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1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

(Entry written prior to posted date).

Who knew one of the annoying side effects post-retrieval would contribute to an epiphany that would change the course of events for me. I believe I’ve hit my ultimate record for the number of times I had to pee in a single night, it was in the range of twenty times. It was as if all the retained water weight during my stimulation shots was now leaving my body. But good God, that was just friggin’ excessive! I got zero sleep last night.

 

But the good news is that while I was awake all night I was doing my usual perusing of infertility forums online. I stumbled on a weirdly worded response to a question someone posed about how to save money on IVF treatment. The response was something to the effect of “do two IVFs in a row. That’s how I did it. Saved a lot.” What the hell did that mean? Two IVFs?

 

Then it hit me. Although this response was thoroughly confusing to me at first, it started to register with me. I asked myself, “What if they meant they did two egg retrievals before they did their first FET (frozen embryo transfer)?” Could that be what they meant? Then I remembered the phone conversation I had with my two-cycle discount program, she said, “The program ends when you have a ‘take-home’ baby.” So that meant if I gave birth with this first cycle the program ended.

 

It was the middle of the night and I posted a question in some of the Facebook IVF groups I’m on, asking whether anyone was doing my specific discount program and if they did two egg retrievals in a row before their first transfer. Some of the first women who responded to me said that I could not do it. They even went so far as to tell me, “It’s in your contract if you actually read it. It’s bolded and everything.” But I was looking right at my copy of my contract and nowhere in it did it say anything like this. The contract echoed the same thing the woman with the discount program told me over the phone, “program ends with ‘take-home’ baby.” But several hours later I checked if anyone else had responded. Now there were more answers, and about half of them were saying that it is actually possible to do two egg retrievals back to back with that program.

 

First thing that morning I called both my discount program and my clinic to pose this question. The answer would change the trajectory of everything. “Yes, it’s possible.” From what I gather, it depends on the clinic or possibly your diagnosis. Some clinics seem not to allow women back-to-back egg retrievals for the discounted price while others do. So what are the benefits of me deciding to do two egg retrievals back to back as opposed to jumping right into a FET?

 

  • Doing the second cycle would definitely be included in the cost if I did back-to-back retrievals. If I did the FET right after the first retrieval and had a live birth my contract would end, which would make me lose out on an entire IVF cycle I had pre-paid for. In other words, I will be saving thousands of dollars if I do back-to-back cycles with my discount program.
  • My AMH/Ovarian reserve is very low and time is of the essence. The sooner I can do several egg retrievals the better.
  • Increasing the odds of giving potential children from this first cycle their siblings from a second cycle.
  • Take advantage of my flexible work schedule (on-call work) I have now and go ahead and do these egg retrievals. Most other jobs would not be as flexible.
  • I’ve met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year so any ultrasounds ($600 each), blood draws, and consultations with my local doctor would be covered entirely.
  • The only thing I’d have to pay for is the IVF medicine, plane tickets, and hotel to travel out of state for my IVF cycle again.

 

All I can say is I am over the moon I had this timely epiphany. For some reason this idea didn’t occur to me. Maybe it was the fact I was up all night and thinking non-stop about my next steps. I had my plans practically set to return the following month to do the FET. I could have missed out on a second IVF cycle had I not considered this more. But this epiphany changed my timeline for everything. Now I am starting to make plans for when I will come back for the second retrieval for this year.

 

Today was a beautiful day out. Mom and I went to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. What an amazing day! It was so nice to get out. I was surprised I was doing so well the day after surgery. We did lots of walking around and spent a good part of the day just hanging out up in the Space Needle. I loved seeing the rotating glass-bottom floor. Pretty cool stuff.

 

 

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So the day overall was great. But I had a crying meltdown moment later on at the end of the night. Mom got a message from a relative asking if the doctors were optimistic about me having a baby. Mom mentioned their question to me. This seemingly benign question threw me into a fit of tears. The combination of my out-of-whack hormones post-surgery coupled with the reality that my odds of success are very low just made a blubbering mess. Poor mom didn’t know what the hell was wrong and I couldn’t articulate it quick enough because in the moment I didn’t know why I was crying. It was a pure emotional response.

 

Then Mom started crying. So there we were both crying, frustrated, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. I hear mom crying in the bathroom, blowing her nose. She seemed upset that she couldn’t console me.

 

Then she comes out and says half angry and half crying, “That stupid maid!”

“What?” I said, still sniffling but starting to calm down.

