Making Baby Sonne: IVF, Part II
This is a long post, folks. Grab a cup of tea and a comfy chair.
Day 0: Egg Retrieval– July 16th
Going into the IVF center, I was extremely hopeful (nervous, but hopeful). I was armed with over 36 follicles and I was hoping that most of those follicles contained mature eggs. However, I also went in knowing that my high number of follicles wouldn’t necessarily equate to the number of eggs I would end up with—and not even close to the number of embryos I would eventually have.
Jacob and I were taken to the room in which I would eventually recover when the procedure was over. We went through instructions for the protocol I was to follow after my retrieval and other paperwork that explained every inch of the process in great detail. I was also informed that I would know exactly how many eggs were retrieved before I went home to recuperate. I changed into my hospital gown and tried to relax a little with Jacob before going in. We were visited by my doctor, members of the staff, and even the embryologist (who explained in detail what would happen with my eggs, Jacob’s sperm, and the growth stages of our eventual embryos. He also discussed the reality of the situation—not all eggs would be mature, not all embryos would make it to the desired stage, and not all that make it would be healthy/high grade). While I already had an idea of all this, it was helpful to hear from the actual person who would be handling my precious cargo. Also, it is good to have realistic expectations, so I was glad to have had this chat.
It was finally time to go in. Jacob and I went our separate ways. I was going to be placed in a twilight state while being poked and prodded and Jacob was off to watch some dirty movies….
Once in the operating room, I was greeted by a wonderfully experienced and enthusiastic team. Most of the people in the room have been doing their jobs for over 20 years and it’s easy to tell that they’re passionate about helping women get their babies! I was in good hands. I was instructed to lay back, put my feet in the holsters, and relax. We joked about how, during IVF, there’s no such thing as modesty anymore. I was then given an IV in my hand. The anesthesiologist again told me to relax and joked that he would see me in a little while. I didn’t get what he meant at that time, but that’s the last thing I remember. All of a sudden I was up and aware and was instantly confused. I was being wheeled out of the room, but I hadn’t had my procedure yet. I asked the nurse if we were ready to get started. She giggled and told me it was over already and that they had retrieved 7 eggs. I couldn’t believe it was over before I even knew it began. We pulled into my recovery room and reality hit me pretty quickly. I was helped into my recovery recliner and I was intensely sore. I was still groggy and said a few strange things to Jacob and was crying a lot for no reason. He tried to get me to drink ginger ale with a straw, which was comical because I forgot how to drink. I was just sitting there with the pop in my mouth because I was afraid to swallow! The staff hooked my IV up to some fluids and some pain medicine to ease the pressure and soreness I was already feeling, and by this point I was slowly coming out of the haze.
I was all at once relieved and immensely sad. It was comforting to know that I made it out of the operating room with no major issues, but I was crushed that they were only able to get 7 eggs. After all, I had over 36 follicles. Where were the rest of my eggs?! Well, in typical Nicole fashion, my body didn’t feel like cooperating. Because my ovaries had grown so much, they shifted slightly and were both positioned in a way that made them difficult to reach. The ultrasound technician and the doctor tried several different strategies to try to move them around. They considered some other options, but did not want to risk piercing an organ other than my ovaries. So, we had to settle for 7. Some women only get a few, some get zero. I had to be happy that we had any at all and that my doctor wouldn’t risk causing me harm.
My instructions were simple enough. Go home and relax. Get the princess treatment. Increase my salt intake (to dry up the fluids in my empty follicles), replenish with electrolytes (overdose on Gatorade), and increase my protein and fiber intake, too. Simple enough, or so I thought. While leaving, I realized I had underestimated what I would feel like. Just walking to my car was agony. Every bump in the road on the drive home was excruciating. Sore isn’t the right word. I spent the rest of the day in bed getting the princess treatment. I did as instructed. Sleep, relax, drink my Gatorade, repeat.
Day 1: Embryo Count — July 17th
If you ever find yourself mentally preparing for egg retrieval, I want you to know right now that if you end up being the woman who can get right back to normal the next day, you are one of the rare lucky ones. While the process itself was not painful for me at all (because I was knocked out), the aftermath was not easy… not easy one bit. Be generous and give yourself days to recover. Days!
