2020 has been a myriad of things for
most all of us. Personally, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions (mostly joy) at the news of a successful IVF transfer earlier this year, and the anticipated arrival of our baby coming this December. After almost 5 years of trying, I still get overwhelmed by the blessing of being able to carry our second child (aka I cry, a lot). It’s taken me most of this pregnancy to sit down and put into words what this journey through infertility and IVF has been like. But just like many things in life that are pivotal moments in our story, this too is worth documenting to look back on and see how our story continues to unfold. I wanted to share my journey through infertility that led us to IVF for two reasons: one, to share and inform so others might not feel alone in their personal story and two, so I can remember our story and what brought us our precious second baby.
How do you condense years worth of emotions, injections, appointments, procedures and infertility timeline into just one post? I’m still not sure and will try my best to inform in a helpful way without being too long winded (but we all know cliff notes aren’t my strong suit;). Nevertheless, I continue to feel compelled to sit down and share my thoughts and our story through infertility.
Whether it’s for personal reasons of processing through emotions I didn’t even know I was feeling or publicly sharing in hopes of helping others feel less alone in their struggles, I hope my words offer some benefit in whatever way they need to. This will more than likely be a lengthy post, so thank you in advance for reading in kindness as I share just what it means to me to be pregnant again, the success of our IVF journey, and the infertility obstacles we overcame to get here.
A Journey Through Infertility
In 2013 and 2015 I experienced two miscarriages, but even through the pain of those losses we were still able to conceive naturally with a healthy pregnancy and experience the birth of our son, Brooks. Fast forward over the next 5+, we had no luck of conceiving with little to no answers as to why. Thankfully for us, there were no physical barriers keeping us from getting pregnant, we just weren’t.
In 2016 when we lived in Washington, we sought out the professional help of an IVF doctor for more answers and possible solutions. After meeting with our doctor, I was quickly diagnosed with Secondary Infertility, which to be honest, still left so many unanswered questions. Turns out somewhere along our infertility journey I had irregular ovulation cycles. With a combination of his and her testing, I was placed on Clomid as a less expensive and less invasive first option. With no changes or success, plus an upcoming move across the country, we decided to put our journey through infertility on hold until the timing in our life felt right again.
After settling down in our new home in Tennessee, in early 2018 we once again sought out the help of an IVF doctor with the Nashville Fertility Center. After more testing (and still no straight answers as to why we were having trouble conceiving), we were informed that our best options for getting pregnant were the IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) route. Even though that time in our life still wasn’t right for us financially to grow our family we felt thankful with a plan for when that time came to grow as a family. *I’ll touch more on financial options below in the Q&A.
Failed IUI Attempts
In January of 2019 we embarked on our next phase of our infertility journey with our first attempt at an IUI. This procedure is far less invasive, physically demanding, time consuming and financially taxing than IVF. Not to take away from the financial, physical and mental drain (all) infertility procedures can have on a couple or woman, but if have this option I highly recommend trying it first.
I’m thankful we had the opportunity to try this route first as it was an important part in my infertility journey to cross off as a successful option. With IUIs, you are still required to prepare your body for an upcoming procedure through the guidance of your clinician. This may mean oral medication or, in my case, a few injections perfectly timed with your body’s cycle and the day of the procedure. I can’t speak on behalf of others’ experience, as each woman’s body has different needs based on bloodwork, diagnosis, and/or cycle timing. For me, it was a few fairly easy injections to prep and prime my ovaries to release as many juicy eggs as they could on the day of the IUI procedure.
On the morning of the procedure, Geoff made his *er* donation to the lab while I prepped myself in a regular OB exam room. While laying still on an OB exam table and legs in stirrups, the nurse inserts a catheter to help guide the sperm through your cervical opening and into your uterus to their potentially new happy home. I laid still on the table for about half an hour after and went on about my day. For me, it was way less invasive (and uncomfortable) than a Pap smear and way more exciting of results. The waiting time is no different than as if you are naturally trying to conceive – a few weeks later you take a pregnancy test and hope to see those two lines shining back at you.
IVF Prep and Fail
After two failed IUI attempts we decided to take the full plunge into our infertility journey and begin the IVF process. We were told how much more of an extensive process this was and, what we felt, thoroughly educated in the finances and physical steps over the next 6-9+ months. After an educational class, you’re set up with a financial advisor of sorts to help guide you along the expenses of IVF and what options you have along the way. After years of waiting, we were finally in a place to comfortably afford the costs of IVF, but I was pleasantly surprised with all the financial resources available for couples trying to conceive – I want to encourage you to not let finances be a deterrent for you if you’re in a place of seeking IVF.
