58 Periods I Didn't Want/ Part 4: Our IVF Journey
When we returned from our family trip to California, it was time to begin the IVF process. (You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you'd like to read the struggles and journey to this big decision!)
Once we decided to take the IVF route, I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I knew it would be emotional and difficult at times, but I wasn't going to be alone. My husband, John, was fully on board and we had close family and friends who prayed for us every step of the way.
I journaled daily through the process because it felt important to document the details, but also help to manifest this big desire. (As a life coach, I often share about the power of journaling and manifesting. I try to practice what I preach!) In this post, I will share quotes directly from my entries.
This was an extremely spiritual time in my life that I will never forget. There were things I could control, like taking my medications and eating healthy, but I knew it was also an act of faith and trust.
I have learned that every pregnancy, no matter the conception details, is a miracle.
Even though I seemed to ovulate monthly, there was some sort of delay, probably due to my mild PCOS. IVF eliminates the ovulation process. They would take my egg(s) and put it with my husband's sperm to create an embryo that would be transferred. (See us doing embryo pose below!)
We were hopeful this could be our answer to finally getting pregnant after years of struggle...
The first step was to take estrogen pills and wait for my period to start. I would then begin certain hormone injections and go to early morning appointments to check certain blood hormone levels and the growing follicles. (Eggs develop in fluid-filled sacs called follicles. During IVF, hormonal medications are used to stimulate the ovaries to increase the chance of multiple follicles growing, creating more eggs.)
Just a couple days in, a cardinal flew by me, which I have related to my grandmothers who both passed away in recent years. This is an important sign to me in nature.
Sadly, not even a week into our process, a young officer was shot and killed in our community while serving a warrant. His k-9 was also shot, but survived. It was an extremely devastating time and I could not stop thinking about his wife. They didn't have a chance to have children, if they wanted them. It really put so much into perspective-knowing that we never know what tomorrow will bring.
Once we were ready to begin, John injected me with the first two shots in my belly. Gonal-F and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to stimulate the follicles. I sobbed in his arms. They didn't hurt, but I felt a variety of emotions, including sadness since it was also the day of Officer Gannon's procession with hundreds of officers marching.
The next day while driving, two different car license plates had 444, which in angel numbers means angels surround you. I fully embraced this and continued to see cardinals fly by, which put a smile on my face.
John made it a priority to be around at the same time daily to do injections, even while running our business full-time, volunteering as a firefighter, and finishing up paramedic school clinical hours! This meant so much to me. I imagined these shots injecting me with love, light and good energy.
Over the next few days, I tried to rest and take the best care of myself, especially as I had my period. I listened to and read about IVF and mindset, trying to stay grounded and positive throughout. I continued to see my acupuncturist, who created a specific herb regimen for my IVF cycle. I finished taking the estrogen pills and then my period came to an end. Meanwhile, one day I drove by a mom and dad with little kids putting up a blue ribbon in remembrance of the officer. I cried because that reminder was all over town.
"My heart just feels wide open-feeling it all and being okay with that. Heartache, excitement-so many emotions through this journey (IVF and life)."
Then I was told I needed to get bloodwork and an internal ultrasound to check my follicles on a Saturday. Unfortunately, the local lab isn't open on weekends, so I needed to drive up near Boston, over an hour and a half away. John had class so my mom and I went and had dinner with my aunts and cousin and I updated them on our journey. They were excited for us. We then stayed at my grandfather's house and guess what? The room I was staying in had a calendar with a cardinal on it! I knew my Nana was there with me. At the appointment, the tech said my uterine lining looked good, with lots of layers. Then later the nurse called to say it was an excellent start, with my estrogen level was 901 and there were 5-10 follicles on each side. The doctor lowered one of the stimulating injections and added Cetrotide, to prevent my body from ovulating. Things were progressing quickly! They scheduled another lab appointment 3 days later.