“The toilet paper! She didn’t give us any! I can’t believe this!”

Then I start to laugh hysterically. The way she said it was so comical to me.

 

This was either the second or third day in a row that the maid didn’t give us toilet paper. The one day we did manage to get more toilet paper we asked the front desk guy and apparently the wimp of a man couldn’t manage to get more than one roll from her. “She wouldn’t give me two rolls” he sheepishly said to me. So this toilet paper Nazi of a maid now has my mom crying even more. Mom heard me laughing and then started laughing too. We managed to scrape together some leftover restaurant tissues from our takeout meals and some tissues she had in her purse to get us through the night. No way in hell we were stepping outside our hotel room door because that part of town turns into a scene from Mad Max with all the anarchy that happens when the sun sets.

 

After we stopped crying and laughing I explained to her how I thought I started crying because of the hormones and the fact that my situation has never been considered optimistic. I think once I explained it to her it made more sense my reaction. I think there is a big difference between being optimistic versus staying positive. I am staying positive, which is a choice. But I would not say I’m optimistic because the reality is my ovarian reserve is incredibly low and it would be a miracle if I had a single biological baby in my life.

 

So today I had a whole range of emotions. Thank you crazy hormones. But I am thankful to have learned two things: 1) I can save a lot of money by doing two back-to-back egg retrievals, 2) If you hide the toilet paper in your room the maid will think you are out and give you more. Solving life problems from big to little. I feel pretty accomplished today. I will end this post with a happy note of my results from this egg retrieval thus far:

5 eggs retrieved

4 fertilized

1 embryo survived and will go through PGS testing.

 

Yahooooo! So incredibly happy to have this bit of hope to move forward with. Praying that this little embryo does not have the same chromosomal issue that causes me to have recurrent miscarriages. Hoping and praying this little one will make it past the testing.

 

 

 

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Day 12 (Round 1 of IVF): Egg Retrieval Day

Day 12 (Round 1 of IVF): Egg Retrieval Day

(Entry written prior to posted date).

Today was the big day, my first egg retrieval surgery. They retrieved five eggs, which is right about what they were expecting based on my recent ultrasounds I’ve had leading up to today. I felt like I waited so long to have my surgery due to the cyst on my ovary delaying everything for about three weeks.

 

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Originally they were expecting 10 eggs to be retrieved based on my age. But now I’m thinking they didn’t factor in my AMH level into this. So when they told me they got five eggs I was content with that. I was happy that I was finally on the path of what will hopefully lead me to a baby. I will be hearing back tomorrow about the number of eggs that were successfully fertilized.

 

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Mom with me for support right before surgery.

 

For now I am just resting in the hotel, watching reruns of Jersey Shore. I know, I know. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, what can I say. Weirdly, I get a sense of comfort when I watch the screaming sessions and crying meltdowns. It somehow reminds me of home, not because we scream at each other and I cry, but because I loved watching this show back home. Kurtis is calm as a cucumber, we rarely ever have a disagreement. Not to mention the anesthesia is still swimming inside my brain, adding a nice pillowy feeling in my ears when the self-proclaimed Guidos on TV puff up and scream at each other. Ahh, what a lovely way to relax.

 

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Drugged up photo op. Just woke up.

 

My pain level is about a 2 out of 10 with the pain medicine, and when the medicine wears off it’s about a 3 out of 10. So the pain isn’t really as bad as I imagined. If I were to categorize the pain in different way it would be in between the pain of a hysteroscopy (not bad) and a D&C (moderately painful). After my many surgeries due to complications from my multiple miscarriages, I’ve learned that I tend to have a weak stomach for anesthesia so I always request anti-nausea medicine during the surgery. It seems to really help. It’s kind of sad that I’ve developed a sense of routineness around all these surgeries, but I suppose it’s better than getting stressed out.

 

I’m trying to stay hopeful through this process, despite the odds being stacked against me. Here are some of the things I’ve been telling myself to try to stay positive:

  • I’m glad they decided to double my dose of Follistim. Maybe I wouldn’t even have these 5 eggs had they not done that.
  • If it fails at least they will have a much better gauge on how to adjust my medication for next time.
  • I’m very happy I paid for two rounds up front to save money, especially considering my low AMH level. It was a good decision.
  • I have an amazing support network of many people rooting for us.
  • Doing IVF lowers my risk of a miscarriage and the complications that come with it. Each time I had a loss I needed surgeries to correct the scar tissue buildup.
  • I am so happy I received an IVF grant that helped me tremendously to be able to afford IVF.