After the required educational portion and setting up our financial plan we were finally ready to begin prepping my body for our IVF journey. Stage 1 of body prep for me was 7-9 abdominal injections a day with weekly vaginal ultrasounds to check on the status of how these injections were affecting the growth of my follicles. The hope: lots of growing, juicy follicles (this can range greatly for each woman) in preparation of retrieval in a few weeks. The reality: my body wasn’t responding the way they’d hoped for the injection plan I was on so we cancelled that cycle and the next step of an egg retrieval.
While I didn’t have anything physiologically wrong with me preventing me from conceiving I did find out I have a low ovarian reserve (low egg count) for my age. This meant the odds for a healthy embryo after retrieval was much lower than most women, but all we were praying for was one…one healthy embryo for our IVF transfer. Even with these statically low numbers of success, we still had hope for a baby. Just like it ‘just takes one time’ to conceive a baby, I also applied that same thought in it ‘just takes one embryo’ for IVF success.
Egg Retrieval Success
Call it your body’s intuition of knowing or God’s perfect timing, but in April of this year we were given one of the most incredible piece of news of our lives – *shouts from a mountain top* our IVF embryo transfer was a SUCCESS! But before we got to the news of success, there were so many steps and professionals in our corner getting us there, and I will be forever grateful for them all. Even with infertility looming, Geoff and I both had such a positive experience through our IVF journey. From our doctor and his nurse, the administrative staff at Nashville Fertility Center, to the anesthesiologist and embryologist on day of egg retrieval and transfer…each played a vital role in our experience. They were each given the gift of expertise and passion to be in the field they are in and it showed. I still think of them as little vessels from God helping us along our journey through infertility and the success of IVF.
After the failed retrieval that fall we regrouped with another injection plan in hopes of a successful egg retrieval to follow. With a few adjustments made to a new cycle, we set forth with weekly visits, egg counting and watching how my body would respond. With the help and ingenuity of tweaks in my new cycle, my body had responded positively – we could move forward with an egg retrieval! My body had produced about 13 potential good eggs for retrieval, which we were very happy with – to give perspective of this number and low ovarian reserve, some women are able to retrieve upwards of 30+ eggs for fertilization.
Even with the help of science you quickly see how God’s hand and the miracle of conception is still very real. Statistically we were hoping for ONE healthy embryo after the egg retrieval and fertilization period. To keep things simple, from where we started with total eggs retrieved to final healthy embryo count it was truly an act of God. With 13 eggs retrieved, statistically you are hoping for 50% of those to be fertizilied successfully – we had nine!
While some couples decide to stop there and hope for a successful implantation, Geoff and I opted for genetic testing of these new embryos. With genetic testing, you are increasing your chance of a successful implantation (for my age, 37) from roughly 40% to over 60% success rate. However, you are still breaking down the total viable embryos down by at least 50%. After our 9 embryos went off to genetic testing, three came back genetically healthy! THREE. Remember when we were just hoping for ONE healthy embryo?? And just to further praise the miracle we experienced, a celebrity shared her IVF story during this same time. She was able to retrieve over 20 eggs and of those 20, one was viable. I’m not a mathematician, but the perspective that gave me (and one reason why I’ve been a puddle of weeping joy this past year) was more than enough to have an overwhelming sense of gratitude through our infertility journey and IVF success.
When I think about the numerical breakdown of our IVF outcome I still get overwhelmed with the miracle of it all. We’d been trying for over 4 years and we were both so thankful to even be in a place where we could even consider IVF as an option. Geoff and I were very happy as a family of 3 and had decided before we began our IVF journey that we would accept a potential negative outcome and may not try again. But as the story goes, God had his plan already perfectly mapped out for us.
In early April of this year, at the height of the COVID pandemic nonetheless, we were given the option to move forward with our embryo transfer before the clinic would have to shutdown temporarily. With a little twilight IV and James Taylor playing in the operating room, we set forth on our first embryo transfer. The procedure itself was fairly quick and easy, especially compared to the egg retrieval where you are completely sedated and uncomfortable afterwards. Just like any other conception, we waited a few weeks for a successful implantation and positive bloodwork at the doctor’s office. With much prayer and *attempted* patience, WE WERE HAVING A BABY! It’s still so surreal to me, just typing those words. Something we’d prayed for for so long was finally here and had become a reality.
