IVF #13

It’s almost the end of February, 2013, and I recently had my 13th egg retrieval.  I had gone in on day 3 of my period thinking that we would proceed and ready my body for the transfer of my two frozen embryos, who are still waiting for us patiently, on ice, in a state-of-the-art refrigerator in Tarzana – wrapped warm, I like to think, in the blanket of our love for them, but when the doctor saw that I had 6 follicles on day 3, we decided that we should stimulate my ovaries instead of transferring the embryos we already have.

The progress was fine along the way; there were the moments of concern that my estrogen was too low at first, and then it rose appropriately.  If the growth of the follicles wasn’t impressive, the estrogen comforted my doctor with the knowledge that yes, my follicles were growing appropriately. There were cysts, as there always were, but they weren’t growing that much, and so would not interfere by polluting my estrogen count with false hope.

- my belly after several days of medication

– my belly after several days of medication

I ended up on the medication for 11 days.  I think that is my new personal best.  By the end of the cycle, my belly was bloated to the max; it was bruised, terribly and grotesquely bruised from the daily shots of two to three medications.  My senses were heightened in the most uncomfortable way; the side effects always made me irritable or sweaty or increase my insomnia, but after 11 days, the anxiety I was feeling was irritating, and painful.  But I have gone through enough that I am able to separate normal anxiety from that which the medication causes.  I can feel the pain and anxiety, and close my eyes and remind myself how powerful the medication is, that this feeling will not last forever.

There was one round of a screaming match between Craig and me during the cycle.  This was not unusual; in fact, it was downright predictable.  My senses were heightened and I was feeling the pressure and he said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and since I was feeling overwhelmed by the 3-times a week doctor visits to the valley in the middle of an insanely high pressured post-production and the invasion of my vagina and the drawing of the blood and the scrutiny that I fell under as a woman as I was measured and judged in terms of follicle size and estrogen amount, coupled of course with the deep and soulful longing to hold my child, I had a breakdown.

This time we fought about my weight, and the fact that the only thing, very truly, the only thing I haven’t done “perfectly” in regards to my efforts, was lose it.  Of course I have multiple excuses why I should not have to diet:

I have asked multiple specialists if being overweight could interfere at all with my fertility efforts. The answer was no.

I am sober for coming up on 7-years.  My remaining vice is food.

I have more pressure on me than any one person should have, between professional stresses and being responsible to help achieve my husband’s and my personal dreams.  Adding restrictions on food requires great intent, and that to me feels like another full time job.

Oh, and overweight women get pregnant all.the.time.

Still, he is right; that is the one health area that I have not perfected, and of course an area I am highly sensitive about, so I broke into tears and we screamed at each other for a bit.

And then the next day I had my egg retrieval, and they got out 3 eggs.  I was thrilled.  And then the next day only 1 of them had fertilized.  I was disappointed that more hadn’t fertilized, but happy nonetheless. And then the next day I learned that instead of being at 4 cells, my embryo was only 1 cell.  I was concerned; that was not good news.  On Thursday it was still at 1 cell, and so we knew that we would have nothing new to transfer.

11 days of medication.  About $10,000 in medical costs on this round alone.  And no egg to add to my basket, my lovely, frozen embryos basket of two.

Devastated, but not defeated, I made an appointment to chat with the doctor.  We spoke, and he was very clear that just because I had a bad cycle, didn’t mean that this was the sign of bad things to come; it was not as if I was going into pre menopause; I just had a bad cycle. Hell, only 2 months before I had produced eggs that upon meeting Craig’s sperm became strong enough to create 1 Blastocyst and 1 Morula that made it to the freezer.  (Blastocyst is an embryo at 5 days of development; a Morula is where the embryo should be at 4 days, which means that this one was either just a little behind, or would not make it once thawed.)

Dr. V, my Israeli fertility specialist, among the top 3 in Los Angeles – high praise indeed, whose expertise and knowledge I trust academically, and who is very committed to Craig and I emotionally, and I came up with the plan: wait for my period and prepare my body for the frozen embryo transfer (FET). We went over all of the details of how this time is different: I’ve never transferred embryos that have been frozen. I have always done transfers right after the magic poison courses through my body, which some scientists theorize is a reason that frozen embryo transfers are often more successful.  We did poor man’s genetic testing, in the sense that we let the embryos grow to day 5, as if they hadn’t made it, we would not have frozen them.  (Many doctors believe that if an embryo doesn’t last until 5 days in the laboratory, it won’t last in the woman’s uterus.)

We had a plan.

But still, the nagging thought came into my mind what Craig said: What if losing some weight could change things? What if my love for Lindt chocolate is interfering with the embryos attaching?  What if?