Staying positive and remembering those thoughts in the hardest of times can help ease the pain of another letdown. I am far from a Pollyanna, especially in regards to my fertility issues. But I believe that you can always find the silver lining if you look hard enough.

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Day 11 (Round 1 of IVF): Surgery Tomorrow & Resiliency

Day 11 (Round 1 of IVF): Surgery Tomorrow & Resiliency

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

So I took my HGC trigger shot (Pregnyl) last night and this morning I took my pregnancy test. The HCG trigger shot essentially makes your body think it’s pregnant to help with the egg retrieval process. My body had a good reaction to the shot, so I am officially having my egg retrieval surgery tomorrow. I am really excited to finally be at this point, and trying to stay hopeful.

 

I’m not sure which of the four shots I’m on that are causing my extreme thirst. I am like a fish, I feel I cannot bear it unless I’m drinking water at least several times every half hour it seems. I’ve been drinking water not only to quench my insatiable thirst but to also help with the growth of my eggs. I read that staying hydrated can help with the development of eggs. I have one egg that is not quite of mature size, and they said that maybe by the time of the surgery it will grow big enough. A weird fact they told me is that eggs can even grow outside of the body before ICSI. I am always blown away by the amazing science behind fertility treatment.

 

Today we decided to stay in and rest. Mom has a really bad migraine. I have a ton of studying and a few assignments I have to do today anyway. While mom rested most of the day I was immersed in studying fairy tales for my English literature class. And if you haven’t heard, the original Little Red Riding Hood stories (pre-Brothers Grimm) are insanely demented. Who knew these original stories were not meant for children at all. Very interesting to see the many adaptations over time.  I also read the various adaptations of Bluebeard, also a horrifyingly messed up story. But as with any memorable story there has to be a good amount of conflict. I’m majoring in English, so I love cozying up to read different stories, especially the ones that are a mindf***. Easy breezy beach reads bore me.

 

I’ve found that going back to school has been a great decision for me during my fertility struggles. I can’t control the outcome of my fertility issues, but at least I have some sense of control in my life by going to school. Some people might think taking on school when doing IVF treatment is too much for them emotionally. For me, I find it to be a really good distraction from my overthinking anything and everything related to becoming a mother. At this point I can’t control when, if, or how I’ll become a mother, but the one thing I can control is where my thoughts go. If I can push my thoughts towards learning something new and focusing intensely on my school work I find it to be really satisfying. I feel like I am actually accomplishing something and working to towards a tangible goal.

 

I’m only taking one class at the moment. It’s the second semester of my World Literature class. I knew there was going to be a s*** ton of reading, just like in the first semester. So I decided to only take one class for two reasons; 1) The amount of reading would probably be on par with two classes, 2) I’m doing IVF treatment, you think I actually have any more money to do more than one class? It’s just the right amount to balance everything between work, school, and my other job…infertility treatment. If you’ve gone through IVF treatment then you know the large amount of time it takes for the many appointments.

 

I am thinking I might also look into pursuing other hobbies as well. I want to start swimming again. Or maybe I can learn to do something artistic or crafty. All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl. Now I’m imagining my psycho self frozen outside in the snow like Jack Nicholson in the end of The Shining. Yeah I don’t want to end up like that. I need some more fun in my life. With all this tension and overthinking around if I’ll become a mother I’m trying to seek out ways to escape. I’ve always had a tendency to be an epic couch potato, watching lots of movies as a means of distraction. But instead of zoning out, I’d like to do something that makes me feel alive, and not something that simply numbs my emotions. I’ll need to meditate more on this. I will say this, I have another website in the prewriting phase. I’m still gauging the scope of it. I’ll let you in on a little secret and give you a hint. It will be about doing the things in life that can be incredibly challenging. How’s that for a vague hint?

 

Tomorrow is the big day for my first egg retrieval. I can now feel cramps coming on at 4:30pm. I’m hoping these moderate cramps are an indication of my body doing the right thing. It’s not that painful, just a little more than my regular period cramps. I think the right ovary was the one they said had more eggs. I will of course be disappointed if none of this works, but what I will not be disappointed over is that I at least tried. I must push past the emotional pain of this whole process. I will not allow myself to waste time worrying. If you are like me and have low AMH/ovarian reserve you know exactly what I mean. Ladies, if you have the same diagnosis of me my best advice I can give you is to not waste time, buck up, do your research, and get your treatment plan into action.

