What to Expect With IVF: Passion and Pain

When my husband and I were 28, we’d already been married for 5 years and for all of those 5 years, we knew we didn’t want to have children. When I asked my gynecologist for a tubal ligation, she refused because she thought I might change my mind.

She was right about that, but she was also wrong to not recommend alternative long-term birth control. At the time, I didn’t even know about IUDs and if I’d had one placed, we might’ve saved thousands of dollars.

Instead, we saw a urologist who agreed to provide Ivan with a vasectomy. Problem solved. Or so we thought.

Fast Forward to “We Want a Baby”

We started really talking about it when we were 31, but it was a couple more years before we had insurance that would cover the vasectomy reversal operation. After the procedure, the lab results were very positive, leaving us optimistic about our chances of conception.

A year and a half later, though, we weren’t having any luck and new lab results showed that our chances of a natural conception were dwindling. Hopes of a newborn baby and a happy family were fading with every disappointing month. At 34 years old, I felt a biological urgency to intervene.

Our next stop was the fertility clinic where the doctor recommended IVF treatment. Within days, my prescriptions were delivered via mail order: boxes and boxes of medications, bags of needles, bags of syringes, bags of alcohol wipes. They filled a drawer and a corner of my refrigerator.

Well… I was warned there would be injections.

IVF treatment hormone injection

NEEDLES

A couple months before my 35th birthday, I was at my first IVF appointment. That’s when everything started to fall into place. I began the hormone injections. At first it was just one every morning; then there was another added in the evenings. I was getting bloodwork and ultrasounds every other day, then every day.

Admittedly, part of me enjoyed the treatment initially. Everything was uncomfortably, from the steady stream of daily injections and blood draws, to the invasive, internal ultrasounds. Even so, I couldn’t deny the excitement that went along with it. A baby! We were really doing it!

But the excitement ebbed as the discomfort creeped in deeper and deeper with every needle. The procedure consumed my daily activities and thoughts. I was anxious and uncomfortable. My clothes were tight from the swelling in my abdomen. (Little did I know that I had 7 mature eggs and more immature from the hormone stimulation.) I wasn’t allowed to run anymore for fear of ovarian torsion, so my daily exercise was put on hold. The garbage was full of alcohol wipes and a biohazard-red sharps container sat on our countertop.

IVF treatment hormone injection

Eleven days after my first appointment, I was put under anesthesia for egg retrieval and Ivan provided a semen sample for immediate use. The doctors collected 8 eggs. Of those, 7 were mature. Of those, 6 were successfully fertilized. Of those, 4 went to blastocyst (the stage needed for embryo transfer).

The day after my egg retrieval, I began taking nightly progesterone injections—an important hormone for maintaining pregnancy. It’s delivered via a monstrous, 1.5-inch, 22-gauge, intramuscular needle. It could be a lot worse though. The injections go in your upper butt and you can numb the area first with a cold pack. It’s actually totally manageable once you stop freaking yourself out.

Our IVF embryo

Embryo Transfer

Five days after my eggs were retrieved, I returned to the clinic and watched on screen as a single embryo was transferred into my uterus in the blink of an eye. Then I went home, hopefully pregnant. That day, I began taking estrogen patches. I applied three patches to my abdomen (to be changed every other day) and continued taking the progesterone injection. Soon I had sticky dark outlines all over my abdomen from the patches, the skin raw and red from the residue, and hard lumps and bruises on my buttocks from the injections.

Estrogen patches for IVF treatment

I had to wait 10 days before returning to the office for a pregnancy test. The doctors told us not to buy an at-home test and risk a false response. I adhered to the recommendation and those were some of the longest days of my life. Every day we dutifully injected the progesterone and every other day, I tore the old estrogen patches from my tummy and applied new ones. I tried to find ways to distract myself, to do anything but dwell on the possibility of a tiny little life fluttering inside my belly.

Pregnancy Test

Finally the day of the pregnancy test arrived. I had blood drawn in the morning and then we went blueberry picking, as if anything could distract me from longing for those results. The call came early afternoon. We were pregnant! I ugly cried.

After the call, I decided to take an at-home pregnancy test because I had one in the cupboard and I’d never had the chance to produce a positive test. The second wave of disbelief, happiness, and consuming joy that came from that single test was incredible. For days I was grinning and waltzing around, floating on the realization that we were going to be parents.

Our first positive pregnancy test

The following year, in mid-April, our daughter was born, forever changing our lives and granting us unconditional happiness.

Newborn baby after IVF

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