This is IVF… An Expensive Dream, You Don’t Know if it Will Become True.

Nov 2, 2021 | This is IVF...

Words by Kristine Bartholomew | @baby.b.journey 

January 2020: Tyler and I had been married for 3 years and together for 7. There were conversations about our dreams to have children and start a family, but neither of us were in any kind of rush. We were living the dream, traveling across the world, and we were happy as can be. We had a safari planned in South Africa at the beginning of the month. We decided that we would be ready to start trying after we got back from Africa. It was perfect timing, and it was kind of our last “hurrah”. To prepare for the trip, we took antimalarial, and we needed three months to clear the malaria pills before we started trying.

February 2020: Tyler and I went to a fertility doctor to take basic tests to ensure we were healthy to try and start a family. We got the OK. Tyler’s sperm was normal, and all of my tests came back ok. They suggested doing a FemVue test (to ensure my fallopian tubes were open) if we couldn’t conceive for at least 6-12 months. 

March 2020: We started trying after two months. Our thinking was we could use this month as a practice go – it most likely wouldn’t work – but at least I’d have a feel for ovulation schedules and ovulation sticks. In hindsight, this was an incredibly stupid idea. What if we had gotten pregnant and the malaria pills hadn’t cleared our bodies? It was my impatience that led to an utterly dumb decision. 

June 2020: After four months of trying unsuccessfully, the impatient being in me decided to go ahead with the FemVue test. I remember laying there, the doctor and nurse were trying to squirt some kind of liquid through my tubes to see if it would exit — it didn’t. I found out that day my tubes were blocked with scar tissue and I needed surgery to open them back up, to have any chance at having a baby naturally. Because of Covid, I was at the appointment alone. I didn’t cry at the office, but I think I shed a few tears in the car on the way home. I was just in shock. 

Then I cried again while telling Tyler the news. But I think it was just overwhelming and anxious tears because I was actually very hopeful for the future. I thought we wouldn’t have any more complications after this. They’d open my tubes, we’d either get pregnant right away, or we’d try IUI shortly after, and boom, our family would start.

June 26th 2020: I went in for surgery to try and open my fallopian tubes. This was my first time going fully under anesthesia. It was a long procedure; I want to say maybe six hours.  I remember waking up and asking Tyler if the doctor was able to open my tubes, he just shook his head slowly, and that was that. My fallopian tubes were gone. I didn’t cry right then. Maybe it was the anesthesia still wearing off or maybe I still had so much hope for the future. Ok, no more fallopian tubes? Whatever. IVF, here we come. I’m gonna knock this out of the fucking Park.

August 2020: I started all my meds and hormones for the big egg retrieval. For me, the daily shots weren’t bad. I was on the road quite a bit, so I remember doing these shots in my hotel rooms, in the car, and once in the airplane, as they were all-time sensitive. The only shot that I couldn’t do myself was the progesterone shot in my butt with an inch and a half needle. That required Tyler’s assistance, who, mind you, is not a fan of needles by any means.

August 31st 2020 – I went in for my egg retrieval and went under anesthesia for the second time. I knew I had a good number of follicles, and it wasn’t an issue, but knowing what I know now, I was incredibly blessed to be able to retrieve twelve eggs. I had no idea some people only got a couple or God forbid, some people got zero! They were able to retrieve all twelve eggs.

Eleven were mature enough. Nine fertilized. Then we had to wait a week to see how many survived and became blastocysts – we had five blastocysts! We sent those five blastocysts in for genetic testing (something that I didn’t have to do since I wasn’t 35 yet, but we just wanted that extra level of comfort in knowing we did everything we could). Three came back genetically normal – two boys and one girl. I was on cloud 9. Hell yeah. Everything is working out. I knew it would. We were scheduled for a November transfer, which would give us a July baby. YES, pool parties for birthdays it is. 

Sidenote for my egg retrieval: Navigating IVF with a career as a pilot was hell. I only have fourteen days off a year and that goes towards vacation, sick days, and medical leave. 