I spent most of this day being afraid to laugh, cough, sneeze, go to the bathroom, sit up, bend over, or move my mid-section in any way. I felt like there was a giant balloon in my stomach, too. The bloating was unreal.
I received a phone call from the lab and was told that two of my 7 eggs were not mature and unable to be fertilized. However, I had 5 gorgeous embryos growing away! FIVE mini, microscopic Nicole-Jacob combos growing in a dish!
Day 2: Cell Division– July 18th
The lab doesn’t call on day 2, but everyone was hoping that the embryos were doing their job in the incubator. Today the fertilized eggs begin dividing in what’s called the cleavage stage. Grow, embryos, grow!
At this point, I was still feeling pretty miserable. I was getting around better, but not much better. I spent most of the day trying to stay comfortable. Unbelievable bloating and TMI, but anesthesia + digging around in ovaries = unimaginable constipation. Lovely!
Day 3: Cell Division– July 19th
The lab called to tell me that my little ones are still thriving and growing. One embryo was at 8 cells, two were at 10 cells, and two were at 12 cells! Ahead of the curve! Good job, little embies!
Besides the happy news, there was nothing good about this day. I still felt utterly awful. I was being asked by the medical team to push the fluids and eat frequent small snacks, yet one sip of Gatorade had me bursting at the seams. Sitting was no good because any pressure on the mid-section is unbearable. Lying on the side was no good because the pressure had me feeling like my muscles would spasm. I was so uncomfortable; I decided to reach out to my IVF nurse to see if this all sounded normal. She told me to come in the next day for an ultrasound.
Day 4: Pre-blastocysts– July 20th
The lab doesn’t call this day. We just had to sit back and hope for the little ones to continue to grow.
I drove to the IVF center to get a check-up. They performed an ultrasound to rule out ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS). My ovaries were definitely enlarged, still containing many huge follicles. I also had a small amount of fluid in the cavity behind my uterus. This is what was causing the horrible bloating feeling and the pressure, but none of it was too out of the ordinary. No cause for major concern. I cried for two reasons when they told me this: (1) my hormones were running rampant (2) I was concerned because feeling this horrible just couldn’t be normal. However, my people are experts, so I was able to put my mind at rest. I just had to keep following instructions and eventually I would be on the mend.
Day 5: Blastocyst Stage– July 21st
I did not hear from the lab this day, but I expected as much. They told me they would call me on day 6, unless something occurred out of the ordinary.
I was feeling a little apprehensive because I had to pack to leave for Wisconsin. My brother was getting married in two days and I wasn’t healed/fully recuperated yet. I was still way bloated, I couldn’t get around really well, I was still pretty sore with the slightest pressure on my mid-section…. Needless to say, I was worried about how my body would handle a two-hour drive and all the jam-packed weekend activities of wedded-bliss that were to come! By this point, I really thought I’d be better by now—but everyone is different and each time people respond in different ways. How was I to know that 6 days wouldn’t be enough recovery time for me (especially when some people just jump right back into their daily lives)? On this day, I also had to go to the school board meeting to meet the administration and the school board members for my new teaching position. This is when I had a horrible realization…. I had to actually get ready, look presentable, and wear REAL clothes. For days now I had been living in yoga pants or leggings, so to my horror, I didn’t realize that my real clothes didn’t fit! I mean, I got them on, but they were oh-so-snug. I became a little paranoid that my bridesmaid dress (that I had to wear in two days) wasn’t going to zip! Panic moment! Anyway, I went to the board meeting, met some cool new staff members and the board, packed up the car with Jacob and the girls, and headed off to Mikey and Chelsey’s wedding weekend in Wisconsin! It was a treacherous ride in a severe thunderstorm on winding, dark roads, but we made it safe and sound.
