Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IVF, Part 2

I am sitting in Barnes and Noble, drinking a hot chocolate, and feeling pretty normal for the first time in weeks.  My IVF is done.  My embryo transfer was two days ago, and when it was all over and the doctors and nurses left the room, I lay on the exam table with Ryan by my side and cried—tears of relief that it is over, tears of hope from the news that my embryos were great quality and we had several left over to freeze, and tears of exhaustion after such a strange and stressful month.

It’s been intense, that’s for sure.  In some ways, it feels like it’s been the longest month of my life, and in other ways, it feels like it was just yesterday that I found out my ovarian cysts were gone and I could start the IVF drugs.  It’s hard to believe how many medications, injections, doctor appointments, invasive procedures, and drives to Utah I’ve packed into the last six weeks.  It’s all a little disorienting, and I feel like I haven’t processed it all—like I just robotically went through the motions and followed the checklist from my doctor without allowing myself to feel much of it.  I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that our bodies and minds engage in so we can get through some of the most overwhelming experiences of our lives.  But now that it’s all over, I want to take at least a few minutes to sit down and figure out how it all felt.  And I guess I’ll start at the beginning…

My first medication was a nightly shot that “quieted” my ovaries before the process of follicle stimulation began.  This lovely medication gave me uncharacteristic flashes of anger but mostly made me feel totally overwhelmed by the daily tasks of life.  The IVF nurse told me that this drug drops your estrogen levels and essentially puts you into extended PMS.  Fun, right?? 

Though those first few weeks were difficult, I was still home in Twin Falls and if I kept to my routine of getting out of the house with Noah—grocery shopping, kids’ class at the YMCA, post-naptime stories—then I was okay.  I wished that I had my sisters or my closest girlfriends around to distract me during those anxious days, but I discovered that I really like yoga and I started going to a local class twice a week, and I also allowed myself to cut corners whenever the overwhelm started to press too heavy.  (Not feeling up to making dinner? Café Rio it is!)  I had the distinct impression during those weeks that lots of family and friends were praying for me and that their prayers were buoying me up—that they were carrying part of my burden.  I felt so grateful.

Then I added the follicle-stimulating hormone shots, and initially, I didn’t feel too much different.  I even looked forward to my upcoming week in Utah for doctor appointments because my mother-in-law would have Noah in Pocatello, and I thought I would enjoy my kid-free week.  I scheduled visits with friends and family and envisioned having lots of time to journal, blog, read, and rest. 

I’m glad I did most of my visits within the first two days that I was in Utah because after that, I completely hit a wall.  Those next several days were, without a doubt, the hardest part of my treatment.  The hormones really started taking their toll, and I felt weepy, fuzzy-brained, crampy, dizzy, and bloated—not to mention bruised and tender from three shots in the stomach every evening.  Perhaps worst of all, my elevated estrogen levels gave me insomnia, so even though I was absolutely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep at night.

During this time, the injections became more involved, and the dosages increased and changed each day depending on what the doctor was seeing on my ultrasounds and in my blood work.  I was in charge of measuring and administering my medications, and I constantly worried that I was going to mess something up.  I am a worrier by nature, but I think the hormones increased this tendency, as I found myself fretting between appointments that something dramatic was going to go wrong with me medically and the doctor wouldn't catch it in time.  I have an irrational phobia of medical problems (I think because I witnessed my mom's thirteen-year battle with cancer), and all of my fears became magnified when I was on the IVF medications.

One night, I hit a blood vessel when I did a shot, and as blood oozed into a pool on my stomach and my head started to spin, I wanted to lie right down on my brother-and-sister-in-law’s kitchen floor and burst into tears.  I didn’t—because for some reason I always feel like I need to keep it together in front of other people—but I did excuse myself to a corner where no one in the living room could see me and lay down for a few minutes until the world stopped spinning.  

And then I stood up and gave myself my next shot.

I missed Ryan, I missed my own bed, I missed my normal routines.  I felt very alone.  Though I was surrounded by people who were concerned about me, I still felt alone.  I often felt the prompting that God understood and was aware of me, and I tried to pray and tell him how I was feeling—but it was hard to put it into words.  I usually just stayed on my knees for a few minutes by the side of the bed, my head on the edge of the mattress, and let the emptiness that I felt do the talking.  I think God understands those kinds of prayers too.

In the midst of all of this, I had beautiful moments with my loved ones.  My sister-in-law was expecting a baby any day, and I loved being with her during a time of such excitement.  We went for a walk on a lovely autumn day and talked about pregnancy, life, and motherhood.  My brother-in-law read me lame Laffy Taffy jokes while I was doing my shots to get my mind off the pain.  I received phone calls or texts every few days from my best friends in Buffalo who have done IVF and who know what a difficult and lonely path it can be.  One of my closest friends from college spent a few days with me, and she was so attentive and concerned about me.  We went shopping and she helped me pick out some stylish brown boots (my first pair of boots ever!) to wear with my church dresses.  Though my body ached and my brain felt fuzzy during most of our outings, I was so grateful for the distraction.

