I belong to a pregnancy after infertility group on Facebook and we each wrote up a bio of ourselves and our journey. I know there are a lot of you who have been following me for a long time, but I thought it would be interesting to post my bio, because the whole journey is here all in one blog post. Look, I even linked some past posts for your enjoyment. Someday, when my sweet baby is old enough, I will tell her exactly how much love and hope we had for her, long before she was conceived.
My husband Chris and I started dating in 2004 and were married July of 2008. I was 22 when we got married. I was in nursing school at the time, so we waited until I graduated a year later “because I don’t want to be pregnant in nursing school.” I went off birth control May of 2009 and after using ovulation kits with timed intercourse without success, I went to my primary doctor in October of 2010. She did some basic tests, found nothing wrong and referred me to an OB/GYN. I was soon diagnosed with low progesterone as my 21-day progesterone level was 1.97. I started Clomid (unmonitored) and it made my progesterone go up to 16.5, but no pregnancy. I did three cycles of Clomid before we decided to take a break.
In January 2012, I went to a new OBGYN and did 4 more rounds of Clomid. Looking back… I probably would have seen an RE earlier, but A) I was clueless and B) I was scared of the cost.
Finally in November, I got a referral to CRM and we made an appointment. We had a $10,000 lifetime max on infertility treatments and another $10,000 for meds. Our first IUI with Clomid (again with the Clomid already) I ovulated early and we were told to do TI after my trigger shot… on Christmas Eve and Day. It was incredibly sexy and I am being incredibly sarcastic. We proceeded to do three actual IUIs that were back to back, all with Clomid and progesterone, all negative. When we conferenced with the doctor, it was determined that the next step was the big scary IVF.
In April-June of 2013, IVF became a reality. However, in May, right before we were starting the cycle, our insurance company informed us that all the past claims they’ve been paying for the IUIs “never should have been paid” and they weren’t going to pay for anything else going forward. Remember Puppy Killer? Something about our clinic not being a “clinic of excellence” (even though CRM is the best clinic in Minnesota as far as success rates). After an emotional battle with them (I hate insurance companies) and lots of strings pulled by an HR rep at Chris’s work, we were grandfathered in for one IVF cycle. This was two days before I was to start my stims.
The final US showed only 5 mature follicles and the doctor called me at work, telling me that because this was on the insurance company’s dollar, he felt we could proceed with retrieval. We ended up with 10 eggs, 5 that were mature, 3 became embryos and we were able to transfer our one remaining 3 day embryo in June. In July, the beta went from 63 to 56 and it was ruled a chemical on our 5 year anniversary. I took it hard. Really hard. I named him Adam, believing him to be a boy and grieved him for a long time. Even now, there is a pain in my chest when I think about him, because he was my first, he was the one that made me a mom.
I started the process again in September for IVF #2, this time in the Attain program. That process signing up for Attain was fun too. We knew we’d either get that money back, or come home with a baby. Luckily, Chris was able to take a loan out against his 401k. This time we did a micro-Lupron protocol with trigger shots 12 hours apart. The final US showed 6 mature follicles all on my left side. The report showed 8 eggs, 4 were mature, one caught up later. But even after ICSI (where the sperm is injected right into the egg), we were only left with one day-6 embryo that was behind. I spent the two-week-wait in tears, knowing this cycle was a bust. I took one home pregnancy test, and it was negative and in November, I received a negative beta. We consulted with the doctor, talked about adding steroids with an antigon cycle (meds given to beef up the follicles without (hopefully) ovulating early). We were definitely looking at an egg quality issue, that much was very apparent. We decided on one more IVF before moving on to donor eggs.
In December 2013, I started the process for IVF #3, but soon developed dangerously high BP which landed me in the ER. We determined the steroids were to blame, but I also had to be taken off the birth control pills and probably will never go back on them. The cycle was cancelled until my BP was under control with meds.
In May 2014, things stabilized, I was able to go off the blood pressure meds, but eventually would go back on them for creeping blood pressure (my PCP warned me I may now have blood pressure issues for a lifetime). We started stims for IVF#3. The doses were adjusted and I did the antigon med, but still, only 5 eggs were retrieved and only 1 was mature, ironically, the worst cycle I’ve had. The embryo was behind, and not surprising, I got my BFN (big fat negative) at the end of the month.
