Making Baby Sonne: IVF Round 2: Egg Retrieval
Well, hello there. This is a long post. I wrote this as the days went by and I did not really edit it down. It’s a true account of my feelings (physically and emotionally) during egg retrieval and the days that followed.
Day 0: Egg Retrieval– Friday, March 17
With no food or coffee in our bellies, we left the house on a balmy St. Paddy’s Day morning. I cried in the car on the way to the fertility center. I was sad that I had to do this again, scared of the possible complications, and extra nervous that it might not work again… This wasn’t exactly where my head should have been. Somehow Jacob talked me out of being completely miserable (which is pretty difficult to do these days) and I tried to focus on the possibilities. Jacob and I arrived around 8:15 and filled out our paperwork and consent forms (this part takes longer than the procedure). I had the chance to talk to the doctor again before the retrieval and he comforted me. He said if we couldn’t get to my ovaries vaginally (because they hide), we would go through abdominally. He told me this time would be different; it would be better. I believed him and calmed down a bit. I was then visited by the lab people who told me to take care of myself by eating salty food and drinking a ton of Gatorade; in return, they would take care of my embryos. Jacob and I took some silly pictures of me in my hospital gear to commemorate the day. We’re really mature.
Soon, they came to get Jacob. They let him eat some food and get something to drink because he was being nice enough to not eat or drink in front of me all morning. Then he went on his merry way to contribute his half of the embryos. I waited a little while, having nice conversations with good people, before they came to get me. It was my turn to contribute my half of the embryos. I was introduced to the nurse and the anesthesiologist. I got comfortable on the table, put my legs in these awkward holsters, the nurse wrapped them up with blankets, and was told to lay back and relax. That’s the last thing I remember before the nurse was helping me into a wheel chair. I immediately started crying because I didn’t understand why they decided to not go through with the procedure. They tried to explain to me that it had already happened. My nurse helped me up and into a wheelchair and I finally realized, to my shock and amazement, that it was already over. I was really out of it. When the nurses were helping me move from the wheel chair to the recovery chair, I kept putting my arms up slowly. They would put them down and I would slowly raise them back up again. I said, “Why do my arms keep going up. I can’t stop them.” Hah! I also cried a lot back in my recovery room. I truly don’t remember most of that recovery hour. I do remember, however– very clearly, being told that they were able to retrieve 17 eggs this time! That’s ten more than last time. I was really pleased. 17 eggs on March 17, 2017! Luck of the Irish, perhaps? That has to be a good sign. That also means that only about 7 possible usable follicles were not able to be reached (as opposed to the 29 that were left behind last time). After the recovery hour and my goodbyes to the team, I left my eggs and Jacob’s swimmers in the hands of the professionals. I would know how many embryos we had the very next day. Upon walking out I almost fell—I was super dizzy. Even so, I already knew I felt better this time over the last time. I could walk without much pain and wasn’t sore (yet).
When I got home, I took the three flights of stairs really slowly. I had Jacob prop me up good on the couch and slept for a few hours. Later, my mom and dad made a corned beef brisket and brought me some for dinner. I was surprised how “not horrible” I felt. I was able to sit up and eat and slowly (very slowly) walk back to the couch. I was, at this point, thinking very positively. I had a good number of eggs retrieved and already felt pretty good.
Day 1: Post Retrieval— Saturday, March 18
This entire day is blurry to me. I was truly out of it—a sweaty, painful, bloated mess. Man, oh, man. I wish that positivity from the day before lasted longer than 12 hours or so. I woke up and couldn’t really move at all. My entire torso was extremely sore as if it were black and blue all over. There was no hope of getting up without major assistance from Jacob. I tried to walk and the only way I was able to was to be hunched over in half. At one point, for a good couple hours, my stomach pain was so intense it was taking my breath away and I wanted to writhe around, but I was physically unable to do that. I was hopeful that this was my body getting rid of some of the side effects of anesthesia… Without getting too graphic here, I took some stuff that might help me in the tummy department. It took a few hours to work, but eventually the constant sharp pains and utter discomfort became a bit more bearable. I was sore and miserable all day and couldn’t eat… I had important instructions to eat salty food and drink Gatorade, though. I was able to get the fluid in, but eating a meal didn’t happen. My IVF nurse called to tell me that 11 out of my 17 eggs were fertilized. I couldn’t be unhappy with that number—that’s 6 more than last time. Even so, I did have higher hopes. While on the phone with her, I told her about my “problems” and this early on she said it all seemed pretty normal. I slept on and off all day (and drank Gatorade).
