I often think that the beauty of life is that, if you’re open to it, you can constantly learn, evolve and grow. I find that as I get older I’m learning more and more things about myself; things I’m good at, things I’m not so good at but want to improve upon and how I handle certain situations.
The thing that I have learned the most from this third cycle of IVF is how strong I am. I have never considered myself a strong person, in fact, I’m a downright wimp at times. I’m an extremely emotional person and cry at the least little thing and although I wouldn’t class myself as a pessimist, I am definitely a realist and tend to look on the bleaker side of things rather than evoke positivity.
It’s true that when we started this cycle of IVF, I felt very negative. I was convinced it would all go wrong again, and I spent many a sleepless night going through all the possible scenarios in my head and the daunting journey that we had before us. I was fixated on the worry, the stress and the pain that was to come. Looking back however, I know now that all these feelings were based on one overriding emotion. Fear. Going into something like IVF is scary because you have no idea what the outcome will be. In fact, the odds are very much against you, so trying to be enthusiastic and energised about a process that you know is going to be so physically and emotionally draining, with a success rate of only around 25%, is really hard.
However, once we actually got going with the cycle I felt better. As with many things, the thought of something can often be worse than the thing itself, so we got through the down regulation with no problem at all and then started our hormone injections after a successful baseline scan. At that stage, the clinic will do an internal scan and inform you of how many eggs they think you’re likely to produce based on the number of follicles on your ovaries. I have read of other women going through IVF who have produced 20 or 30 eggs, but I have always been a low producer; possibly due to my age, but it’s so important to remember that you only need 1 good quality egg, so a high number doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a better position. Again, I’ve known of women who’ve had 30 eggs recovered but maybe only 6 have fertilised, so we were in no way put off that it looked like I potentially only had 3 or 4 on each ovary.
As ever, the hormone injections are not great, especially when the second one is added in. It is a bigger needle so stingier going in and has a clinical smell about it which is hard to get rid of. Dave played nurse again and he enjoyed having his part to play, even if it was stabbing me in the stomach every night! Since men have such a small (but important) role in IVF, I think it’s nice to have Dave do my injections. It really makes him feel involved and part of the process.
Due to the injections making you feel pretty rubbish, it’s very easy to want to just take it easy every day, and I admit this is what I have done previously. You just feel so tired and bloated, however this time I was determined to try and push through it as much as I could. Although I wasn’t able to hold Roman on his lead, I went out with him and Dave most evenings for a walk and I must admit it was really nice just to stretch out my stomach. As the days wore on and I had more hormones in my system, it got harder, but we just walked at a slow pace and even just getting some fresh air was great.
As usual, during the second week of the injections I had a scan at the clinic every other day just to check on progress and make sure I wasn’t over-stimulating. By the second scan it was obvious that the eggs were growing at quite a fast rate, therefore my egg retrieval was pulled forward by 3 days. The ideal size for the eggs is between 18-22mm. Any bigger than that and they can become over-mature and therefore no use for fertilisation purposes. The frustrating thing is that the eggs don’t all grow at the same pace. By my second scan I had 2 on my left ovary that were already quite big however on my right ovary I had 3 or 4 that were growing nicely, but still needed a few days to be within the correct size bracket. Thankfully it’s not our decision to make regarding egg retrieval; you just have to leave it up to the experts, but they determined that my rate of growth meant that the eggs on my right ovary should have sufficiently caught up enough by the time egg retrieval came around 2 days later.
I must admit I did feel very worried about the amount that they were going to recover. It’s easy to tell yourself over and over that you only need 1, however in the past, our fertilisation rate has been around 50% of eggs recovered. Therefore, if they only recovered 4, we might only have 2 that fertilise. Then the ones that fertilise don’t always do well in the lab and may die off, therefore I was worried we might end up with nothing.
We headed in for the procedure last Friday and were so lucky with the team we had in the ward. The doctor doing the procedure was one we had never had before but he was really lovely and a nice calming influence, the embryologist was also a very nice girl and the nurses in the theatre were ones we knew and liked very much. We had such a good laugh with the nurse looking after us on the ward and she really distracted me from what was about to come. She also gave me the good drugs, so of course she instantly became my best friend!