Attain, not surprisingly, kicked us out of the program (“You have shitty eggs, BIOTCH!”) and we ended up meeting with the donor coordinator in July for a fresh donor egg (DE) cycle. We couldn’t afford Attain for DE as it was about $45,000. We didn’t want to use an outside egg bank, so we looked at a fresh cycle for about $25,000. During this same time, my friend Celina contacted me, saying her clinic in Texas offers a guarantee program where if a cycle doesn’t work, the doctor waives his fees for the next cycle. We found out they have a donor program that was their own frozen egg bank. We decided to do a phone consult with a doc there and asked about that program. All in all, we found out it was about $10,000 cheaper than a fresh cycle here. We took a leap of faith, and in August, chose our donor, completed the paperwork and finalized it all.
We flew to Texas in October 2014 for our cycle, which gave us 8 frozen eggs. We stayed with Celina and her husband (and of course became total BFFs in the process) and found out all 8 eggs fertilized! This was more than we’ve ever had. However, transfer day left us with a disheartened doctor and two embryos, one of which was a day behind, the other, two. We had nothing left to freeze. He thought it was because the eggs didn’t survive the thaw. This donor was not proven, but she looked the most like me and I went on a wing and a prayer. I received a faint positive 11dp5dt and experienced cramping and a “pulling” feeling down in my uterus. This was the first time, I had experienced actual pregnancy symptoms and I held out hope. But I received a BFN 14dp5dt and after consulting with the doctor with my symptoms and faint positive home pregnancy test, we determined it was another chemical. This was when I truly started facing the fact that having a child may not be in my future. It terrified me and I started asking myself if I could live without children. It was definitely a dark time, and we started casually talking about fostering, even though I knew this would never make it ok.
Our Texas doctor wanted to run a miscarriage panel, including MTHFR. All my labs came back normal in December 2014 but behold, the MTHFR was positive. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, some sort of answer. Yes, we knew I had bad eggs, but maybe this was the reason we would lose the pregnancies that did make it. I was placed on Folgard for the folic acid deficiency which the MTHFR gene mutation could be responsible for (more or less. It’s a confusing thing) and a daily baby aspirin.
We picked another donor in January 2015 and paid all the fees (less now, thanks to the doctor waiving his fees). I chose the most popular donor (no more messing around) and we faced the fact that this will probably be our last cycle. We had no more money, and really, when 3 IVFs and 2 donor cycles fail, what does that leave you with? We had already decided adoption was not for us, at least in the near future.
In March, I started estrace as with my previous DE cycle, but this time, my estrogen decided not to cooperate and we had a nerve-wracking few weeks as we faced dose changes and the possible cancelled cycle. Because nothing about this journey was ever smooth sailing, right? But we flew back to Texas and the last lab work showed my labs to (finally) be in normal range. We found out 6 of the 8 eggs fertilized. To be honest, this scared me a bit, losing two. We needed all we could get.
The night before transfer, we drove to Galveston with Celina and and her baby to spend my bed rest in a beach house along the ocean. Transfer the next morning revealed a very happy doctor, two early blasts and a sobbing Risa. He told us there was a morula that could possibly make it to blast to be able to freeze. For the first time, since maybe the first IVF, I was so happy I could burst. There seemed to finally be a silver lining. I had already started my Lovenox protocol, so that would hopefully prevent my blood from clotting (another thing MTHFR may be responsible for). The next day, while on my bed rest couch across from Celina, I found out not only did the third embryo make it to blast, but two others of the original six caught up and one was a hatching blast. We had three embryos to freeze and two almost perfect blasts snuggling in inside me and even now, I sit here crying when I think of how much we’ve struggled and how everything in our journey led up to this.
We flew home at the end of March and on 3/31, I got my positive on a generic test. On April 8th, 14dp5dt, my beta was 564! Then 1,224! Then 3,655! On April 14, we saw one GS and one yolk sac and at 6 weeks, we saw a fetal pole with a HR of 111. I was released from the Texas clinic at 12 weeks and today I am 16w4d. I’ve had no bleeding, no cramping and it’s more than I could have ever asked for. And now I’m sitting here, crying, because this journey has been so shitty and heartbreaking and now I have this miracle inside me, squirming around and waving and making me nauseous and I know it’s cliché but I never thought this day would come. I’m continuing to take it day by day and so thankful for that crazy idea of flying to Texas and meeting Celina in person and snatching that donor and her last 8 frozen eggs.