life, love, and maybe babies

Friday, December 19, 2014

My IVF Retrieval, Part 1: Getting to the point. Literally.

When you're completing an IVF cycle, one of the things you have to do - unless you're using donor eggs- is a retrieval.

"Retrieval" is a fancy, non-threatening word for "we head up into your yahoo and pull out a bunch of follicles that we create by turning you into a human pin cushion for two weeks."

The retrieval itself isn't bad (more on that in the next segment), but I won't lie, the process leading up to it is more intense than I imagined. Would you like to hear my story?

(If you don't, stop reading, cuz I'm going to tell you anyway.)

I won't go into the entire nitty-gritty, because that would literally be a 45-minute read. I'll just hit the highlights.

For me, my retrieval was about 600 miles from home at CCRM in Lone Tree, Colorado. Thus far, I have been very pleased with CCRM. As with any fertility clinic, some people have good experiences, some have bad. I've been pretty lucky. They are an extremely busy clinic, so not everyone is going to remember your name every day. I'm totally okay with that as long as people are nice to me, which they have been.

So, after your blood levels are reported to your clinic on a particular day in your cycle, they determine your calendar. Basically, this calendar will tell you what injections to take, when, and how much. It is a lot of information to take in, and you won't understand it all (unless you're a genius, in which case, congratulations).

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is ASK QUESTIONS. For CCRM, they kind of assume you know what you're doing unless you tell them otherwise. So tell them otherwise. Also never, ever assume your medications have been ordered. Follow up with the pharmacy and make double sure they've been ordered, because if you miss your start date, you can say goodbye to that month's retrieval and you'll cry in your bathroom for three hours. Timing is way important here, and you don't want to have to put everything off because you missed a day of medication.

So...the medication. Holy shnikes, it's a lot. Like, a whole lot. Here's a lovely photo to see what sorts of goodies you can be expecting.

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See? Overhwelming. And I didn't even put all the needles and vitamins and gauze in the picture. But don't fret, you can always refer back to your calendar or medication sheet if you get confused. You're probably going to be put on a regimen of Menopur/Repronex with Gonal-F/Follistim and possibly Cetrotide/Ganirelix. Dude, I'm not a doctor so I can't tell you why you get one brand of meds over the other. Just listen to your quack and do what he/she tells you.

This isn't a tutorial so I'm not going to explain to you all the ins and outs of injections. I'll just talk about how much they suck. I'm kidding, they aren't that bad.

That's a lie, they do suck.

Here's the thing with injections. It's a needle. Every time. You can't opt out of the needles and the injections. If you want a kid via IVF, you've got be a big kid yourself and take the damn shots.

For the first shot you ever take, may I highly recommend enlisting your hubby/partner? Cuz they will love that shit. I mean, c'mon. All those months of hearing us bitch and moan about how annoying this process is? They're due to inflict a little pain on us.

In my case, my first injection took place on Thanksgiving morning. Neat. Here, have some turkey and the SCARIEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE all on the same day. But hey, if it doesn't go well, you can just drown your sorrows with wine.

Oh wait, no you can't because you can't have booze with an IVF cycle. Or caffeine. 

Two thumbs up!!

Okay, so, for me it was a Menopur injection first. With Menopur, you have to mix the medication with saline. It's kind of complex. There's a lot of withdrawing vials of saline and injecting into another vial of powder and mixing and switching out needles and prepping the area...eek. CCRM has videos to help, but when you're doing this for the first time, everything sounds way harder than it is.

I might have had a panic attack.

We were instructed to inject two vials of Menopur. But wait...does that mean we use two vials of saline to mix the two vials of Menopur? Or one? Or neither?

Dear God, we're going to kill me.

CCRM is closed up tighter than a drum on Thanksgiving so Hubs just said we'd have to guess. Um, no. I am not guessing on this one, thanks. CCRM does have an "emergency line", but if you call and it's not really an emergency, they charge you major dough. So that option was out, too. In the end, I called the pharmacy we received the meds from, and they had a 24-hour question line.

Write that down. CALL YOUR PHARMACY IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS. The pharmacy people were way awesome and explained everything in exquisite detail, so I felt much less like throwing myself off a very tall building.

It was injection time.

Truthfully the needle isn't that big. But still, it's a needle going into my body against my will to inject something that may or may not make me go all coo coo. Hubs prepared the vial with the mixing needle, then switched to the smaller needle (thank God, because the prep needle is like, 4" long) and grabbed my fat.

Yes, my fat. 

To inject the medication properly, you must do it subcutaneously. (Don't ask me to say it out loud, cuz it'll come out "subcretatiously". This isn't a dinosaur movie.) Basically this means that every day when you take your injections, you get to be reminded of those cheeseburgers you shouldn't have eaten over the last decade. You pinch an inch on your gut and stick the sucker in.

I've seen blogs where people take photos of doing this. Those people also have six pack abs. You will not be receiving a similar visual from me, thankyouverymuch. The only six pack I have is of Dr. Pepper in my refrigerator and I can't even drink them because I can't have caffeine.