I contacted a peer who I knew had experience with cleanses, and was put in touch with a woman who would help me.

The task:  reduce the inflammation.  I couldn’t lose significant weight in two weeks, but at the very least, I could reduce the inflammation, which is the number one side effect of Follistim, that magical poison that has been stimulating my ovaries every other month for about 3-years.

The solution: have a woman prepare all of my meals for 4 days, done 2 days at a time so the organic ingredients remain fresh.

The cost: $360

My period came like clockwork, something I do not take for granted, and so I made my appointment to see the doctor on a Saturday morning.  I hiked first, which required me to wake up at 7ish on a Saturday to head to Malibu from Venice, before I drove from Malibu over Topanga Canyon to Tarzana for my 9:30 appointment.  The lovely female specialist at my doctor’s practice confirmed my uterine lining was exactly where it should be.  I let her know that it had to be perfect, absolutely, in order for us to proceed, and put me on estradiol, which I was prescribed to make sure that my estrogen would be regulated for the next several days; to encourage my uterine lining to develop.

I had never had issues with uterine lining development in the past, but needed the assurance that we were operating under optimal physical conditions to proceed. I’ve gone through too much, lost too much, to keep on taking such enormous risks, and I’m not even referring to the measurable risks.

My own hope has become a risk.

Once assured that everything was exactly as it should be, I proceeded to start the estradiol, twice a day.  Already an emotional woman, I was now taking tiny blue pills that made me even more emotional.

I did a 4-day food cleanse. The thing about me is that once I commit to something, I really commit, and so even while working in post production, with people seemingly dedicated to bringing me lattes or juices or sushi or cookies or anything I could dream of at multiple junctures of the day, while I am glued to my computer or to conference calls or to watching special effects done on the best television monitors imaginable (which often feels like watching paint dry), I stuck to the menu provided.  There were delicious smoothies, and there were juices that made me gag because there was too much of some healthy, weird ingredient that was unfamiliar to me and unfriendly to my taste buds.

On the 4th day of my cleanse, I returned to the doctor’s office, to see my specialist who I sometimes refer to as the wizard, to confirm that everything was developing exactly as it should. We talked about the perfect day to do the transfer, and I let him know that if at all possible – without risking an ounce of the probability of this working, I would prefer to do this on a weekend.  He thought about it for a moment, and then said yes, we could do it in a week, on Saturday, March 2nd.  “Seriously, if by doing it Saturday this decreases my chances like point 1 percent, we can’t do it.  I just don’t want to be stressed with work and want to create the best environment for myself.”  “The only issue is that now I have to work on Saturday,” my doctor responded.  “Do you mind, Dr. V?” I asked; “If we do it Friday and I have to take work emails and this doesn’t work I will wonder if that’s why….”  He interrupted, “I would not do it for anyone else, but I will do it for you.”

There are not a lot of benefits to being a repeat customer in the fertility realm, but him knowing me and being willing to change his personal schedule to accommodate me is definitely one of them.

I drove to the specialty pharmacy in Westwood to pick up about $350 in additional medication, progesterone oil, which helps keep pregnancies safe.

I kept thinking of the percentage of chance Dr. V had uttered to me in a previous conversation: A Grade A embryo like mine allowed a 35 – 40% chance of resulting in pregnancy.  But women get pregnant all of the time with less than Grade A, too.  I would just have to stay calm and outstretch my arms and pray.

I decided not to continue the cleanse officially, but to take that learning from those 4 days and apply it best I can, so I went to the market and bought some of the teas and a few other fresh ingredients, and have committed this week to keeping the chocolate down to 1 square a day, at the most, not eating pasta even if my husband is eating chicken parmesan right next to me; to just do the best I can to decrease the inflammation.  Shortly I’ll be having some sashimi and seaweed salad and having a green juice as my snack later, with salmon in the fridge for dinner, so I think I’m doing pretty well!

And more than all of the ‘actionable’ things that I am doing, I close my eyes, and invite those beautiful little spirits who I KNOW are out there waiting to be my child or children, yes, children, and take the biggest risk of all:  I hope.

6 thoughts on “IVF #13

  1. Many, many, many blessings for THIS to be the time…let go of any inkling of doubt and wrap your arms around that safe and cozy home for baby!

  2. I’m visualizing a positive outcome with this next IVF. You are so brave and honest Lorraine, and I want nothing more than to see your next post read, “We are pregnant!!” Sending you lots of positive vibes and an abundance of good wishes!!!!

  3. Dr V, and our hope, are the reason for our miracle named Olivia. I am so looking forward to hearing you share good news, Lorraine. XOXO

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