go to, Shady Grove Fertility in Warrington, I have one dedicated nurse who works with me. This helps a ton, as this process is very personal, and it helps to have one person who knows who you are and makes you feel like a person, not a number. The only times I speak with another nurse are when I have to go to SGF's Chesterbrook location on the weekends and when my nurse is out for the day, which makes sense, since she has a life, too.
After multiple monitoring appointments late last month to check for ovulation, my body finally did it early this month. I tend to be late with that, just like I tend to be later with a lot of things. (Irregular ovulation is one of my fertility issues.) From there, it was GO time!
I had a lot appointments this month, and when it comes to fertility, appointments mean needles: needles to test my blood each time to check for hormone levels. My other nurse who regularly takes my blood is so good at it, I swear; I've had times where I've been stuck twice, but she just gets it right every time. That, or I'm just there so much that she's developed quite a close relationship with my veins.
The particular protocol for this round began with the suppression phase in order to suppress my natural cycle and prepare for the stimulation medications. I had to place a patch on my belly and replace it with a new one every other day. (Something hubby, Jared, likes to refer to as the "permanent patch" because once you no longer need to replace it with a new one, you can just wait til it falls off, but mine do not fall off. They are, like, permanently stuck there til I remove it myself.) After several appointments of bloodwork and ultrasounds, my body was where it needed to be to begin the stimulation phase. This is where you administer daily injections to grow multiple follicles in your ovaries.
I am really fortunate that Jared was cool with administering my shots because I certainly didn't trust myself with it, and it just weirded me out (though I'm sure you get used to it). I can also be kind of flaky, but he is great with remembering the timing each and every day and reminding me when I got lost in my work or on social media. Each night, like clockwork, he would gave me my nightly shot at 9pm and my morning shots at 4 in the morning (yes, you read that right!) before he left for work (and the same thing on the weekend since it has to be the same time each day).
I had to do a bit of juggling with work this time around to make it all work. Undergoing IVF is actually a big reason why I'm working a part-time job with a more flexible schedule while also freelancing. But I was scheduled to work until 10:30 at night a couple of times (yes, you read that right!) because we were administering the MCATs. However, I was able to make it work -- and, I mean, it had to because this process comes first. I kind of have a lot on the line.
My work is also literally next door to my fertility clinic, and I mean "next door"; one is suite 280 and the other is suite 290, another thing that made this job appealing to me. I figured that when I had appointments, I could easily just walk over, which would cut out the commute time. However, my last appointment before my egg retrieval, I was working with the one coworker who enjoys pretending she's the boss, and she gave me the stink eye when I told her about my appointment. But I've learned not to let her intimidate me, so I just responded, "Well, I have a procedure in two days, and we're spending thousands of dollars on this, so I'm going whether you like it or not." That was all I had to say. We made it work. You'd expect more from a woman, but sometimes they can be the worst.
Shots and bloodwork, though, were not the only needles I've been stuck with this month. I've been doing acupuncture for fertility, something I'd highly recommend. I've been seeing an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility for about a year now. I mean, when you're undergoing something as costly and risky as IVF, you need to do whatever you can to optimize your chances at success.
Numbers & News:
Now for the exciting part! After weeks of appointments and injections, I was ready for my egg retrieval. My hubby drove me to Shady Grove's surgery center at their Chesterbrook location on a Wednesday and had to wait in the car because of COVID. By the third time, I knew what to expect. Fortunately, you're put out with local anesthesia, so you have no idea what's going on in the OR. Shortly after, I got my first update: I had five eggs retrieved. This is about what I expected. I had been bummed out this month when I found out that I grew fewer follicles than the last two times, and when I say "bummed out," that's putting it mildly. My first round, I had 16 eggs retrieved, and my second, I had nine retrieved. At one point, I was told I had about three, and I started to feel hopeless. So I kept thinking "quality over quantity" and hoping for my best.
However, I can't say all I did was hope. I kept my acupuncturist regularly updated and saw her for treatments twice a week. She performed acupuncture with electrostimulation to try and stimulate the smaller, more immature eggs to grow.
So, when the day after my egg retrieval, I got my first update that I had three mature eggs -- with the possibility of the other two being fully mature -- I was hopeful. The next day, I received the great news that all five of my eggs were mature and had fertilized! Though it could've just been a coincidence, I'd like to think that the acupuncture, cutting out caffeine completely, making some small changes to my diet, and applying rose oil topically shortly before the retrieval did make a difference.
My next update is tomorrow, so stay tuned!
And thank you so much for following my journey! If you have a similar story to share or you're getting ready to embark on your own fertility journey, I want to hear! Comment below, or email me at email@example.com.
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