The time had finally come. We were excited that our IVF consultation and classes were finally here. Finally, we would be able to fill the nursery that had remained empty for four, almost five years. Finally we were finished toying around with lesser fertility treatments and moving on to a treatment that would bring us our baby. Even though they tell you IVF doesn’t always work and sometimes takes several tries, that was not going to be the case with us. There was no known medical reason that we could not conceive, so surely, placing an embryo or two directly into me would have to work.
The decision was made and the fertility clinic paid their discounted price of $5000. That’s right - the DISCOUNTED PRICE without medications. The cost of medications change from person to person but often cost thousands of dollars in addition to the procedure itself. It was the day of our first IVF class and medication pick up. The military does not pay for assisted reproduction. There are, however, five military treatment facilities. Through a combination of grants and the military using the facilities to maintain a doctor’s civilian skill sets, these facilities offer discounted treatment. The cost of medication (not usually covered outside of timed intercourse), is covered by grants. The doctors’ and nurses’ time is covered by the military to maintain their skills and keep them competitive with their civilian peers. The couple will pay out of pocket for the embryologist, anesthesiologist, sperm washing, freezing, and other costs associated with assisted reproduction.
That morning the classroom of the RE’s Office was full of couples preparing for IVF. The nurse stood at the front of the room and went over the procedure; how to take the medications, what would happen after the egg retrieval, options such as ICIS, 3 day transfer, 5 day transfer, PGS testing, PGD testing, costs and everything else IVF related that you could need to know. She then handed out large white bags full of boxes of various medications. Each couple’s bag was filled with a different number of boxes based on their type of infertility and the protocol the doctor deemed best for their situation. Some women had two or three bags while others, include myself, had only one bag. We left that day with our personalized calendars ready to embark on the magical, fool proof treatment that was IVF.
A few days later I boarded a plane for California. I usually do a few half marathons each year and this year I was doing Disney’s Coast to Coast Challenge (a half marathon at Disney World in Orlando and a half marathon at Disney Land in California). Once in California, I explored the area a bit and visited the normal tourist places - the beach, Hollywood and, of course, Disney Land, or as I like to refer to it, tiny Disney World.
I also began taking shots that would stimulate my ovaries to mature more follicles than normal. The weekend came and I did my last 5K and half marathon for the year. During stimulation the ovaries can become large so the doctor usually wants to limit strenuous exercise to prevent injury. In addition to strenuous exercise avoidance, it is also recommended that one does not have an orgasm until after you see the heartbeat. While many children have been naturally conceived without a women having an orgasm, it seems unfair.
I returned from the weekend refreshed and ready for my monitoring. The first few weeks of IVF treatment were similar to the monitoring for IUIs. The difference being that they were stimulating more hoping for more than the normal, 2-4 mature follicles. The trigger shot was also the same. The big difference came after trigger shot. This time instead of couriering sperm between my boobs we would go to the IVF clinic. I would be on valium to help relax me and my uterus. I would then put on a gown and meet the anesthesiologist who would put me into a brief sleep. When I woke up a short time later we were informed that 15 eggs were removed. This was a good number for us.
The RE that we worked with preferred to do day three transfers opting to allow additional growth in the womb itself. In hindsight, I wish we would have opted for a day 5 transfer with testing at this time, but no point in playing the ‘what if’ game.
Three days after the egg retrieval we returned to the embryologist. We were updated on the growth of our embryos. One had failed to grow past day one leaving us 14. They showed us a photo of the top three embryos based on a number of criteria and we opted to transfer two that day and freeze the remaining 12. My bladder was ready to burst, but they want it full to ensure the uterus is pushed forward and the embryos can be placed in the proper place. Once again I was gowned and wheeled into the same room I had been in for the egg retrieval. The procedure was similar to an insemination except instead of the nurse inserting the sperm, the doctor inserted the embryos encased in an air bubble. The air bubble allows the doctor the ability to better view where he is placing them.
Once placed, I was wheeled out of the room and laid down for 15 minutes. It was time for the two week wait but I already knew this was going to work. I left the office with two embryos inside me and confident that 38 weeks from now I would be the mother of paternal twins. On to the next chapter.