To help continue the success of a viable pregnancy, I was still required to administer progesterone shots in my upper buttocks area up until week 14 of my pregnancy. Thank the Lord for Geoff because I think that was one of the toughest parts of my pregnancy. Not only did he administer all of them, but he carried the weight of our family for
most all of that time. My first trimester was already pretty rough with nausea and extreme exhaustion and I think the progesterone enhanced that immensely. Thankfully Geoff was working from home because of the pandemic and I was able to sleep through most of May and June. Having him by my side through this infertility journey and IVF has been another blessing I’ll always cherish.
We’re Having a Baby!
No matter how you get there, becoming a mother is truly one of the greatest gifts I believe we’re given from above. Being a mom to Brooks has taught me, humbled me, challenged me and filled me in ways I could’ve never (ever) imagined. Geoff and I are completely overjoyed with the news of bringing another sweet miracle into this world. We knew the gender on the day of the transfer, but I’ll go more into that on a later post. I can’t wait for our precious one to be here in December. It’s been a long road, but one that feels perfectly timed for our growing family. Looking back at our lives over the last 5 years, I’m so incredibly grateful for God’s perfect timing of our second child. Our journey through infertility and the success of IVF has given me more than it’s taken, including a loving and supportive community we can lean on.
A special thank you to my friends and family for all the love and support you’ve given us over the years. It’s filled my heart and given me strength in ways only you knew I needed. And thank you to LtL community for following along and reading about my infertility journey and IVF success, I hope it’s brought clarity and answers if you, too, are struggling – know you are not alone.
Below are some frequently asked questions from friends and followers. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask below or by sending me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org . I hope this post helped meet you were you are or in the very least helped you learn something you didn’t know already.
Q: Isn’t IVF expensive?
A: Yes, it’s pricey and may not be for everyone, but with the financial aid and scholarships available (we learned about through our IVF class) there are a number of options to make it more affordable.
Q: Did your health insurance help with cost?
A: Unfortunately ours did not cover infertility, but I would always check with your insurance carrier to see if they do. Some actually do which can be so helpful with the cost of all the labs, injections and procedures.
Q: Do the shots hurt?
A: Ok, y’all I’m the weirdo that breaks into a sweat and may have passed out from shots in the past. That being said, administering the shots myself in my abdomen did not bother me one bit. Most are small insulin needles that don’t penetrate the skin deeply. The ones that can be a tad painful are the progesterone shots that go in your upper buttocks. Those have a longer needle and you are injecting a thicker oily substance that can burn a bit, but still not too terrible.
Q: What caused you to keep going?
A: I’ve always wanted 3 children, but what I want and what God has set out can be two very different things…and to be honest, what he’s set out has always been better. With that being said, I just always knew I wanted to at least try for one more. With us being in a place to comfortably afford trying infertility options, I knew I wanted to give IVF a chance. If it didn’t work out for us, I would’ve known that I’d tried and was just as content as a family of 3.
Q: What is something you can say to someone going through infertility?
A: Great question. Don’t add the pressure of it needing to be ‘the perfect thing to say’. I think everyone, regardless of what they may be going through, just wants to feel support by simply asking ‘how are you?’ Other questions might be: How is IVF going? Are you open to talking about your infertility journey? When is your next appointment? How are you feeling today? What can I do to help you during this time?
Q: A friend of mine recently had a positive test after her IVF journey. Tips on how to be there for her and her family. What I should be sensitive about. Ways to encourage and lift her up.
A: How absolutely wonderful for your friend!! To piggyback off of the answer above, when it comes to showing support, I really don’t think you can wrong go with just showing up, reaching out, asking how they are. I think we sometimes think asking questions is invasive to someone’s personal space, but I find that by just asking someone instantly feels supported and less alone in whatever it is they are going through. We don’t have to have gone through anything similar, but we can all understand the basic need of support and community when we are struggling. Showing up in any way you are able to, I think is a good place to start.
As for what to be sensitive to, this is a tough one as everyone’s sensitivity can vary…I know mine does daily at times. 🙂 Just showing up and being a friend is sometimes all we really need, if you feel you crossed a boundary in some way, just address it by apologizing, as you didn’t mean X to be insensitive. I also find it helpful to remember not to be sensitive to someone’s reaction when they are in a rough season, we can’t always be at our best…when we’re not at our best.
Thank y’all for submitting your questions. I hope they help. Just know you are already a good friend for asking ways to better serve your friend in time of need. ❤️
Lemons to Love,
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