 

My first pregnancy loss I spent two weeks in bed depressed. After I was able to pick myself up from that time in my life I told myself, “I’m never going to wallow in my pain like that again. It’s just too painful.” I had three pregnancy losses after that and I was able to cope better because I remembered that promise I made to myself. Any type of loss we experience in our life can debilitate us if we let it. Even if I am unable to have a baby at the end of all of this, I’m hoping I can at least say I’ve gained the ability to be more resilient.

 

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Day 10 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Trigger Shot Day!

Day 10 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Trigger Shot Day!

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

I woke up today with a migraine and I’m almost positive it’s because of the shots. I double checked with my doctor’s office and they said I am fine to take a Tylenol. Basically I’m trying to follow all the nutritional and medical advice as if I were already pregnant, which is essentially the best recommendations they have for women going through IVF. In general, Tylenol is okay during pregnancy (but always check with your doctor about your specific treatment plan). So the Tylenol actually did help me. I only had a couple migraines during the IVF injections which is not too bad for me considering my migraine history, I was expecting more.

 

So with today’s ultrasound still only showing four mature eggs I chose to be content with this. I understand that in comparison to most other women, from what I’ve seen in the online forums, my numbers are pretty low. But at the same time I’ve been diagnosed with very low AMH levels, so it wasn’t really that surprising to me for them to see only four. Yes it would have been nice to waddle into the clinic, so full to the brim with little eggs ripe for the picking, as I’ve heard other women talk about their massive amounts of bloating and massive amounts of eggs retrieved. But I came into this realistic. I knew fully well that the majority of women do not have a successful first round of IVF. In a way I mentally prepared myself for another let down. For me, it’s much healthier for me to have the statistics in front of me so I know what I’m dealing with, rather than be devastated with the false belief of a guarantee. The one thing I told myself was if this fails, at least they have a good gauge of what they need to do to alter my medications for better results next time. The first time is kind of a crapshoot really, they don’t know how your body will react until they try out some medicine on you first. That’s the really unscientific way of looking at it, but it kind of helps me think of it that way in terms of being hopeful that they know what to do better next time.

 

We went to a hipster pizza place today, think hipster coffee shop but replace the coffee with pizza. The music, the decorations, the ingredients, whole place was just the right amount of hipster, not too much. On the walls hung beautiful and striking art. One piece of art really stuck out to me and I kept looking at it as we ate our pizza. Then our conversation turned to the other piece above it and then the other ones further behind me. You could tell it was the same artist but each picture was unique. The emotion behind each one was intense and beautiful. The one I absolutely loved was of a woman holding her child to her chest, surrounded by nothing but ocean waves, standing on a single pile of rocks. The rocks were the mother’s foundation to which she was able to stay above the water to hold her baby. I loved it, and I don’t even have kids yet. If this IVF process works I’d love to be able to order that beautiful piece of art and hang it in our house. I’d like to tell my child of the struggles I went through and to have them and how they were so loved, even before they were born. In my mind it would be the best souvenir story ever.

 

The pizza was one of the few indulgences while doing IVF. I will say I’ve never eaten salad as much in my entire life as I have right before and during IVF. Salad pretty much daily, sometimes even a couple times in a day. I try to be super healthy but I’m not perfect. I had one can of Coke during IVF, overall I did pretty darn good reducing my caffine to just that, especially considering I like to have caffeine almost daily when I am not TTC.

 

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Beautiful sunset with sailboat, on our ferry ride headed back to Seattle.

 

So Mom and I went on a really nice ferry ride today at my husband’s suggestion. When he was here before me to do his “thing” he also took a ferry ride to Bainbridge to check out the casino. He said the ferry ride was his favorite thing he did while he was in Seattle for his brief stay. Unfortunately he cannot take anymore time off and with my retrieval it had to be postponed due to my little cyst. So by the time my body was ready for IVF, all of his time off (2 weeks) was used up. But it was a great suggestion he had for us, we took the ferry to Bremerton instead. It was peaceful and relaxing when the set of young twin boys weren’t screaming and tearing past us. Thankfully the parents had enough sense to walk the boys to different parts of the boat to help them burn up their energy. So it was peaceful about 75% of the time. We came back right at sunset and had a beautiful fiery red sunset, which I later found out was an extra vibrant red hue due to wildfires in the distance. My pictures don’t do it justice for how blood red it really was. Just as we were coming back they lit up the big ferris wheel. It was very pretty to come back to the city during that time.

