Frozen Embryo Transfer #1: The Details

Here’s where we’re at. We have four frozen embryos from our IVF in 2014. After six failed IUIs, we were successful with our first cycle of IVF and our daughter was born in June 2015. We’ve tried naturally since she was six months old because our infertility in unexplained. No success and now we’re ready to jump back in and try with our frozen embryos.

Frozen Embryo Transfer #1 Protocol

We met with the same reproductive endocrinologist that we worked with for our IVF cycle. We had a positive experience at our clinic and like the continuity of seeing the same physician and are even working with the same nurse. We started the process with an appointment in February where we discussed the process of a frozen embryo transfer and went over any questions with our RE. Some things of note:

  • We are all in agreement that we should do another single embryo transfer. I had my daughter a month early and preterm labor would be a much bigger concern when carrying twins. RE said if we do two tries without success, we may want to consider two on the third try.
  • RE thinks chances are really high that we’ll get pregnant with one of our four embryos
  • All my blood work was good, with the exception of my FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which was borderline high at 11.5. I had a similar result back in 2014. My nurse explained that this could make another round of IVF harder/less successful, but hopefully we won’t need to go down that road again.

Next in the process was a mock embryo transfer to make sure the path was clear for the real deal. Very exciting to know that all my parts are intact after my first pregnancy and labor. I started birth control pills yesterday, April 23. I will take them for about three weeks, after which I will have a baseline ultrasound and then begin estrogen and progesterone injections to thicken my endometrial lining and prepare the best possible home for our embryo. Two weeks later I’ll have a lining check and then the frozen embryo transfer a few days later on May 31.

While this might sound daunting, it feels like a walk in the park compared to all the medicine, monitoring, and stress that went into our IVF cycle. One super cool part of FET (silver lining, people!) is that you can pick the actual date and then work backwards to prepare. So essentially you are picking your due date and can plan around vacations, holidays, work schedules, etc.

In the next few weeks I’ll be doing all the things I won’t be able to do if our FET is successful. Think booze, hot baths, and sushi! And of course mentally prepping to get stabbed in the butt with needles every day. I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty optimistic about our chances this time. I’m an optimist by nature, but the crazy long and difficult process of getting pregnant the first time really had me questioning my outlook. Hoping to not get knocked down this time around!

 

 

I’m back!

Well, it turns out I’m a terrible multi-tasker. I had the best intentions of continuing this blog after I had my daughter in June 2015, but as you can see that didn’t pan out.

When we left off, I had just resigned from my job to stay at home with Susannah. Fast forward to a year later and I’m busy chasing around a 22-month-old, and in more relevant news, planning for baby number two! I was hoping that I would be one of those women who have trouble getting pregnant but then magically have no issues the second time around. No such luck for me, so we’re gearing up for a frozen embryo transfer at the end of May.

While I know how incredibly blessed I am to have frozen embryos and not to have to go through IVF again at this point, I’m having trouble reentering the world of infertility. Truth be told, I’m feeling the anxiety and darkness creep back in a bit when I think about testing, needles, and two-week-waits. Parenting is hard work, but it is so rewarding and has made me happier than I have even been before. Every day I remind myself what it took to get here and try to always be grateful for the wonderful gift I have in my daughter.

So here I am, back blogging because this is a place that I found an outlet for my feelings and so much support. It feels good to be back!

Family Planning for Infertiles

Maternity painting

Babies are generally made in one of two ways. 1. A couple decides they are ready to grow their family and they start trying to get pregnant the old-fashioned way. 2. OOPS!

When you’re infertile, neither of these methods really apply to you. The first time around, we didn’t know we were infertile, so we spent many years trying to avoid 2. and then a few years desperately trying to achieve 1. When trying naturally produced no results, we turned to fertility treatments and were put on a path that eventually lead to IVF, which gave us our most precious gift, our daughter. It also gave us another unexpected gift: the possibility to grow our family again through frozen embryos.

This leaves us in a weird fertility limbo. While I’m not sure we’re ready to get pregnant right now, we know we would like more children and it seems weird to sit around and get older/more infertile. We also are hyper aware that time is not on our side. Do we try on our own and see if things magically work this time around? After all, our diagnosis was unexplained infertility and it is possible, but not likely, that I could get pregnant naturally. But where does that leave those little frosties?

I remember clearly the mix of emotions I experienced when the clinic called to tell us they were able to freeze some embryos. Four to be exact. Wonderful! But wait…four!? Four means the (unlikely) possibility of five children. How did we get from wanting a child so desperately to the possibility of five children?

Our perfect daughter was created through the same process as our frozen embryos and I feel an obligation to give the others a chance at life. I don’t necessarily see them as our children, but as the real possibility of life — much more tangible when I see my growing, healthy little girl. We made the decision to create them, out of both love and desperation, and it is hard to consider the possibility of not using them if we are able to have more children the natural way. You see, there are no easy decisions when it comes to infertility.

