First Cycle – What I Never Imagined about IVF Treatment
Editor’s Note: This is the third story in Katie’s series “My Battle with IVF”
It turns out it’s harder to write about my experience with IVF when all your hopes and dreams are riding on this complicated and drawn out procedure, when you’re faced with so much uncertainty. But, I promised to be honest and spare no detail, even when the details are hard to talk about.
I’ll start from the beginning.
A cycle of IVF really begins once you start taking the nightly injections of hormones. The hormones are used so that you create as many eggs as possible, rather than the one egg a woman usually has each month, creating multiple opportunities for viable embryos to transfer. I wasn’t afraid of the injections themselves, as a person with type 1 diabetes, I kind of have that part down, but I was concerned about how they’d make me feel. Would I be an emotional wreck? Cry all the time? Be uncomfortable in my own skin? It turns out the answer is: D) All of the above. I can attribute some of the emotional roller coaster to the actual stress of IVF. It’s a lot. A lot of appointments, a lot of medications and a lot of worry as to whether this will be the cycle that works, or if it will ever work. What I was most surprised about was how I felt physically. The best way to describe it was that I was a dulled down version of myself. I felt like I was in a fog, I was distracted, disassociated. But, mostly, I was uncomfortable. Creating 20-30 eggs is no joke, and I felt weighed down by what was going on in my body. This meant I could not wait to get the egg retrieval over with.
They call the egg retrieval a “procedure” which made me envision getting a cavity filled at the dentist or something similar. But, it really is a mini-surgery complete with anesthesia and, turns out for me, a long recovery time. It was painful and took awhile to get back on my feet, but we had 12 little embryos as a result, so I was able to look past the pain and towards our Day 5 transfer of the best embryo. However, on Day 5, there was no “best embryo,” just a lot of pretty good ones, so they pushed us off to Day 6 to try to give them more time to develop. As we were getting in the car, on our way to the transfer, our phone rang. There would be no transfer; we didn’t have one stand-out embryo. We’ll have to try again in January. I’m not sure that “devastated” is a good enough word to do justice as to how we felt. We had been so hopeful and so positive, and now we had nothing. We were left only with the fear that this would happen again, and again and again.
In the two weeks since the phone call, we’ve done blood work and additional testing to figure out why this happened and how to prevent it from happening again. We’re still waiting for results, but are trying to be positive and prepare for our next cycle in January.
In the meantime, I’ve made a list of lessons learned from our first cycle and what to expect from the next one:
- Sometimes your body just knows it needs to cooperate. When I was taking the hormone injections, I assumed my blood sugar would go crazy. My body being unfamiliar with estrogen levels 400 times more than usual. But, it’s as if my diabetes knew that for now, it couldn’t be the priority and it was nothing but (mostly) straight lines on my Dexcom.
- The process of retrieving all of the eggs that I had produced over nine days of injections? IT HURTS! My doctor assured me that the day of the procedure I’d have pain similar to menstrual cramps and be back to work the following day. I’m not quite sure what most women go through each month, but this was a level of pain that I am not familiar with. I couldn’t sit up straight for two days, missed three days of work and had to shuffle around for close to five days. My diabetes management really took a back seat this week, which only added to how awful I felt. Needles to say, not exactly counting down the days to do this again.
- Fertility treatments will test your marriage. As I mentioned, IVF is stressful. It’s hard on your body, but even more so, it’s a mentally and emotionally draining process. Luckily, I married my best friend and he has been able to hold it together for us when I let myself fall apart. If anything, this process has allowed us to grow stronger as a couple and more prepared to deal with life’s uncertainties.
- I’m stronger than I thought I was. We’ve all heard it before, “I don’t know HOW you give yourself shots every day, I could not do that!” or “I’m so scared of needles, I’d be the worst at diabetes!” Well, it turns out when it’s the only thing keeping you alive, you’ll do pretty much anything. While IVF isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s the only way we’ll have kids of our own. So, if I have to do this one more cycle of five, I’ll do what I need to do. If that makes me strong, then I’m strong. But, I’m pretty sure that anyone who wants to be a mom as much as I do would do the same.
Read Part I IVF and Type 1-A New Journey Begins, Part II Learning to Live with Fear, Type 1 & Fertility Treatments and Part IV The Waiting Game