Weekends don’t count as off days for me. It’s fourteen days off – total. It sounds painful, but it really isn’t. I’m typically on the road one weekend a month, but I’m on call the rest of the time, so scheduling anything is tough. I had blood work done on a Friday morning before my egg retrieval. A few hours later, I was flying to Traverse City, Michigan. I had an airline flight home Saturday morning to make it to my appointment at 10 am. The doctor’s office called me on the way to the airport and told me I had to be in their office by 9 am. Well, that wasn’t going to fucking work with my current flight, so I scrambled, found another flight out of another city, and was going to make it by 9 am. The doctor’s office called yet again and informed me that I actually had to be there by 8 am now. WHAT! There was no way I’d make it. They then told me I’d be sacrificing the entire procedure if I couldn’t make the appointment. Wow. I was crushed. Ten thousand dollars in medication down the drain. Not gonna let that happen. I landed in Traverse City, Michigan, at 10 pm. Got a hotel room until 2 am. Got a taxi to Grand Rapids, MI, made it there by 4:30 am, to catch a flight out at 5:30 am. It was hell to say the least. But I was proud that I got it done and I just knew everything else was going to work out perfectly. It had to.

Look at all the effort I’m putting in!

September 24th 2020: I was at a routine appointment with my doctor to check my lady parts. My doctor found polyps on the lining of my uterus right where he was planning on implanting the embryo. I needed to get them removed before the embryo transfer. It seemed like we were going to have to delay my transfer another month (to December) so that we could get this surgery done in time. I said no way, no how. We are getting this done in November (the impatient part of me again). I begged and pleaded for a surgery that would allow me to keep my November slot. They called a few hours later with a slot for the following day. Done. I’m ready. 

Let’s do this.

September 25th 2020: I went under anesthesia now for a third time to remove the polyps on my lining. It was a simple procedure similar to the egg retrieval. It was quick and easy. I remember thinking afterwards, alright, got that out of the way, hell yes. This transfer is going to be fucking perfect. That evening, Tyler expressed his admiration for me and the go-getter that I am, and he was thankful that I was able to weather this storm like a champ. “Surgery? Sure! Can we do it tomorrow?” We celebrated with sushi and sake that night. I never needed much recovery time 

after my surgeries, I was usually back in the gym a day or two later, much to my brother and sister’s demise (who own the gym).

November 12th 2020: The day we’ve all been waiting for was here! I was excited, nervous, anxious, scared – every emotion possible. This was going to be the start of our journey to becoming a family! My appointment wasn’t until the afternoon, so I got my nails done, I popped a valium, then I was ready to rock. Tyler was able to come to this appointment, thankfully, and together we watched the embryo get released into my uterus through a catheter (to be honest, I don’t think I saw shit), and I went home to begin my five days of bed rest. 

Six days later, I took a pregnancy test and it came out negative. It was still really early, and I had used a pregnancy test my aunt gave me (it came in a box along with her IVF supplies she no longer needed), which was probably ten years old. I blamed it on those two things and went back to sleep. For some reason, I had an urge to go get the pregnancy test out of the trash can, and I saw a very, very, very faint second line. I was ecstatic! I tested again on day nine and got two positives. Again on day ten and got another solid positive. I was so confident going into my blood work that week, I was not surprised one bit when the nurse called to tell me I was pregnant. Life was good. Everything was working out just like I knew it would. This was it! This was the start! AHHH! 

December 15th: Tyler and I had our first ultrasound. You always hear horror stories about not hearing a heartbeat and all that crap — but that would never happen to us. Or so I thought. We went in, they lubed me all up, and on the screen was our little sac. I thought that was a good sign! But concern screamed in everyone’s eyes as the nurse and doctor were moving the wand around, trying to find anything, ANYTHING inside that sac. It appeared to be empty. The doctor said it was still a little early, so he wanted to check us again in a week. He was cautiously optimistic. I heard optimistic. I’m going with that. It’s just a late bloomer, all good, nothing to worry about. 

December 22nd: Tyler and I went in for our second ultrasound and the sac was still empty. The doctor confirmed that this would be a miscarriage. What in the actual fuck just happened? I was pregnant! All of my blood work confirmed it. What the fuck! Apparently, it’s called a blighted ovum, and it happens 50% of the time. WHAT THE FUCK! The embryo attached and started growing, sac and placenta were growing, and at some point my body absorbed the embryo. The sac and the placenta continued to grow, giving my blood tests false readings. I cried a little in the office. I cried a little when we got home. But I was still hopeful. It happens so often, more often than people realize. This just wasn’t the right embryo at the right time. Not to worry, we had two beautifully healthy embryos left to try with. We were good. Not the end of the world. 

We didn’t schedule the D&C (basically an abortion) until after Christmas, so I could somewhat enjoy the holidays with my family. Besides getting really drunk, I’m not sure how good of a time either of us really had. The hardest part was, we were still mourning the loss of Tyler’s mother, 

who had passed away the day after I took that first pregnancy test. It was a whirlwind of emotions to say the least. 