I spent lots of time walking and cuddling with my dogs, reading, writing, using a heating pad (which helps to create a warm space for baby), doing my favorite conception visualization, working and talking with friends. I cooked most meals to eat as clean as possible, including eggs, meat, rice and vegetables. I avoided caffeine and sugar and drank golden tea nightly. I felt bloated, boobs became more full and sore and I broke out a little bit, but overall felt good.
At that next lab appointment, it took the tech over 10 minutes to measure all of the follicles. (With PCOS, the ovaries are active and typically create a high egg reserve, so we weren't surprised that many were growing.) The nurse called to tell me I had 17 follicles growing, one already at 18 mm and an estrogen level over 3,000, meaning we were getting close to our egg retrieval. My body was responding quickly to the hormones. They asked me to go back the next morning to confirm next steps, which was so exciting!
However, they told me to lower one of the injections and I totally forget to tell John. Needless to say, I was a wreck, thinking I had f***ed it all up. I felt so stupid and became extremely emotional. There was nothing I could do at that point, so I had to let it go and hope for the best.
"We are so close now. breathing-trusting-letting go of control-love-present moment. I'm so grateful for the support we have. Everyone is so excited. So are we."
The next morning I went to my lab appointment and then headed to an acupuncture session to relax. She did moxibustion, which is a method of heating points on the body with an herb called mugwort. This helps to increase the flow of chi, warming up the body and increasing energy. She gave me moxa to bring home and do myself over the next couple of weeks.
The nurse called late in the day to tell me to do the trigger shot at 1:00 am and then go in for our egg retrieval at noon the day after that. I was so relieved and ready! I relaxed with John that night and found it so interesting that it was also National Infertility Awareness Week.
"I think about sharing that we are 1 in 8 couples that struggle, but I'm not ready to express that publicly just yet...I am very thankful for this opportunity to make this dream come true. We are so much closer to our baby in our arms."
We set quite a few alarms to make sure we were awake to do the trigger shot. (The trigger shot medication is called Ovidrel. This tells the body to prep for ovulation, even though it won't be ovulating. Instead, the eggs will be retrieved the following day under mild anesthesia.)
My belly felt incredibly full and heavy with all of those growing follicles, but I felt really good throughout the day. I worked and walked the canal with a pregnant friend. I told my family and close friends that the next day I would be slightly sedated and they would retrieve the eggs from my body. I had so much support and love. John and I felt really positive about it all.
I stayed up late so I could have tea and a snack since I wouldn't be able to eat the next morning and that's hard to do with blood sugar issues. I went to sleep and woke up feeling a little irritable, but trying to stay hopeful.
"I have some nerves knowing we see how many eggs we have to make embryos. I have a good feeling about it all-just so many emotions-physical, emotional, spiritual. Today we are making an embaby!"
When we walked out the door the next morning, a cardinal flew right by and sat in a tree on the side of our house. On our drive we listened to an interview with an embryologist, a scientist who is responsible for creating and observing the embryo. It was fascinating to learn more about the procedure we would have done that day. John went right in to do his thing and then they brought me back to check my blood pressure and oxygen. Then we met the nurse, anesthesiologist and doctor before they took me into the operating room, which was full of women. I lied back on the table and they applied an oxygen mask while they put my feet in stirrups. That is all I remember before waking up and learning that they retrieved 17 eggs, a very good amount!
The next day the nurse called to say that 9 eggs fertilized with John's sperm to become embryos! They scheduled me for a 5 day transfer rather than a 3 day transfer. This means that more cells would be created to become a blastocyst, with more chance of survival. So we waited and I continued spending time with family and friends and trying to stay calm. I also went back to taking Estrogen pills and started Crinone, a progesterone gel that is inserted vaginally daily. These help to build the uterine lining for the embryo to implant.
"We are so excited! Our babies are literally growing right now. This is happening. We are so supported and loved."