Day 2: Post Retrieval—Sunday, March 19
I woke up and to my surprise the intensity of my pains had decreased. I wasn’t fuzzy and out of it like the previous day and I was *almost* able to get up by myself. My entire abdomen was still really sore, but sore like I did a bazillion sit-ups the previous day, not sore like I had surgery. The bloat was getting worse, so I weighed myself. To my horror, I gained 6 pounds. 6 pounds in two days. I had to email my nurse because I was told to inform them if I had a 2 pound gain… I was of course thinking the worst (OHSS). I had some major symptoms: weight gain, dizziness, bloat, sweating profusely, etc. I thought I should get checked. The office said they would see me the next day. While I was worried about the weight, I did experience some improvements though. I was able to go to the bathroom, I got up and walked around a bit, I was able to eat a paleo sweet potato and egg breakfast (good for increasing my protein, potassium, salt), and I got up from sitting on my own a few times. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was something! I was still very sleepy, so Jacob and I watched Harry Potter movies on and off all day and slept a bunch. Jacob has really been taking such good care of me and my dumb ovaries that don’t work on their own.
Day 3: Post Retrieval—Monday, March 20
I woke up at 1:45 in the morning with a little, smelly dog literally trying to climb into my face. There were really loud thunderstorms and hail causing a ruckus and poor Norbert is petrified of storms. I’m not a huge fan myself, and since I slept the whole day away before and had a scaredy dog on my hands, I didn’t fall back asleep right away. The storms lasted for hours. I maybe fell back asleep at 4 in the morning, which felt like a waste of time since I had to leave the house at 6:40 to make it to the IVF doctor by 8am. When I arrived, they saw me right away. My ultrasound tech looked around, checked all my surrounding cavities for fluid and examined my ovaries. The cavities were empty of fluid (awesome news), but my ovaries were still huge with many large follicles. This is to be expected with all the stimming meds still coursing through my veins. It will take a while for them to dry up and shrink back to normal. We’ll have to keep an eye on things, though. This is only 3 days post retrieval and I didn’t have cysts burst with major pains and OHSS until day 6 Post retrieval last time. My instruction were to keep on keeping on—business as usual: drink all the Gatorade, eat salty foods, rest, weigh myself, and don’t let myself get too constipated. Later in the day I got a call from the IVF lab. Surprise! One of our fertilized eggs was a slow grower, but it started dividing! We had 12 embryos instead of 11! We’ll find out on Wednesday how many make it to blastocysts. The rest of the day was more of the same. I slept on and off all day, I ate small meals of salty snacks, and drank my Gatorade. Me and Jacob’s binge-watching redirected to Lord of the Rings because we finished all of the Harry Potters. Nerds.
Day 4: Post Retrieval—Tuesday, March 21
I woke up early as heck and took my meds and tried to eat some breakfast. I didn’t last long before I was sleeping again. Surprisingly, I was still pretty worn out. Sleeping until noon wasn’t part of the plan, but that’s exactly what happened. When I got up for good, I had a panic moment. My right ovary was stinging and twinging. I tried to stay still and immobile until it let up. I didn’t want to have a cyst explode. That did no good. The pain never let up. I took my Tylenol with codeine in hopes that would help and it did not. My nurse said there’s nothing to do at the moment because I don’t have fluid building up and I’ll just have to wait for all of this to subside. I’m going to ask for further monitoring if I still have the pain tomorrow. I know it’s painful because the ovary is swollen and huge. It’s so huge, it feels tender to the touch as if it were pressing up right under my skin. I also know it’s huge because it’s pressing on my bladder, which makes me have to run to the restroom frequently. I thought I’d feel well enough to go back to work tomorrow, but it is pointless to push it. I don’t think I am ready to be on my feet all day with the kids. In the long run it is just not worth it. Last time I pushed my recovery and ended up in an ambulance and an ER on my brother’s wedding rehearsal day. I guess right now I just have to be happy I don’t have this pain in both ovaries. So, after I made the decision to not go back to work I realized I just made my life ten times more complicated. I was planning on teaching a very specific lesson and now I had to modify for a sub. Sometime making sub plans is more of a hassle than going in. BUT… I work with some of the best people in the biz, and getting everything together for tomorrow was made easy by some of my amazing coworkers who are always there for me. I love my job and my English peeps! I spent the rest of the night drinking my Gatorade and trying to be still as to not rupture a cyst.