 

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Ferry funsies.

 

We did not get to do anything in Bremerton, but for a very good reason. We got right back on the boat back to Seattle because I had a very important appointment to keep. My trigger shot! Oh yeah! Tonight is the night. After weeks and weeks of postponing my IVF due to the cyst I finally made it to this point. The fertility clinic took a marker and circled the target just at my belt line on my upper butt. I asked if Mom if she could do the honors because it’s just a weird angle to do it myself and I wanted to make absolutely sure that the shot got into the right spot. I did a video recording of the trigger shot, as well as instructions for the trigger shot, Menopur, and Follistim injections. I will be editing these here soon and will post them for everyone to see what it’s really like to give yourself daily shots for a few weeks. Honestly, it’s not that bad. The length of the trigger shot needle looks intimidating but the fact that it’s so thin a needle made it to where it really wasn’t that bad. Not near as bad as you might imagine. So in exactly 36 hours from the trigger shot I have my egg retrieval surgery. I’m hoping that the four eggs they plan to retrieve are of good enough quality. First thing tomorrow morning I have to take a pregnancy test to see if it is positive. This will tell me if the HCG trigger shot worked or not, hopefully it will so I don’t have to re-do all of this. I just hope I don’t have anymore delays.

 

 

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Day 9 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Day 9 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

They decided to postpone my retrieval another day, to give one of my eggs a bit more time to grow to maturity. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this whole process it’s that you must be flexible with your timeline. If you are not flexible with your time, you will be immensely frustrated through this process. They told me I have a total of four mature eggs, with an extra one that is almost mature enough. They decided to give it another day. I needed one last Ganirelix injection, which I paid for on my way out the door. Luckily, they had it right there in the office so I didn’t have to do any last minute pharmacy runs in a city I’m not familiar with, and staying in a bad part of town. If time is what it takes, I’ll do it. In fact, that’s all I really have right now is time.

 

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Three eggs on one side, and one on the other. One extra one not quite ready.

 

Mom and I decided to get out of the dodgy part of town where our hotel is and get to the touristy part, Pike’s Place Market. It was a nice day but just a bit too hot. If you were to look at us you would be sure we were about to melt under the sun’s rays. I searched and searched the entire Market, on a mission to find a hat to wear, a simple baseball hat. Question for you Washingtonians, why the hell are there not more hat shops in the touristy part of town? In fact, I noticed many people walking around without hats. Yes, normally I do not wear hats unless I’m hiking or I know I’m going to be outside all day. But seriously, I rarely saw anyone during my entire week-long trip in Seattle who wore a hat. In fact, I could probably count the number on my one hand. What gives? I suppose maybe it’s more of an Alaskan thing to wear hats, and I only notice the difference outside of Alaska. Finally I found an artsy trucker hat that did the job. It was a nice visit to Pike’s other than the heat and the endless search for a hat. Note to self: bring my own damn hat. Hat rant ends here.

 

At one point we sat on a shady bench in the market watching people walk around and deciding where we would find water. It took a while to finally find a place to sit in the shade. We were half people watching and half trying to figure out which business looked best to get some water. We decided on a Greek bakery across the street. We must have sounded pretty beleaguered to the rough-looking skinny guy sitting on the next bench over. We had complained about the heat, complained how thirsty we were, complained about how there were not enough places to sit, where were we going to go once we got water because not many places looked shady by the waterside. We had already walked a long way to get to Pikes because I had accidentally gotten off one bus stop too early. So we had to walk quite a bit to get there, not to mention on the way we got slightly turned around because the GPS on my phone was acting weird. It took us exactly in the opposite direction for multiple blocks but looked as if we were going the right way.

 

 

So there we were, a crabby sort, bitching about the moment and the moments to come. We stood up to get our friggin’ water.  The guy that had been quietly sitting near us looked like he was living a hard life, most likely homeless. But he beamed ear to ear with a missing-tooth smile and said, “Don’t worry, be happy.” His whole face lit up with his smile, as if he was sharing the best gift he could give to a stranger, the gift of being in the moment. When you are going through struggles in life, especially infertility issues, it’s easy to get caught up in planning rather than living. This guy on the bench brought a smile to my face and I immediately was reminded that there is so much beauty around us, we just need to shut up and enjoy it. The timing could not have been better. I thought about it the rest of the day and I will probably remember that moment for a long time. I thanked him for his kind words and we enjoyed our water and walking around the market the rest of the day.

 

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