December 28th 2020: I went in for my D&C and went under anesthesia for the fourth time in six months. I was becoming a pro at this shit. It was painless, quick, and easy. Painless, meaning physically painless. Emotionally Tyler and I were a wreck. We didn’t know how to cope with so many emotions and didn’t know why this was happening to us. To make the situation extra shitty, Tyler’s grandpa passed away on New Year’s Eve. What a shit year. 

I needed to give my body time to recover after everything it had been through in the last six months and the doctor recommended waiting two menstrual cycles. TWO? That’s fucking forever! But, it all worked out because it gave us time to do a few more tests on the chromosomes and to my body, just to ensure everything was right the second time around. I thought it was going to feel like forever before April came, but it flew by — with the help of family, friends, my birthday, and a week spent in San Diego. Tyler really knew how to keep my mind busy, that Saint of a man.

April 8th 2021: Before we knew it, it was April 8th, and it was time for our second transfer. I was feeling 110% confident. We had done all the tests we needed to do. I waited the two months like they asked me to, what could go wrong?! This is our time! I got a call from the doctor an hour before the transfer and he told us the first embryo did not survive the thaw, which is very, very rare. Tyler and I were too shocked to be mad or sad. We gave them permission to thaw the third and last embryo. We didn’t say much to each other after that. I think we were both internally freaking out but trying to show strength and support to the other. On the way to the doctor’s office, we got another call. Oh fuck. We’re turning around and going straight to the bar if this one didn’t survive either. It survived, thank God! We got to the office and they threw another curveball at us. They told us the first embryo actually did survive a bit (I’m still confused on how it survives a bit, but whatever, I didn’t ask) and they wanted to transfer both embryos in me since the survival rate is 50% if we decided to try and refreeze the embryo. Tyler and I talked it over and there was no hesitation that we were going to transfer both. We watched the embryos drop into my uterus again, only this time looking for two little dots on the screen, again I didn’t really see shit, but the nurse kindly pointed at a white blob similar to 100 other white blobs on the screen. This was it. This was our time. We’re having twins! Ahhhh!!!!

April 14th 2021: I took a First Response Early Detection pregnancy test and got a very faint line – it was positive! But, it was really early, so it could also be the HCG trigger shot that I had taken on Monday. Either way, a good sign.

April 17th 2021: I took a First Response Rapid pregnancy test and that very faint line got even fainter. Uh oh, bad sign, That’s either the trigger shot wearing off, or I was pregnant and it went away. I think they call that a chemical pregnancy. But I was also convincing myself that the early detection tests have a very low threshold and test 6.3 units of HCG and the rapid tests up to 50 units. So it would make sense that it’s lighter right? I don’t know. I still got a positive line, so I was feeling ok. Not good, but ok. 

April 18th 2021: I took a First Response Digital test and it came up negative. I took another dollar store brand and it came up negative. I tested again the next day and it was negative. 

Tested again the next day and it was negative. 

April 21st 2021: Here I am, waiting for the doctor’s call to let me know if I am pregnant or not. 

That call will come in approximately six hours. Six excruciating hours to go. For once in this process, I am at a loss for words. I’ve held it together through four surgeries and bad news after bad news, but I have not stopped crying for the last four days. My husband and my sister are hopeful and optimistic. I’m realistic. 

April 22nd 2021: We got the call yesterday and the second round of IVF failed. I’m devastated. 

How could this be? How could this happen to me? How could the first embryo stick but not the second or third? How could I have two embryos put in me and not have ONE survive? How could I be on my last embryo? How… was a lot of my questions at first. Then the questions led to why. Why is this happening to me? Why didn’t it work out? For the first time in my life I know how it feels to not be good at something. I know how it feels to fail. I know how it feels to feel like a failure. The hardest part is not only feeling like I let myself down, but I let my husband down, and I let my parents down.

August 24th 2021: We waited two menstrual cycles before proceeding with another egg retrieval. I went into this retrieval with so much confidence but my body wasn’t responding to the meds as well, and they said I only had 7 follicles. On retrieval day, they were able to retrieve 11 eggs. 11 were mature. And 11 fertilized. That was amazing news, 100% success rate so far. I was beyond ecstatic.

August 31st 2021: We got the call that only 2 eggs made it to the blastocyst stage. That was devastating. We decided to send them both off to PGT testing and I know the chances of both coming back normal was very slim. I was praying for one. 

September 15th 2021: We got the call that both embryos came back from PGT testing normal! We had a 6BB and a 4BC waiting for us! 

We are now scheduled for a frozen embryo transfer on Nov. 11. It’s going to be a good day.

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