IVF Cycle #2: Are We There Yet?

As of this morning, I’m on my 9th day of ovarian stimulation. At this point I’ve given myself over 40 injections, had 5 ultrasounds, done 6 blood draws, and spent many, many hours in the car. I think I’ve finally reached that point in my treatment cycle where I feel as though I’ve hit. a. wall.

There is so much going on in our lives and around us, but I thought that if we just kept pushing we could finish this cycle with minimal impact while still juggling everything else. But I am exhausted, I need a break, and I’ve only just reached the point where my monitoring appointments will go from being every other day to every day. I remember feeling similarly in my last cycle, probably within the same time frame, but it seems even more grueling this time around.

I knew it wouldn’t exactly be easy driving an hour each way to get to the clinic, but I hadn’t imagined days like last Wednesday, when we spent about 2 hours inching through traffic on the turnpike just to get to a half hour appointment. The medication has been pretty tough on me as well, something I only vaguely remember. Living with chronic illness obviously complicates treatment for me, but even with thirteen years’ experience of dealing with fatigue on a daily basis, feeling like I could barely move or even keep my eyes open last week was difficult. So of course, that was also finals week for Kyle. Thankfully, in anticipation of both our treatment and the interviewing process falling around this time, he was able to work ahead, which helped us survive an appointment schedule of Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday (Kyle’s), Friday, and Saturday mornings.

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Waiting to see the doctor with my polar bear good luck charm.

Then, after my early morning appointment on Saturday, we packed up the car and drove to the coast to spend the weekend in an area where we might be living by the end of next month. I was sure I would somehow forget a needle or something I’d need for one of my injections, therefore throwing off my entire cycle while we were away. We did need to mix medication and inject by iPhone flashlight to avoid waking up the light-sleeping toddler in our hotel room, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Naturally, I woke up with debilitating nausea from the meds just before meeting with the people in charge of hiring. Kyle got Ross ready to go, packed everything back up, and checked us out while I stayed completely still until about 30 seconds before we walked out the door. It was a very long day, but we got through it and made it home for another monitoring appointment this morning.

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Running out of room!
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Injecting by flashlight in the hotel.

As far as my follicle growth has gone, I have been consistently on track. Wednesday’s appointment showed that, unlike my first cycle, this time I already had two measurable follicles (above 10mm) by Day 4 (a change from Day 10) and my estrogen level was exactly where it should be, or as my nurse said, “Dr. K got your dosages just right.” I am on a high level of medication, starting with the highest dose I ever took last time (Gonal-F 300iu and Menopur 225iu) and staying there instead of jumping around all over the place like I was used to. Because of this, I’ve been able to feel things happening since about Day 2-3: twinges, pressure, pulling, and some pain around both ovaries. This morning was the first time I could just barely feel them through my skin.

On Saturday, the doctor who did my ultrasound was the same one who had done my egg retrieval three years ago. It was the first time I’d seen him since then (well, technically, I was knocked out then, so I didn’t actually see him), and it was so nice to be able to say that we had a son following treatment. His estimation is that I won’t have my retrieval until Saturday, but I am really hoping my follicles are ready by Friday at the latest. For one, I don’t know how much longer my terrible veins can hold up to the frequent blood draws. At my last appointment it took them three tries to hit something, and this morning the nurse took one look at them and went to grab someone else to do it. I’ve already got bruises around most of my decent veins, and it stresses me out thinking about trying to get something from them every day for the rest of the week.

Now that we’ve been watching my follicles grow in size and number for more than a week, I’ve started to let myself think about the actual eggs inside them– how many will there be, and have we done enough to help the quality? For as much as I am anxious to be done with this phase, I know that there will be an emptiness once everything is over. Working towards treatment has kept us busy for a long time, but progress through the surrogacy process will come to a screeching halt by late May. If I need to do a second IVF cycle (something Dr. K feels is a likelihood), we wouldn’t be able to move forward again until at least August. This summer we’ll be focused on finishing the interview process, making some tough decisions, and a small inconvenience called moving. If, by some miracle, we do have the embryos we need at the end of this, we are stuck here until we have a gestational carrier. Even at that point there will be psych evals, background checks, weeks of contract negotiations, medical clearances, and seemingly endless appointments and meetings before we could get to an embryo transfer. Realistically, even in the best of circumstances, we probably won’t be able to complete all that by the end of the year. Everything is still so far away.

So, for as tough as this time is, I am comforted by the fact that we are still making progress, still getting somewhere. There is nothing I hate more than the feeling of standing still, of not having the option to keep moving. There’s only one way we can reach the top of this mountain, so I’d rather keep climbing.

 

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