How, with all of this amazing support, did I feel alone?  I don’t know, and I honestly feel a little weak and ungrateful admitting how lonely I felt.  But it’s just something about fertility treatments—about the realization that no one, not even your husband, is as invested in this journey as you are or will ever understand what it feels like to have the most sensitive parts of your body examined and to have medications that mess with your personality and emotions pumped into your system.  But one thing I know for sure is that this process would have been much harder without the love and support of my family and friends.  I am so grateful to them and for them.

My mother-in-law brought Noah to Utah a few days before my egg retrieval so we could be together, and as excited as I was to see him, he was very out-of-sorts from so much change to his routine.  We were both exhausted and overwhelmed, and he screamed every time I put him to bed and threw tantrum after tantrum when he didn’t get his way.  I kept telling myself that we would be home soon and back into a consistent, stable routine, but it didn’t keep me from stressing out about his behavior.  Thank goodness Sally has been so willing to help with Noah this month—it has been such a blessing to live close to them during all of this.   

Finally, finally, Ryan arrived in Utah the night before my egg retrieval.  Noah and I went outside to greet him, and Ryan scooped Noah into his arms and we stood under the stars with our arms around each other.  “Family snuggle!” Noah said, as we wrapped him into a tight hug and looked up at the moon.  This was one of the perfect moments—those moments that remind me why I am doing all of this, that remind me that building a family is worth whatever effort it takes to get there.

Once Ryan arrived, the worst of everything was over.  Even the egg retrieval and my subsequent recovery wasn’t as bad as that week of shots and appointments in Utah.  Several of my friends have done IVF, and I think it’s so interesting how our bodies have responded differently to each step of the process; for some of them, the hormone shots didn’t affect them very much but the egg retrieval was brutal.  For me, it was the opposite.  Of course I was uncomfortable and swollen, but I’m fortunate that my body was able to bounce back fairly quickly and I didn’t suffer the debilitating pain that some of my friends have experienced with that procedure.

After the retrieval, as we headed back to Idaho, I lay in my reclined seat in the car and texted so many friends and family who had been asking for updates about my procedures.  I was overcome by the realization that I am blessed—so blessed—to have all of these people to update.  I glanced in the backseat at my little Noah, who was sound asleep in his car seat and clinging to his monster blanket, and then I looked at my hand in Ryan’s on the center consul of the car.  I squeezed it tight.

It’s been a week since the egg retrieval, and we’ve been back to Utah for the embryo transfer, and now we are back home again, ready to resume our normal lives.  With the exception of a few hormones I have to continue taking to give me the best chance at pregnancy, IVF is over—which is kind of hard to believe. 

And what’s perhaps even harder to believe is that as I sit here with my mug of hot cocoa, only days after my treatment has ended, I find myself thinking, “Was it really that bad?”  I think this is another defense mechanism employed by our minds—minimizing the pain after the trial is over so we will choose to do hard things again in the future.

The truth is, it was that bad.  It was hard—really hard.  But now that I’ve written all of this down, made some sense of it and captured some of the worst and best moments in words, I can let the pain fade away.  IVF is over, at least for now, and we are so fortunate to have had strong embryos to transfer and several more to freeze. If I don't get pregnant this month, I won't have to do the shots all over again because we will have the frozen embryos to use. I am grateful beyond words for that. 

So now we wait.  We wait two weeks for a blood test that will reveal whether or not we’ll be welcoming a baby to our home in nine months.  Oh how I hope and pray that a little one is on the way to us.  But no matter what that pregnancy test reveals, I know that we will be okay—

Somehow, we always are.


  1. Wow, what a process. Thanks for sharing with us. We have been thinking of you often.

  2. I can't even imagine the emotions that went through you during this process. Thanks for sharing and I'll continue to send happy thoughts and prayers your way. Your faith and relationship with Heavenly Father is so refreshing. Good luck!

  3. I love love love your honesty pretty much about everything and I adore reading your blog. You are great. And yes, I am your biggest blog stalker. :)

    1. I love blog stalkers! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  4. Wow, beautifully written. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. Still praying for another little one to join your family. You really are amazing.

  5. I just love you so! I'm grateful the process is over for you and pray you welcome a baby in 9 months. In fact, I'm calling the temple right now.

  6. Not sure all the reasons I am bawling after reading this but for one I know I really really love you and am praying for you. You are right that building a family is worth whatever it takes to get there and you are right about things really being THAT bad while they are happening, even though after they are over we can somehow remember it as less atrocious than it really was. Thanks for the perspective--I needed it today. :)

  7. So well written. I love how at the end you catch yourself thinking it wasn't so bad. Why do we do that? Hoping for the best!

  8. So well written. I love how at the end you catch yourself thinking it wasn't so bad. Why do we do that? Hoping for the best!

  9. Praying for you!!! My favorite part of this post was this: "I usually just stayed on my knees for a few minutes by the side of the bed, my head on the edge of the mattress, and let the emptiness that I felt do the talking. I think God understands those kinds of prayers too." That explains how I have felt often and you put it into words beautifully.


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