We are enormously blessed to have had success with IVF, and even more lucky to have frozen embryos that will allow us to try again. And soon there will be big decisions to make…

 

Symptom Spotting in Early Pregnancy

I realized this week that I tracked these symptoms but never posted this update. I’ve incessantly poured over posts on other people’s symptoms in early pregnancy, so I thought I would share mine in case they are helpful for anyone else. The biggest thing I noticed was a lack of symptoms in very early pregnancy. In my failed IUI cycles, I had way more cramping, aches, and pains that would get my hopes up each cycle before my period arrived.

2dp6dt*: Had two hot flashes around dinner time and my steak dinner tasted weird/unappetizing to me.
4dp6dt: Walked into my office and could smell the shampoo of my colleague from across the room. It smelled SO strong! (Got my first faint BFP this night)
6dp6dt-7dp6dt: Brownish/pink spotting, mixed in with my progesterone suppositories. Yikes!
4do6dt-8dp6dt: Foods I normally love don’t sound appealing (meat, eggs). I’m craving bland things like crackers, cereal, and soup. If I don’t eat on time I get extremely hungry. Also find myself getting hungry right before bedtime around 11 (night cheese, anyone?!).
8dp6dt: Starting to feel some sporadic small cramping above my pubic bone.

Week 4: Hungry all the time. Breasts start to hurt, but not too bad. Switched to progesterone in oil injections and spotting stopped. Very bloated.

Week 5: Let me eat everything! Seriously, have the craziest appetite. This week I want all the junk food I can find. Can’t stay awake past 9:30pm.

Week 6-7: First weeks of feeling crappy. Breasts really start to hurt and noticing some veins. Starting to feel a little bit of nausea and having some food aversions, including red meat. Extreme fatigue.

I didn’t notice any implantation cramping and didn’t have sore breasts in the beginning, two symptoms that I always assumed I would notice right away.

*For those not in the know, dp6dt=days past 6-day transfer.

There’s Still a Baby in My Belly

Baby at 6 Weeks

Baby at 6 Weeks

We had our first ultrasound last Friday when I was six weeks to the day. I think I was more worried for this appointment than I was for any other procedure or appointment in the last 2.5 years of trying to conceive. I was so scared that we would see inside my uterus and it would be empty and our dreams would be crushed.

When they got in there, we could see a perfectly round gestational sac right away. They pointed out the yolk sac and the teeny tiny baby beside it. Because I was only six weeks, they warned me beforehand that we might not get to see a heartbeat, and that would be completely normal. To our surprise, we were able to see the heartbeat and it was measured at 100bpm, which they said is right on track for this early stage. The baby measured 5 weeks, 6 days, so one day behind where it should be. The doctor said it is hard to measure when it is this small, so the really important part is that we saw the sac and the baby with a heartbeat. The tech was able to zoom in and give us a photo of our little apple seed!

I felt an amazing amount of relief and joy after the appointment, but know it is still early and we have more hurdles to cross. Our next ultrasound is this coming Wednesday, when I will be 7 weeks, 5 days along. We’re hoping for a growing baby with a strong heartbeat!

Betas 2 + 3

HCG is over 2,000!

HCG is over 2,000!

Last week we had two more beta tests. The first one didn’t double in 48 hours, so we were a little nervous going into the third one. On Friday we got the great news that our third beta doubled in 42 hours and that we graduated from our betas! Right before I left to get that blood draw, this little guy popped up, so I was feeling confident we crossed over 2,000 hcg. We scheduled our first ultrasound for Friday — I’ll be exactly 6 weeks. Trying to remain sane until then.

Beta 1 (17 dpo): 610

Beta 2 (19 dpo): 1,025

Beta 3 (21 dpo): 2,124

Beta Results Are In

Beta rising!

Beta rising!

I was delighted when I saw my Clearblue test show up as 2-3 weeks on Sunday because I knew that meant my HCG was over 200 well before my first beta. I was scheduled to go in on Tuesday (18 days past egg retrieval) for beta #1, but I woke up with what felt like the beginning of a urinary tract infection on Monday morning. No!! My nurse suggested that I come in to give a urine sample, and while I was there said it was ok to do my beta one day early, on 17 days past egg retrieval.

I got the call later on Monday afternoon to let me know that my beta was 610! THIS IS SO VERY EXCITING! All the positive tests were wonderful to see, but hearing this nice strong number really made everything seem a little more real. I know there are many more hurdles to jump, but we definitely did some celebrating last night.

Because we did IVF, our families knew ahead of time when we were scheduled to have the beta and there was no point in waiting to tell them the news. We still got to have a bit of a surprise by telling them one day early, when they weren’t yet expecting it. In an ideal world, we would get to surprise everyone by sharing this happy news when we’re a little further along and confident that we have a healthy pregnancy. But after seeing the looks on everyone’s faces and hearing their reactions (my mother-in-law actually squealed!), I don’t think I would change a thing. This will be the first grandchild and niece/nephew on both sides, so it was a very special announcement to share. And I’m comforted knowing that if something were to go wrong, we have so much support and love around us. What a great night!

