~ Getting Caught Up
My husband likes to joke that there were four women in the room when I got pregnant. He may be kidding me, but it's true. My doctor, the ultrasound technician that assisted her, and the embryologist were all women - and of course, there was me in the stirrups. It was a real circus!
Perhaps I need to back up a bit, because most of you probably don't know much about in vitro fertilization [IVF], the process that we used to get pregnant this last time. Until about three months ago, I didn't know much either. Now, I am a pro at mixing and self-injecting a variety of different medications. At first, it was pretty overwhelming, but looking back, SO worth it.
In mid-November, a huge box arrived at our house. It was filled with the different medications that I would need to take. I remember pulling it all out to confirm that everything was as ordered, and starting to cry as the pile of vials, boxes, needles, and syringes grew larger and larger. I couldn't believe that all of that medication was going to have to go into my body - through a needle! That night was my first shot, and this was a big deal for me. I lined up everything on the counter. . . sharps container for disposing the needles, cotton balls, alcohol pads, the vial of medication, and the needle itself. Most of my injections are what are called subcutaneous injections, which means into the top layer of the skin, and the needles are actually quite tiny. But it's amazing how big a needle can seem when you are about to jab it into your stomach. It took about fifteen minutes of hemming and hawing, then I just did it. And it wasn't so bad. In fact, I barely felt it. Giving myself injections became pretty routine after that.
In the beginning of December, I had to increase the injections to three times a day, using three types of different medications. This was a bit harder, as one of the medications burned a lot when I injected it. I had a sheet which clearly marked which medication to take, at what dose, and at what time, each and every day. I started going to the doctor for ultrasounds and blood draws every morning. The clinic is about an hour from our house, so this was actually more time consuming than it sounds. Each appointment was nerve wracking, too, because at any time, your body can respond poorly to the medications and your whole cycle can be canceled. Luckily, we did not have any problems like that and everything proceeded as expected.
This part of the cycle is called the "stimulation" phase, where your ovaries make as many follicles (eggs) as possible. Usually, your body only makes one (or rarely, two) follicles in a month. Well, I had 23 follicles cooking. It got extremely uncomfortable as time went on. Your ovaries are normally the size of tic tacs, but by the time that I got to the point that I was ready for the next phase (egg retrieval), my ovaries were each the size of an orange. Even walking made me sore!
Egg retrieval is a process in which they go in and get the follicles that have developed. This process sounds a lot scarier than it truly is, as they go in and retrieve the follicles through the vaginal wall with an eight inch needle - yikes! Luckily, they put you under general anesthesia for this part. I had a bit of cramping and some spotting afterward, but most of my ill effects from egg retrieval was from the anesthesia itself and that wore off pretty quickly.
After the eggs were retrieved, the mature ones were put in a petri dish with my husband's sperm. Of our 23 eggs, only 14 were mature enough to attempt to fertilize, but a whopping 12 out of the 14 successfully fertilized (50 - 60% is the norm). For the next five days, we got daily phone calls from our doctor's office, letting us know the quality and quantity of our embryos. This was also a bit scary and sad, because each day, some arrested, which is a nice way of saying that they died. It made me sad to think of our tiny little ones dying in a lonely petri dish somewhere.
Finally, five days after egg retrieval, two embryos (now called blastocysts) were transferred back to me. This is the infamous four women in the room scene. My doctor used a catheter to gently place the blastocysts at the top of my uterus. We actually saw the whole thing happen on the ultrasound screen. It was very surreal, but a beautiful moment. After that, I had to be on bed rest for two days to assist with implantation, and then we had to wait. . . and wait. . . and wait to see if it worked.
During this time, I had to start taking a different daily shot, and this one was intra muscular, which meant that it had to go in my rear hip. Since I obviously can't reach there myself, my husband got to jab the 2 INCH long needle in my hip area every night. The shot itself wasn't painful, but it would make the muscle really sore afterward, and I got some really nasty bruises. Luckily, at six weeks, you get to switch to a once a week injection, which was a relief! I am still injecting a blood thinner into my stomach every night, and this is to help get the right blood supply to the baby (most IVF patients do not have to do this, but because of our miscarriages, I have to), but that shot isn't painful at all, even if my stomach is a rainbow of bruises.
I started taking home pregnancy tests about a week after transfer, and they came up with the most beautiful two lines. The lines got darker and darker, until the day of my beta HCG blood test. HCG is the hormone that the baby puts out after it has implanted into the uterine wall. The presence of this hormone is what causes the second line to come up on a home pregnancy test. In a normally progressing pregnancy, this hormone should roughly double every 48 hours. My first test was two days before Christmas and showed us that sure enough, we were pregnant! It was an amazing Christmas present. Three days later, it had more than tripled. The next test didn't quite double, but it was close enough. After three good blood draws, they scheduled us for an early ultrasound.
We had to wait until we were past the six week mark, which seemed to take an eternity. The night before our first ultrasound, I don't think that I slept more than an hour. I kept having horrible nightmares that I wasn't even pregnant, that the blood tests were wrong, that the baby wouldn't have a heartbeat. My worry was for naught. At six weeks, one day, we finally saw our beautiful little one on the ultrasound screen - with a little flash in the middle, which was its heart, just beating away. My husband and I were thrilled! I didn't really have much in the way of symptoms at the six week mark, except that I was a lot more tired than usual.
We went back in the seventh week for our second ultrasound and once again, the baby was measuring perfectly and the heart rate was just what they like to see. My symptoms really started kicking in more at that time. I get pretty bad morning sickness, which is really more ALL DAY LONG sickness, and I was starting to have more and more times when food wouldn't stay down. My breasts were starting to get bigger and feel a bit more sensitive. If I didn't get a nap during the day, then I would be in bed by 7 PM. If I did get a nap in, then I might make it to 9 PM!
At eight weeks, the baby still looked great on the ultrasound, and by that point, there was no denying that I felt PREGNANT. My breasts were even more sore, my pants were starting to get a bit tight, and my nausea was almost unrelenting. Tired doesn't properly explain the fatigue of first trimester pregnancy!
Because of our history of miscarriage, we are getting weekly ultrasounds through the end of the first trimester. This kid is so far one of the most photographed in the world - even Tom and Katie's baby didn't get this much ultrasound action! Sometimes, I worry about the potential ill-effects on the baby, but my doctor assures me that the brief exposure is not harmful. We have a lot of pictures of our baby, in the latest one, you can see little arms and legs! It looks like a tiny teddy bear! One of these days, I will learn how to use a scanner, and will try to include a picture for you.
Well, I think that about catches you up to date! As I write this, we are at 9 weeks, 1 day, and will have our weekly ultrasound appointment this afternoon. Later on this week, I will update you on what my ninth week of pregnancy has been like. Thanks for reading!