Testing Cycle Results, Cycle one!

Our test results concluded that my tubes were blocked, I wasn’t ovulating, and Adam had a low sperm count. IUI was out as an option for us, and we had our double whammy infertility results- IVF it was. The next step was for Adam to go to the urologist to make sure everything was alright.

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Our Christmas tree ornament for 2015

I received a text message from him after his appointment that simply said.. “I have X-men sperm!”

…what?

Apparently Adam has 97% mutant sperm. They have two heads, or two tails, or no tails. So with that information, the okay that he was alright, and a plan in place, I had my baseline bloodwork and we were ready to rock in February of 2016.

When my meds showed up to my work I was overwhelmed to say the least. Look at all these needles! Look at all this medication! I watched youtube videos of other women doing their sub-contaneous injections, I watched the Freedom Fertility instructional videos, and tried to mentally prepare myself for the road ahead. Then, finally, my orders came in.

I’ve been recording every single injection I’ve ever taken since we began our IVF journey. I’m a hoarder of nostalgia, and plan on turning this footage into some sort of compilation some day, but right now it’s tucked away just being stored.

I was so nervous, I was shaking. Adam recorded me as I stared down at my belly, wiped clean with an alcohol prep pad, pinched skin between my fingers. I attempted once, as soon as the needle got close to my skin I stopped. This was so much scarier when you’re doing it to yourself! I was very determined, though, and after a few false starts I was in. It wasn’t as bad as I thought! I can do this, right?

As you know, we are two cycles deep and preparing for our next transfer. Here’s the run down of how that first cycle went.

I stimmed for 12 days. I had my egg retrieval on February 20th, and we had 12 eggs retrieved. Out of those 12 eggs, 6 were mature. Out of those 6 mature eggs, only two fertilized into embryos via ICSI (they put the sperm directly into the egg) and on the fifth day, I received the call. Our embryos stopped growing. The cycle failed. I had been planning on doing a freeze all cycle since I had overstimulated. After my first egg retrieval I had to take three days off of work, in addition to the two days I laid around on the weekend. I couldn’t poop for a week, no stool softeners gave me relief, and after and enema and two suppositories I had little relief over a few days. I tried drinking prune juice and projectile vomited it back up. I looked 5 months pregnant. Needless to say, I did not have a good time.

Receiving that phone call at work was awful. I went into the bathroom and cried after I got off the phone with Dr. Plante, who was very comforting. I called Adam and cried to him, too. Dr. Plante asked me if I wanted to take a break and I said no, as long as medically safe, I’d like to continue on. So I booked a follow up with her, and the next week I dropped in to talk about what went wrong with our first cycle.

My estradiol levels (a form of estrogen) had dipped low 2 or 3 days in to my cycle. Dr. Plante had to adjust my injections accordingly, and though they did rise, they hurt my egg quality. With your estradiol levels you want an even, clean rise and they did not have that. For my next cycle, she was to start me at a slightly higher dose of Gonal F, and I was also put on Metformin to help control my hormone levels.

Metformin is a diabetic drug, but it is also prescribed to women who have PCOS. It’s hard to get used to, it gives you terrible stomach aches and diarrhea. It’s not fun, but I was willing to suffer through if it meant better egg quality cycle two. So! I had my period, I started another round of birth control, and prepped myself for cycle two…

Morality and our Consultation

What people may not realize is, infertility is SO common. A lot of people battle it silently. They don’t share it with others. I think as the years go on, this is less and less common, but for now, it’s still kind of the standard practice. I totally get it, too. Infertility and IVF treatments are hard. Not only are you emotionally hurting, physically- at least for the ladies going through the injections and monitoring- you are hurting. You’re being poked and prodded, you’re having wands shoved up your vagina every other day, you’re having needles shoved up your vagina and poked through your ovaries- this is a very physical labor of love! (I think shoved is the wrong word, as of course the doctors and nurses are very gentle, but you understand me, right?) Why would you want to share that with the world?

Not only that, but you can be judged by others for even fighting so hard for something that might not be “meant to be” for you. (Full disclosure, I hate that term sometimes.)

I had a tough time coming to terms with actively bringing science into having children. I look at the world around me, I hear about people starving or out of water in other countries, I see climate change and the way it will go if we don’t do something about it, I see rampant racism and sexism and how our society is, and I wonder- am I/are we being selfish for trying so hard to have a child, to bring one into this world? Not only that, but there are so many children already out there that need loving homes and great parents to look after them, love them, and raise them. Morally I wrestled with this for a long time, and truth be told, I still do. My conclusion is that strife has long existed in our world and will continue to exist. I’m only human, and biologically, the pull to not only have children, but to grow them inside of me for nine months, to give birth, to raise them with my husband- is a pull I cannot fight. I may be selfish, but I’m human, too.

So, trudging on, in October of 2015 we had our first consultation with our fertility specialist- our reproductive endocrinologist (RE)- Dr. Beth Plante. She works with the Fertility Centers of New England. She asked us about our struggles so far, got some information about us, and talked to us about the processes we could go through. Before we decided/she could recommend IUI or IVF or any of that, though, we had to go through the testing cycle. She made us feel very comfortable and she is a sweetheart. I’m glad we found her.

The testing cycle included a sperm analysis for Adam, some blood work for the both of us,  and an HSG test (Hysterosalpingogram) for myself. I was very nervous for this test. I had an IUD to prevent having babies years ago (ha! I guess I didn’t need that after all, eh?) and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I’m not sure if it was because a resident was putting it in, or because I wasn’t on my period when it was being ‘installed’, or what- but flash backs to my legs up in stirrups with several doctors looking at my bits while I held a nurses hand and screamed obscenities and made awful noises for 45 minutes were flooding my brain. They had to dilate my cervix and try many many painful times to get the damn thing in. One of them quipped that this was what childbirth felt like- as someone who considered a natural home birth I thought to myself- epidural please! By the way, after all of that after two months I pulled it out myself- it gave me awful side effects and was just not for me.

So anyway, back to the HSG test. The reason I was so nervous was because it involves inserting dye into your cervix- and any time I hear that anything is going into my cervix I think back to the IUD party I just described- and shudder. The dye goes through your fallopian tubes and if it spills out the end of them, your tubes are okay! If it doesn’t they are blocked.

Dr. Vitiello did my HSG test, she is another one of the doctors over at the Fertility Centers of New England. She is hilarious. She’s straight to the point, sarcastic, and very good at calming a crazy anxious lady (ahem, me) down. When I told her I was nervous she quipped that she was too, as it was her first time preforming the test. (In case you are wondering, no, it was not her first time preforming the test. I’m sure you caught the joke but just in case…) When she told me that the dye was already running through my tubes, I said “NO way, you’re joking!”, and she said “I just met this girl and she’s calling me a liar!”

The same day I was having my HSG test, Adam was having his sperm analysis. He described going into the room, seeing the recliner with a pad on it he was to.. ahem.. produce his sample on. He also described the light reading materials he had to choose from 😉

After the test he left and there was a waiting room full of women that watched him go. I laughed as he recalled his story but I also reminded him that their husbands/partners/donors/friends/what have you were also going through this so not to fret too much.

Adam sent me this photo as he arrived in his specimen collecting room, I responded with a thumbs up. Go get em’ tiger!

The testing cycle took a bit for us and our testing was completed in late November of 2015. This post is getting pretty long, so next time I’ll tell you our results and all about cycle one.