Day 6: Blastocyst Stage/Freeze– July 22nd
I received a call from the lab pretty early in the morning, which is unusual. My heart dropped when I saw the number. Nothing to fear– only good news on the other end. Four out the five embryos were now fully developed and were either hatching (grade of 5) or fully hatched (grade of 6)! For those of you who know embryo grades, we received a 6AA, 6BA, 5AB, and 5BA. This means that none of them received a C grade (which renders them unusable). It also means that they are strong and healthy-looking under the microscope. The last embryo didn’t reach full blastocyst stage yet, but we were still going to watch him/her. There was still a chance for the little guy/gal to catch up. So far, so good. 4 out of 5 were frozen and waiting for me to be ready to transfer.
I was feeling pretty good to start the day. We went out for breakfast and I was actually able to eat a real meal without feeling like I was about to explode. We went back to the resort and got our bathing suits on. We all went swimming and met up with cousins and other friends and family in the pool area. The boys played bags and my mom and I got a little sun. Mikey and Chelsey finally arrived and everyone went for a cruise around the lake and took turns tubing. That wasn’t in the cards for me. I mean, just a little bumpy car ride hurt like hell. I didn’t want to risk it. I stayed back and got ready for the rehearsal dinner. I wasn’t feeling great, but I wasn’t as bad as previous days. I was thinking that I may have overdone it with the fun in the sun earlier. Too much too soon? Perhaps.
When we were all ready, we headed out to the Gazebo for wedding rehearsal. It was beautiful and I cried. Watching my brother take this momentous step in his life was overwhelming (and it was only practice)! Hearing him say “I do” tripped me up. In the back of my mind, I could still hear his cute, little baby voice that would mispronounce every other word and it made me miss being a kid and a big sister that he looked up to. I was sure to be a wreck at the actual wedding.
The wedding party and family then had a lovely barbeque on the patio and Mikey and Chelsey showered the participants with awesome gifts and keepsakes to thank everyone. It was all going so well.
I was sitting at a table talking to my girls when, out of nowhere, I started having these horrible pains on my right side/flank. It was radiating up and down and constricting, taking away my breath. I thought I was having muscle spasms, so I asked someone to go get Jacob for me. I could not even wait for that person to start walking away. I got up from the table and proceeded straight to my room. By the time anyone else got there to see what the hell was going on, I was writhing around in pain.
It was so intense and scary. I had no idea what was happening. Each time I took in a breath, the pain shot up and grabbed my breath away. I was nearly hyperventilating because I couldn’t get in a good breath. I was swearing up a storm, crying out in pain, and no one knew what to do. Was it the most intense back spasm ever recorded? I had no idea, but I knew it wasn’t right. I tried lying down, sitting, bending over the bed, kneeling, twisting—everything I tried intensified the pain. It was pulsating, crunching, swishing around. Jacob tried to massage it away and I nearly punched his face off. I tried the heating pad and it made it worse. By this time, a bunch of people were in the room, but I couldn’t see who was in there because my glasses had fallen off somewhere along the trail of pain. I looked up at who I imagined to have been Jacob and said, “I need to go to the hospital.” They called the ambulance and it was all downhill from there.
I was officially leaving my own brother’s rehearsal dinner in an ambulance. I was mortified—but I had no time to dwell on how horrible I felt for causing such a disruption to the joyous occasion. The pain was all-consuming. On the ride to the hospital, they had me strapped in. This almost gave me a panic attack because I needed to be able to move to ease the pain; I needed to stand up (which is a no-go in an ambulance). They did their best with me, even though I imagine I was hard to handle (I was swearing and fidgeting and writhing around and gasping for breath). They finally got an IV in and gave me morphine. Twice. It did nothing. When I was finally in a hospital room, I was able to get up and move, which calmed me down to the point where I felt I could breathe a little easier. The doctor asked me a bazillion questions. He was almost sure I had kidney stones and they sent me up to get a CT scan. No kidney stones.