Right after we Facetimed our families to tell them the good news!

Right after our Facetime with our families to tell them the good news!

Now back to reality, including this undiagnosed UTI and beta #2 tomorrow. They are doing a culture on my urine sample, so we won’t know until tomorrow if I need antibiotics or not. In the meantime, I’m chugging an insane amount cranberry juice and water, hanging close to the toilet for my fire pee every 10 minutes, and praying for a beta that is rising appropriately. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that I’m both elated and terrified at the same time.

A Little Bit Pregnant

BFP!

BFP!

I’ve been putting this off for three full days now because I’m scared if I acknowledge it, it will go away. After 27 very long months, I have seen one of the most beautiful sights: a positive pregnancy test! In fact, in the past three days, I’ve probably seen about 10 because I cannot stop testing. I’m completely overjoyed, but that is tempered with worry and doubt because it is very early on, and since yesterday I’ve had some brownish/pink spotting.

Today I’m 7 days past 6-day transfer (so basically the same as 13 days past ovulation for those keeping score the regular way). My first positive came on the evening of 4 days past 6-day transfer and totally shocked me. I read that it is possible to get a BFP then, but I figured it was way too early. It was very light, but definitely noticeable! Since then, I’ve tried multiple types of tests and they are all positive, with the lines getting a little darker each day.

I asked my nurse about the spotting, and she said it could very well be from the Endometrin suppositories that I’m taking three times a day. They are known to cause irritation and bleeding, and she said that I can switch to progesterone in oil and see if the spotting stops. I ordered some and will start this weekend if I keep spotting.

For now, we are cautiously optimistic, hoping for a great beta on Tuesday and an end to this spotting. I keep telling myself it will do absolutely no good to worry and I should try to enjoy being pregnant regardless of how long it lasts. Please hang in there, little one! We love you so much already!

IVF Update: Unexpected News

At our Day 6 transfer, the doctor said he guessed we would have at most one embryo to freeze. Well, those remaining four frontrunners must have made some serious progress last night because my nurse called today and said they were able to freeze FOUR embryos! This was totally unexpected and I’m still in a bit of shock. Here is the report:

Transferred:
1 expanded blastocyst, AB

Frozen:
3 expanded blastocysts, BB
1 early blastocyst, AB

I know this is really good news, because it means that at least for the foreseeable future, I won’t have to go through the egg retrieval process again. If this fresh cycle doesn’t work, we’ll have a bunch of chances to try again without all the added stress of stims and surgery. But it also raises a question that infertiles rarely ask themselves…what if everything works? Could we actually have FIVE children? I know the chances of all of these embryos surviving thaw and creating successful pregnancies is very, very slim, but it is possible. I can’t help but already think of these embryos as part of our family. I’m sure once you have a child, that notion is only solidified. Will we feel like our family isn’t truly complete until we give all of these embryos a chance at life?

I’m choosing to see this news as a wonderful blessing — part of the master plan that we do not yet fully understand. This is certainly not the way I pictured building my family (all in one shot!), but it is amazing and beautiful in a way that I can’t quite describe.

IVF Update: Day 6 Transfer

Our little blast!

Our little blast!

Yes, you read that title right. We got all ready on Day 5 and were just getting into the car to drive to the clinic when my nurse called and said we were being pushed back to a Day 6 transfer. At this point we still had five front runners, but they were early cavitating/compacting embryos, so the embryologist wanted to give them one more day to see if the best ones of the group would reveal themselves. We were already worried that our embryos wouldn’t make it to Day 5, and now we had to wait another day!

Feeling like we were in the movie Groundhog Day, we got up and ready for our transfer today for the third time this week. Luckily, this time it really happened! When we arrived, we found out that we had one (nearly) perfect embryo – an expanded blastocyst graded AB – that we would transfer. We were extra excited to learn that this embryo was one of the three that fertilized on its own through IVF, not ICSI. The embryologist said they were still waiting on the other 4 to see if any were high enough quality to freeze and that we would know tomorrow or Saturday. The doctor who did the transfer said most likely we would have one or maybe none to freeze, which wasn’t great news, but I was so happy that we had a rockstar to transfer that I focused on that.

The procedure was very easy. It was very similar to an IUI, only this time the doctor was surgical with the catheter and I didn’t feel a thing! The best part was getting to see our embryo on the screen in the lab, and then watching on the ultrasound screen as it was inserted. A very emotional moment! They even gave us a photo to take home with us. Hoping that someday we can show our child their very first baby photo!

I’m not doing strict bed rest, but just trying to stay relaxed around the house for the next three days. I’m sure this wait will be the worst one yet, but at least with a Day 6 transfer we don’t have to wait quite as long!