I had some discomfort in my ovaries and low back, but the nurse said it seemed normal. I had to take Tylenol and skip out on too much activity for a couple days.
"It's our BIG DAY! Absolutely beautiful outside-going to be the warmest day since fall. I just had my belly in the sun. My uterus is warm, nourishing, plush and ready to receive and nurture our blastocyst that will be transferred this afternoon.
I am going to be pregnant today. Wow-so f-ing excited-something we have desired for so so long...I have done the best I can and now it's beyond me. Let's do this".
Our transfer day was the perfect weather. We sat outside and ate lunch. Two lady bugs landed in the truck on our way to the appointment! I checked in and felt really calm after pre-acupuncture. The nurse reviewed the procedure and gave us a picture of our embryo, which was only the size of a fleck of dust! They started the ultrasound and then the lab door opened and another woman brought in the embryo. Then a catheter was inserted into my uterus with the microscopic embryo. We could see it all on the screen and she said to look for a sparkle. There it was! It looked like a shooting star. Then I went in for post-acupuncture to de-stress and we did a nature walk trail nearby. We felt really good about it all.
"I held my breath and gasped with tears in my eyes. Our embaby is in my uterus ready for implantation! It all blew my mind and is still a miracle in every way. It's mine and John's genes and love."
Now it was waiting for 9 days until our pregnancy test! I tried to take the best care of myself and pay attention to signs-more cardinals and a baby deer! Two days after the transfer, I had a dream I was 8 months pregnant around the holidays...I also had symptoms like cramping, back ache, and fatigue. Lots of signs in that time and I tried to trust that it meant I was pregnant, even without the positive pregnancy test just yet.
Saturday, May 12th was our big day. I woke up at 5 am to a beautiful pink sunrise while John and the pets slept. I couldn't fall back to sleep because my mind was racing. I was trying so hard to stay in that hopeful place and trust the sunrise was a sign. Because it was the weekend, we had to drive over an hour to get bloodwork. We took our puppy with us. When I walked into the lab, they had roses set up since it was Mother's Day weekend. I started to tear up. I had my blood taken and was told the nurse would call me later that day with the result. I got back in the truck with John and Dusty. We then headed home to get ready for my sister-in-law's baby shower. We were a little late to the shower and I decided to leave my phone in the truck so I didn't get the call while there.
AS SOON as I opened up the door to step out, my phone started to ring. I began shaking and my husband told me to answer it! I was scared to, but put it on speaker. The nurse asked how I was and then said, CONGRATULATIONS!
I can't even describe the emotions I felt. I just stared at John with tears in my eyes. I could barely speak. The nurse told me my hCG levels and scheduled me for more bloodwork in a few days and then they would book my first ultrasound in a couple weeks.
I called my sister and screamed that I was pregnant! She was with my best friend, Jess, out in California. They were so excited. Then I jumped out of the truck and hugged John and giggled. We then walked into the shower and I felt high on life. I just kept touching John and smiling the whole time. We then went right to my parents' house to tell them and I'll never forget their reactions. Their first grandchild...
The next day we took our first pregnancy photo! 4 weeks and 2 days. We then went to brunch with my parents for Mother's Day. Mom got me flowers and John got me a beautiful card. I sent family and friends that knew we went through IVF a poem I wrote announcing our pregnancy. There were so many tears and beautiful messages. It was such a special weekend...
I am so incredibly grateful for the support and love that has surrounded me through the years and ups and downs. Sharing my journey has been a healing experience and at times, very difficult.
However, I want to share that there is always hope, even when things seem so dark. You can never give up on something you desire so intensely. And things may not always go according to plan or on your schedule, but you need to keep trusting.
I know one of my life lessons is patience and this will be part of my journey waiting for birth and becoming a mom, any day now.
You can read about my first trimester here.
Thank you for being here,
Any advice or recommendations shared here is for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and each person is very unique so this is not to diagnose or treat you. But I am here to give support and encouragement wherever you are on your journey in life.