It never ceases to amaze me how sensitive my body is to any type of medication. Literally within minutes of taking the 2 temazepam I was telling Dave something and I just started slurring my words! He looked at me and said “what?”. I just replied, “I don’t know” and lay down on the bed! I then got another painkiller intravenously so those as well as the 2 paracetamol and 2 ibuprofen I’d been told to take before the procedure, I was ready as I could be for the pain to begin.
The procedure was over very quickly and I must admit that although it was painful, I don’t think it was as bad as the last 2 times. The embryologist came to see us on the ward afterwards and told us that they had recovered 6 eggs, which we were delighted with! It was the same number as round 2, therefore we felt a sense of achievement that we hadn’t done any worse.
We were discharged within an hour or 2 and I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. I managed to get up in the evening though and actually felt ok. I knew the pain was always worse the next day though so I was prepared to have a quiet weekend.
On Saturday morning, the embryologist phoned to let us know how many eggs had fertilised overnight. This was a nerve-wracking time as the information they give you could make or break the next stage of the IVF process. However, we were absolutely delighted when they told us that 4 out of the 6 had fertilised. In fact, it was really 4 out of 5 as they had discovered once we left the hospital on the Friday that one of the eggs was not as it should be, therefore we only really had 5, so to have such a high fertilisation rate was fantastic news.
The plan was that they would phone us again on Monday morning to let us know how they were progressing and to make the decision about when we would do our embryo transfer.
It was at this stage that I realised that things were actually going quite well. And I felt positive. This feeling was very unusual for me where IVF is concerned, but I was actually almost enjoying the process and feeling proud of what we had achieved so far. I also had very little pain on Saturday and Sunday, which I just couldn’t believe given that in round 2 I couldn’t even stand up straight on the day after egg retrieval. I felt sure that my positive attitude combined with the wonderful reproflexology I had been getting was the reason for this.
Despite not doing too much over the weekend it was nice to just feel relatively pain-free, and we even managed a trip out to a castle on Sunday. It was a lovely distraction and walking about in the fresh air did me the power of good.
Yesterday morning we got a call from the embryologist again to give us a progress report on our embryos. As with the eggs in my ovaries, the embryos don’t all grow at the same rate, therefore we were told that there was 1 “winner”, who was doing really well and had already divided into 8 cells. There was another very strong one who only had 6 cells but seemed to be on the cusp of dividing again. The other 2 were still growing but not dividing as they should (they were dividing in odd numbers instead of even). Therefore, it was unlikely that those 2 would grow past a certain stage.
As ever, the age-old question of whether we should do a day 3 transfer or a day 5 transfer arose. I have discussed this at length in previous posts, but to summarise, evidence shows that if your embryo can grow and divide in the lab until day 5 post egg retrieval, it has a better chance of survival when you put it back into the womb. This is because it has progressed further on and achieved certain milestones on its own. This is called a blastocyst and usually results in a higher chance of success.
The danger is however that if you leave your embryo to cultivate to day 5, it may not make it and therefore you could end up with nothing to transfer back. That would be our worst nightmare therefore we have always opted for a day 3 transfer. And that’s not to say you can’t get pregnant from a day 3 transfer. Lots of people do, and we did last time! We just didn’t want to risk going through all this and then having no embryo at all, therefore we headed in yesterday afternoon for our embryo transfer.
Another consideration is whether to put 1 or 2 embryos back in. There are lots of schools of thought on this, some positive, some negative. We know putting 2 back in may result in multiple births which comes with increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth, not to mention a whole host of other problems, however, this is to be our last round of IVF so we really wanted to go out with a bang and give it our best shot.
So yesterday afternoon around 2pm, our 2 darling little embryos were dropped into my womb where hopefully they are now settling in nicely.
The plan for the next 2 weeks is to relax, think positive thoughts, continue with my reprofelxology and do everything I can to make a comfortable home for our babies. For the first time ever we were given a scan photo of our embryos sitting in my womb, so I keep looking at that and trying to imagine those embryos turning into our children.
Overall, I have surprised myself this time with how much I can take. This isn’t me being full of myself as there’s usually no-one who is more down on myself than I am. But I am a strong person. If I approach everything with a smile like I have been doing, then the rewards come back on me ten-fold. I feel really positive, relaxed and happy. With these embryos inside me I feel like the mother that I know I’m supposed to be. The amazing lady who does my reproflexology said to me yesterday “believe in yourself”. And you know what, I do.