Day 5: Post Retrieval—Wednesday, March 22
Today was my last day to lounge. I’m so glad I took it; I needed it. In the morning I had pain in my right ovary left over from the previous day. I was getting to the point I thought I’d need to go back to the office for monitoring again to see if anything has changed. However, by the end of the day I felt a little more normal than I have felt in days. I was able to do the dishes, walk up and down the stairs without much pain, and I even had a bit of a laughing fit (due to Jacob being his usual goofy self) without too much pain. I also got a call from the IVF lab. I was informed that 7 embryos were good to go (they were biopsied and frozen). 4 of them were still developing, but they were slow to grow. It was still up in the air if they were going to make it to blastocyst stage (which is where they need to be). I am a little disheartened by this. I had 17 eggs. This was reduced to 15 because two were not mature. Then our numbers dwindled to 11—then we unexpectedly jumped back to 12 for a minute… and then poof. Seven. That is only 2 more than my previous disastrous egg retrieval. I know this is how it works. This is how it is for everyone. Each cycle is different and sometimes the cards are in your favor and sometimes they are not. I was hoping/wishing/praying for better. I really hope those four still growing get their acts together.
Day 6: Post Retrieval—Thursday, March 23
This was a difficult day. I woke up early so I could get a close parking spot so I wouldn’t have to have a nice, brisk, long walk to the building. I had meetings and a bunch of administrative stuff to do before teaching and before I even saw my first class I was wiped out. I never really realize how much crap I carry around and how heavy it all is. Man, I am sore and tired! My students were pretty nice to me today… nicer than usual. I think they missed me. Some kids were actually overjoyed to see me. Haha! I don’t know if it was genuine yet, but I am thinking yes. I had to even run to the store after work because I was out of Gatorade. I probably did too much too soon today, but I didn’t have much of a choice. Spring break is around the corner and there are things that needed to be done before then. I also heard from the lab today. The four slow growers stopped growing. We have 7 embryos. It only takes one, so hopefully my future child is in this little group. Only time will tell.
Fast Forward to Day 12—
I’m feeling much more normal now. Every once in awhile, if I move to quickly or the wrong way, I’ll still get a twinge or a stab of pain in the ovaries, but I am practically back to normal. I’m still following my post-retrieval instructions of salty food and Gatorade because I just don’t want to chance it. I am not out of the woods yet. My ovaries still have follicles on them from stimulation and if I’m still tender, that means they are still a little enlarged. I don’t want to take any chances with cysts bursting. I have, however, traded in one type of pain in my reproductive organs for another. I’m currently experiencing ridiculous cramps from having my period. How wonderful and joyous it is to be a woman.
As far as next steps are concerned, I’ll know more about my 7 embryos soon. However, I won’t be having my transfer until late May. I’m going to recuperate and prepare myself for Baby Sonne, both physically and mentally.
As I’m writing and editing this, a few last thoughts are trying to escape my brain and jump into this post—
My first thought is that I hope people who are going through fertility struggles or IVF actually stumble upon this blog and gain some comfort in reading it. I want them to know they are not alone. I want them to know that I am not any more brave than they are. You don’t truly realize how much courage you have until you’ve already been thrown into the thick of it and by that point you don’t really feel brave because there isn’t another option. Battling infertility isn’t about being brave; I’m scared all of the time. This battle is about perseverance. For me, there’s no choice other than to persist.
My second thought (the one I am more hesitant to write) is for those reading who are not experiencing fertility struggles. I hope you read this and truly value and appreciate your circumstance (#blessed). Something similar to this whole two weeks of shots and stimming and this entire egg retrieval process happens quietly, naturally, and unassumingly within your body, unbeknownst to you, every month—whether you conceive that cycle or not. While the comparison isn’t 100% accurate, it is stark. I know you are more than grateful for your children, but I’d like you to appreciate the true miracle of the “behind the scenes.” Whether it took you one month or several, your body and hundreds of other factors all lined up for this one glorious moment in time when everything fell into place to achieve the unlikely event of fertilization. I’d like to hope that from reading this you’re able to be more sensitive—no, wait. That’s the wrong phrasing. I’d like to think that reading this will help you use common sense and a little more empathy. Consider that one-third of women you talk to didn’t have it as easy as you, for one reason or another. That’s a lot of women who might be feeling inadequate that you could possibly be alienating. Be mindful.
Update: We have four embryos. We do not know how many will be transferred yet, but we have a transfer date of May 20th! Wear mis-matched pink and blue socks for us on that day! #SocksForBabySonne