Life is so unfair sometimes.

I chose not to watch as Hubs did the injection, and for me, that was helpful. I don't get a kick out of watching a sharp object penetrate into the sole reason I can't fit into a size 4 pair of pants. Besides, watching was unnecessary anyway because I felt plenty. Menopur stings a bit. Of course the first time you do it, you're already on edge, which likely makes the whole experience more intense. In fact, after my first injection that Thanksgiving morning, I was convinced we had done it wrong.

"It stings, babe!" I cried at my poor husband. "No really, it stings!! I think we did it wrong. OH MY GOD, WHAT IF THERE'S AN AIR BUBBLE! Should we call 911? What if we injected too much? Will I die??"

Ever the calm influence, Hubs assured me we had done everything correctly and to the letter and he was sure the sting would go away. It did. Damn, Hubs, always being right.
So that was done. Dramatic, yes, but not terrible. And I only had to do it like, 11 more times over the course of the next two weeks! *eyeroll*

Eventually we also added in injections of Gonal-F and Cetrotide every day. For those of you not counting, that's anywhere between 3-4 injections every day. Both the Gonal-F and the Cetrotide are refrigerated, so be sure to keep them cold. And be sure to let them sit out for 1/2 an hour before you inject them. I swear when they're cold, it hurts more.

Now...side effects. This is the part of the blog where I actually get to tell you something amazing. My side effects were tolerable. I was expecting to go Glenn Close crazy and fix Hubs a rabbit stew at some point. That's what the Internet said to expect and the INTERNET IS ALWAYS RIGHT. But it never happened. I got cray cray bloated and yeah, one or two headaches showed up. Other that, nada. Part of it might have been that I was in Colorado and got to go on these beautiful walks every day and enjoy my surroundings. Whatever it was, it it made me glad that I wasn't miserable.

CCRM wanted me doing daily blood draws and ultrasounds during the last week leading up to the transfer, so I headed out on December 1st. Hubs didn't have enough vacation to come out with me, so he had to fly out several days later, which meant I had to do my injections myself while I waited for him to arrive. I didn't think I could do it. Truly. I considered just backing out and calling the whole thing off. That's how terrified I was of injecting myself.

You guys, it wasn't that bad. Wanna hear something nuts? After the second or third day, I sort of started enjoying doing the injections. I turned it into a game. 

  • 5 points for every time I didn't take more than one attempt to get the needle in.
  • 5 points if I could do the injection and not say "ow", "ooh", "ahhh", or "GOD DAMMIT THIS SUCKS SO FECKING BAD!"
  • 15 points if I remembered to get the air bubbles out (PS, you won't die if there's an air bubble. That's only when you're sticking a vein. I looked it up.)
  • 20,000 points for injecting a spot that didn't result in a bruise
  • 50,000 points if I could refrain from yelling, "I DID IT!" after every injection

The points system didn't really mean anything. I tried to convince Hubs to let the culmination result in a Michael Kors purse.

That didn't go anywhere fast.

Throughout the whole process, you'll be monitored via blood work and ultrasounds. The nurses will tell you how many follicles are developing and how your uterine lining is looking. They'll root around up in your vag and take pics of all the follicles and it's not pleasant, but it's no effing HSG or Uterine Biopsy

And for that you can thank your lucky stars.

My ultrasounds indicated close to 33 follicles developing which is a bumper crop for sure. I never thought we'd get that many and our doc was pretty stoked too. One side effect of all those little Totino's pizza rolls in my gut was that they made my estrogen levels high. This did two things. One, my boobs basically had their own zip code. Oh my God, they were massive. Hubs loved that. Me? Not so much. Secondly, I became highly at risk for OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome). This is not a good thing. You can read up on it on your own time, but what it translates to is, we had to move to a frozen cycle rather than fresh. This meant that I would have to head home after recovering from the retrieval and then return for the actual transfer in Colorado two weeks later.

It was a bummer for me. I was really hoping to get this all over with in one big fireworks show, but such was not the case. To hear the doc describe it, OHSS is not something you want to experience at ANY time in your life, let alone when you're in the middle of an IVF rodeo. It just isn't fun. 

So a frozen cycle it was.

After about two weeks of letting all those little follicles cook, it was time to go get 'em. And tomorrow, I'll tell you all about it...

Stay tuned, lovelies!


1 comment:

Nat Asha said...

I want to use this means to let the world know that all hope is not lost Getting pregnant after having tubes clamped and burned, I know IVF and Reversal could help but it way too cost, i couldn't afford it either and i so desire to add another baby to my family been trying for 5 years, not until i came across Dr.AGBAZARA TEMPLE, who cast a pregnancy/Fertility spell for me and i got pregnant.l hope that women out there who are going through the same fears and worries l went through in GETTING PREGNANT , will find your contact and be happy like me as i drop it here on this site, and solution will come to them as they contact you. Thank you and God bless you to reach him email via:
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