Some of this is taken from a previous post from years ago, but most of you were not my readers then, and it’s relevant today, so I’m posting an edited version. There is some detailed medical/science stuff in here, so if you don’t like medical/science stuff, stop reading.
I have a complicated GI history. I was sick for five years with ulcerative colitis and had two major surgeries for it in 1995. The surgeries left significant scar tissue inside me, and I tried for years to get pregnant, but could not. When I started evaluations for fertility, I found out that my ovaries were displaced due to scar tissue. This made getting pregnant pretty impossible.
I wasted money on four rounds of IUI, which is basically an inexpensive turkey baster method of trying to conceive, done in a doctor’s office. After four failed cycles of IUI, the doctors said IVF was my only option. Though we could ill afford it, we got a fixed loan for 3% and used that money to pay for one cycle of IVF. That’s ONE try, one month. In a handful of states, this procedure is covered by insurance. It’s not in Ohio. With all the drugs and everything, it’s around $15,000. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent.
IVF takes a couple of months. You have to take birth control to shut down your hormones and start from a clean slate so that the medications the doctors have you administering are done with precise timing. In the last week of the BC cycle, you start giving yourself a daily subcutaneous injection of a menopause drug. Because of all the scar tissue in my abdomen, instead of doing the shots there, the nurses suggested injecting my upper thigh.
A few minutes after the first injection, I started to feel like I was having trouble breathing and like I was getting hot. I have like a dozen drug allergies so I got out my epi pens out in case things got worse. I didn’t feel right, but it didn’t seem to be rapidly getting worse, I just had trouble breathing and felt kind of weird. After about 30 minutes it felt a little better, so I knew it would eventually go away and that we wouldn’t need to go to the hospital. I called the nurse the next day and she said I was allergic and it could get worse, and that we may have to completely stop the whole process, wait another month, order a different drug that didn’t work as well and start over. She suggested I try taking Benadryl at least 10 minutes before, and see how it goes but have the epi pens ready and be ready to go to the hospital if it’s worse. I took the Benadryl for the next night’s dose and it was fine. I felt a little weird but nothing major. So, BC, Benadryl, subcue injections.
After the pills, you start administering the hormones that causes eggs to grow, but because you are still injecting the repressor, it controls and evens out the growth so it happens slowly and gradually and evenly. I had to do a different dosage each week and had to go in for ultrasounds every 2 or 3 days to find out what dosage was next, depending on how the follicles were developing. It’s such complicated science, it’s unreal. The drug had to be kept refrigerated or else it might not work, so when it went in, it was pretty cold. It burned going in and left a red mark, but it wasn’t that bad. We took turns administering this one, alternating thighs each day.
I went in for monitoring several times a week. They said I wasn’t making very many follicles and that they were very hard to find, due to the scar tissue. During one appointment, in the middle of an ultrasound, the doctor asked me if I’d ever considered using an egg donor and I started crying. We kept injections and hoping for the best. Finally the date approached where they were going to retrieve the follicles. The night before, I had to get intramuscular injection into my upper buttock (DH had to do this one) to cause the follicles to burst so the eggs would be available to grab. Early the next morning I went in for my egg retrieval, which is an outpatient surgery. Because of my scar tissue, both doctors at the fertility clinic had to work on my retrieval.
When I woke up, the doctors told me they were able to get a few by taking turns standing on a step stool and leaning over the table pushing down on my abdomen with all their weight while the other doctor retrieved the eggs from one ovary. Then they switched and the other doctor did the other side, as it was too hard for one person to keep the pressure on for so long. They got six, which isn’t fantastic, but was better than nothing. Younger women might get 15, 20, or more. We went home and waited to see if any of them fertilized in the petri dish. It was a long weekend.
Monday morning, they told me four of the six fertilized, and we scheduled the time for me to come back in for the transfer three days later. You have to wait to make sure they are doubling their cells at the proper rate. By the transfer date, only three had survived and we had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to insert 1, 2 or 3. However many you put in, of course, is how many babies you could have. And each grouping of cells could divide, and could become twins, etc. I was torn. It was our only shot. We could not afford to go through this again. What if we only put in two and it didn’t work? I would wonder forever and ever and ever if that 3rd one could have been my baby. I couldn’t live with that. We put in all three.
They showed them to me in the petri dish in the procedure room, beforehand. You could just barely make them out with the naked eye – it looked like three very, very small specks of black pepper. They put a magnifying microscope on them and took a picture with it and gave it to us; the little cell clusters of my three babies. For the next two weeks I checked the toilet bowl after every time I went to the bathroom, looking for those tiny black specks. It’s a strange position to be in, one most people are not in – seeing your baby at the very inception of it’s cellular life and then again after gestation is complete, if you’re lucky. Science is amazing.
Nine days after the transfer, I developed another allergic reaction and had to go into the office to get another drug. They gave me a urine PG test while I was in there, even though you were supposed to wait 14 days to test. Negative. I was heartbroken. I came home and had a drink and cried. Since I had bought the tests anyway, on the 14th day alone in the bathroom at 2:30 a.m., I took another test and it was positive.
Two weeks after that I heard Dylan’s solo heartbeat on ultrasound at the fertility clinic, and I was released to the care of an OB for the remainder of my pregnancy.
My boy turned four yesterday, but always on his birthday I think about those other two babies I made, and wonder what they would have been like, as they would have been born around the same time. Would they have been girls or boys? What color would their hair have been? Would they have a goofy smile? My slightly green/yellow, Greek skin? I would have happily grown as big as a house to grow them inside me and nurture them like I did the D all those months, and I grieved for them then, and now.
I have their picture in a photo array I keep in my bedroom on the wall. I look at the cell clusters and wonder which one was Dylan, and which one would have been Jade or Luke or Sophia.
Here they are. My three babies. I share them with you.