Back in the room, where Jacob had been waiting anxiously, they set me up with an IV and gave me Dilaudid. This finally started to ease the gripping sensation of the pain. It was still there, but it was no longer constricting me. I also became pretty out of my mind. I was talking about crustaceans and insect wings and all sorts of random things. Jacob got a laugh out of that, for sure. I was messed up. After talking to my IVF doctor, an OB surgeon came in to tell me they think my ovary may be in torsion. This was not good. If the ovary twists, it can cut off the blood supply which could severely damage or kill the ovary. I would require immediate surgery. He also said I could have ruptured cysts. While still serious, that was the best option at this time, as surgery would not only keep me from missing my brother’s wedding, but it would also make conceiving a child that much more difficult with one less ovary! They took me for ultrasounds.
While on the table, I passed out. I had some crazy opioid dreams and woke up as the technician was asking me to get back in the wheelchair. My ovaries on the screen were so swollen, they were touching. I had never seen them that huge. However, neither was in torsion, according to the technician. She had to bring the images up to the radiologist before confirming anything, though. When I got back to the room, it was only moments before the doctor came in to tell me that I had a few cysts (or follicles) burst. It seems weird, but this was good news. No torsion! I have never seen Jacob so relieved before. Color flushed back into his face in an instant. However, we weren’t out of the woods yet. I was told this could continue happening. Many of my follicles were still very large (37+ mm). They like them to be no greater than 25 mm. My one ovary was 17 cm, which is comparable to a cantaloupe! And that was just the right one! Anyway, I was relieved I didn’t have to have surgery and that I wouldn’t be losing an ovary, but the blood and fluid from the cysts bursting (which was causing the pain) was still in there and would have to dissipate on its own. What would that mean for me on my brother’s big day (which was now only hours away)?! They prescribed some pain meds and sent me on my way. It was now 2 am. I was to be up and at ‘em at 7:30 am to begin wedding day preparations. What a night!
Day 7: Blastocyst Stage/Freeze– July 23rd
NEUHAUS NUPTIALS! WEDDING DAY!
I got up around 8 am and meandered over to the suite where Chelsey and the girls were beginning to do hair and makeup. Chelsey told me to go back to sleep and to come back a little later. I was so grateful.
I got a call from the lab around 9am to say the last embryo did not make it. Four. Four is my number. I’m putting all of my eggs into this basket of four– literally. For the next month or so, I will be hoping and wishing and praying that these embryos survive and that one of them will be our baby, our child, our bundle of joy!
Eventually I made it back to Chelsey to get ready. I felt like a nuisance all morning. I was groggy, slow-moving, and still in a bit of leftover pain. The girls didn’t seem to mind, but I still felt awkwardly aware that I should be doing more, contributing more, giving more, and being more present. I felt guilty for not being able to do that in the way I had envisioned and wanted to. As the day continued, I started to feel a bit more myself. Finally, we were all ready and set to go. It was time for Chelsey to get that dress on and get hitched! She was a vision! A beauty! The most breath-taking bride! It was time!
Oh, but then! It began to rain outside. Understandably so, this caused a bit of panic because the ceremony was set up outdoors. However, the staff was amazing and pulled off the feat of getting everything set up indoors within a half hour or so.
The ceremony was beautiful. My brother and Chelsey were married! I cried, he cried, everyone cried. It seemed in an instant my brother was now a man. And I had a new sister!
The bridal party ran around outside and took as many pictures as we could before it started raining again and then it was off for an evening of celebration and fun! Everything was gorgeous and the day turned out to be perfect. I did not have any cocktails and was unable to bust a move on the dance floor, as I usually do, but I was able to see the people I love all under one roof and ring in the new addition to my family, which was very special and heart-warming.
I left the festivities about an hour ahead of everyone else, just because I was so absolutely drained. My legs (from my hips down) were swollen like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It was quite a sight! Fluid collection/pooling is something to see! While it wasn’t the easiest mission, considering the circumstances, I made it through the whole day after being in the ER the night before. I was so ecstatic I didn’t miss anything and that I was able to be present for Mikey and Chelsey.
Today is Day 12, post egg retrieval, and I am still battling the bloat, the swelling, the discomfort, and the pain from the cysts rupturing. I’m taking it one day at a time, and getting better.
Baby steps. Pun intended.