Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Process

During the last couple of years, whenever we talked with our friends and family about IVF, most were interested in the actual process of what we went through during the 6 weeks. Not just the emotional stuff, but the actual "what does IVF mean?" stuff.  It's been over a year since our last round, but I thought I would try to remember it all to share.

The IVF process starts well before the retrieval and put back.  We both have to get blood testing every year, which is always fun! They are checking to make sure our hormonal levels are within a decent range, and that we don't have HIV (no seriously, that is checked every time and is a very big deal considering the amount of body fluids, needles, and IV's that are involved throughout).  Once the results are received, I almost always have to go on iron pills and thyroid meds (although this year we are being smart and I have been taking the pills for several months now, GO ME!). Then we have to wait for my next period.  As soon as my period starts, I have to call the office and start on birth control pills (BCP) after a couple of days.

BCP's??  Isn't that the opposite of what we should be doing if we want to get pregnant?? Of course! But we take them to regulate the cycle and make sure I don't ovulate before my follicles and meds have had a chance to work. Which honestly isn't too big a deal, since I apparently no longer ovulate on my own. ;) When I called the office on day 1 of AF, I am given a whole schedule of meds and such that I have to take on specific days.  And believe me, it is a very specific process, down to time of day to the hour, that you have to follow, and it is tweaked specifically to the individual! There were times B and I had to give shots in a bathroom of a family members house or at a restaurant- always fun!

So after a couple weeks of pills, and shots, and every other to every day ultrasounds (even on weekends!), we finally get to the egg retrieval.  I remember the first time.  I was scared.to.death. All my life, until I found out I had IF, I have never been hospitalized or put under for anything. Never broken anything, had 2 minor sprains in 22 years (falling down stairs helping a great friend move out of her dorm, lol), pretty decent health all these years.  Then, in the matter of a couple of years, I was about to be put under for a second time (first being my laparoscopy in '08) and I had no idea what to expect.  

B had to "do his thing" that morning before we left, at my parent's house, which was just a little bit stressful; so we ended up running a bit late. Once we got to EVMS, there was no one in reception (it was well before normal staff comes in), and we were so flustered, we couldn't remember what we were supposed to do! We finally relaxed, went upstairs, and they separated us so B could make "the drop off" and I could get settled in the hospital bed.  We finally began to calm down, and I was scheduled to go second (there were 2 other retrievals that day).  The nurses were sweet as can be, very comforting, and explained everything they were doing as they did it.  B and I were laughing and in high spirits, taking pictures to remember everything by, because, you know, we were about to make a baby (ha!).  

The anesthesiologist came in, talked to me, started my meds, and then I am being wheeled back out after being in the operating room for about 30 or so minutes.  I had to rest for another 30 or so minutes before I was transferred to a wheelchair and taken to the car.  B took me home, and I spent the rest of the day relaxing in bed. So, overall, not a scary experience, but we sure felt like it was!

After the retrieval, we received daily updates of how our embryos were doing, and the transfer was scheduled.  I always work in between retrieval and transfer, and it helps a lot because my coworkers and sweet kids keep my mind off of everything (somewhat...).  Within a couple of days, it is decided if we will do a 3 day or 5 day transfer, and back to the hospital we go! 

For transfer, I am awake the whole time, and B is even allowed in the room with me. They take us back, and I am prepped for the transfer process.  There is a monitor on the wall where we can watch everything the doctor is doing, and we even get a pre-shot of whatever embryos are being put in.  We consider it "baby's first picture." A long catheter like object is placed directly into the uterus, and the embryo is pushed inside.  It's just amazing what they can do!

Afterwards, I have to rest again, then get wheeled out to the car for a couple of days of bed rest at home.  There is lots of cramping, some spotting, and a lot of care given as I relaxed and prayed over every moment.  Each transfer occurred the last week of school before holiday break, so I would then spend the next week or so going crazy at home.  

The two week wait before the blood draw is seriously the most nerve wrecking time of your life.  Every movement you make, everything you do, everything is called into question because "what if" you cause the embryo not to implant, what if that soda stopped everything, what if you spent too long in the bathroom, what if what if what it.  It makes even the most laid back, sane person super crazy.  And we all know any woman undergoing the IVF process is never sane and laid back during that time!

Eventually the day you are supposed to get the blood draw comes, and then you wait for the results.  And you either receive the happy call or the "I'm so sorry" call.  And if you are really lucky, you get the "Well, you *are* pregnant, but..." call.  

So, in a nutshell, that is the IVF process, minus a lot of big words, medical mumbo jumbo, and pain.  And I didn't even mention the shots and pills you go through during the two week wait! 

So, when you wonder just what I and many others are going through, it is a very physical and emotional process that can't really be fully understood unless you actually go through it. But your support and love is more than appreciated throughout! And believe me, at this point, I am more than happy to explain anything about the process.  Who knows, maybe I'll even let you take a stab at me with a needle ;)