IVF was going to be a last chance saloon for me and my husband. We’d already had four miscarriages in 2.5 years and although we knew the odds of IVF working were low – around 15% according to our consultant – we also knew we couldn’t give up without at least having tried.
Our CCG funds one cycle of IVF for women aged 40-42, so we knew this was an option we wouldn’t have to go into debt to try. And this was important to us. We’ve also been trying to buy a house – and in the way life sometimes seems to mysteriously synchronise, we’ve had four house purchases fall through in the same time we’ve had four miscarriages. So, ideally, we didn’t want to take on any credit for IVF that could affect our mortgage application(s).
So we went into our IVF cycle realistic about the chances of it succeeding. But what I discovered was that, for me at least, as soon as I was in the process, I became so hopeful that I almost reached the point of assuming it would work.
For anyone who knows me, it’s unusual that I would be so confident. A natural pessimist by nature, I’d been working through with my counsellor how expecting things to go wrong takes all the joy out of the process. So I think this may have accounted for my rare positivity. And to be honest, it was nice to feel this way.
The IVF cycle
I was on a short protocol, so there was no down-regulating. I would begin with a high dose of 450IU of Menopur, which I would start on day 1-3 of my period (day 1 of my IVF cycle). I would then add in Cetrotide on day 5 of my IVF cycle and continue with both injections daily until going in for my first scan on day 10. Simple.
What I didn’t expect was quite how much the process would take over my waking thoughts. So as a way to get out all my worries, I kept a diary. Below are some excerpts.
Day 1 of follicle stimulation
I wasn’t really expecting to start stimming today. My period arrived yesterday so I called the hospital this morning, as soon after 8am as they would answer the phone. My details were taken and I didn’t expect to hear anything until maybe Sunday, more likely Monday. But the nurse called me back this afternoon saying I’d been accepted for treatment and they wanted me to inject for the first time as soon as I got off the call.
The injection wasn’t the most daunting part for me, as I’d had to self-administer daily injections of blood thinners during my most recent two pregnancies. It was preparing the meds that worried me most.
Wayne [my husband] was due to be in charge of prepping the syringes, but happened to be napping when I got the call, so I thought I’d try to do it myself rather than wake him. It was actually a lot more simple than expected.
Day 2 of follicle stimulation
Injecting is going well. Wayne loaded up my syringe with the 450IU dose of Menopur today. I like that he’s involved, it makes it feel that it’s a joint effort rather than just ‘my thing’. Today’s injection stung a lot more than yesterday, I don’t know why.
I’ve just done the first ‘stimulation phase’ meditation on my IVF app. It feels good to be taking the time to relax, as stress is one of my major hurdles and I really want to minimise it throughout his process.
Day 3 of follicle stimulation
I can definitely feel more going on in my ovaries today and I struggled to wear my jeans all day because they felt too tight. Also, I’ve gained 2lbs overnight!
I injected in my thigh today, the medication stung but the injection itself was less painful, so I think I’ll swap to that location from now on.
Day 4 of follicle stimulation
I’ve definitely felt more emotional today. I also had a horrendous headache on and off through the night and today – a real head-splitter.
Some parts of the day, I feel like there must be a lot of growing happening down there, based on the twinges and the unusual sensations. But then at other times it feels completely normal and I worry that nothing’s growing and I’m going to be a ‘poor responder’.
Day 5 of follicle stimulation
Today was the first Cetrotide injection and I won’t lie, I was nervous. This was the one I’ve heard can cause more emotional issues than Menopur, as well as being a bigger injecting needle and…well, just more hormones!
But so far, so good. The actual injection was less painful than with Menopur, the medication ‘sting’ wasn’t there which was a relief, although the liquid seemed thicker and slower to inject and my leg was itching for a while afterwards.
One new addition today – EWCM!! Oh my god, so much of it and it came from nowhere! A panicked Google search showed that this is entirely normal and just means my body’s producing more oestrogen because of the additional follicles growing. I was not expecting this at all, so I’m glad it doesn’t mean anything’s going wrong.
Day 6 of follicle stimulation
I feel like the emotional side of stimming is really kicking in. I felt such rage this afternoon – and for no reason whatsoever – so it can only have been caused by the meds.
It was my second day of Menopur and Cetrotide and doing two injections didn’t seem so bad today, not really painful at all. And Wayne is so cute – he went out and bought lollies so I can pick one each day as a reward when I’ve done my jabs!
I feel pretty tired today and although my ovaries aren’t painful, I’m starting to get some sharper twinges every now and then. I really hope that means they’re growing a good number of follicles. In non-Covid times, I’d have gone in for a scan today, but as it is, I’ve got another 4 days to wait yet. It’s frustrating not knowing what’s happening in there, especially as I’ve never done IVF before so have nothing to compare it to.
Day 7 of follicle stimulation
Today has been difficult. I’ve felt such a lot of pent up anger and frustration. I kind of thought this might be a part of the IVF stimming process, but wow, it’s more intense than I was ready for.
Physically, the symptoms are much more minor than I thought they’d be. I had headaches early on, but these have stopped now. I’m feeling more tired as the days go on, but as I’m working from home and deliberately didn’t make any plans (which isn’t hard during a pandemic!), it’s not causing any issues. I managed a long walk with Wayne after work, which I was pleased about as the sofa was much more tempting than my trainers!
Day 9 of follicle stimulation
I’ve felt more twinges through the day today and have been quite uncomfortable at times. Hopefully that means things are working down there. Although, to be honest, I did expect it to be more uncomfortable than this and it worries me that I may not be responding well.
I had a good long chat with a friend today. It was such a relief to distract myself with someone else’s life, but also to talk a bit more about how I’m feeling about the IVF and how hard my moods have been to handle. I really hate feeling so out of control. I’m reacting to every little thing so extremely and I know it’s not me. But I just can’t seem to do anything about it.
Day 10 – first follicle scan
‘Disappointing’ is the only word for my scan result this morning. My right ovary only has one follicle growing on it, which was measuring 19mm. On the left ovary, there are 4 follicles, measuring 16mm, 15mm, 13-14mm and 12mm. Only 5 follicles in total. So we were sent away with 2 more days of injections and another scan appointment on Wednesday.
I had a good cry on the way home, feeling completely despondent. Getting pregnant hasn’t often been the part we’ve struggled with, so the possibility of not even having anything to transfer will feel like such an incredible waste of time, effort and emotion.
The second follicle scan and egg retrieval
Two days later, I went back in for another scan and the news wasn’t much better, but there was an improvement at least. I now had six follicles on my left ovary, still just the one on my right. I was phoned that afternoon and told to inject my Gonasi trigger that night and to come in for retrieval 36 hours later.
The morning of the egg retrieval, I was so anxious. I don’t like healthcare settings at the best of times and had never had sedation before, so I was a bundle of nerves. Sitting in my little section of the ward beforehand deep-breathing and trying to forget what was about to happen, I still felt certain we’d made the right decision going through with IVF. My body had produced some follicles, even if there weren’t as many as we’d hoped. I was excited to get the egg retrieval done and to move on to the next stage.
As is usually the case with medical worries, the sedation ended up being absolutely fine. I walked down to the procedure room, answered a couple of questions, a cannula was inserted in my hand, monitors were attached and then I remember talking to the anaesthetist about – of all things – red wine. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery area, with no memories of retrieval at all.
Shortly afterwards, I was told they’d collected five eggs. Not too bad, I thought! They would inject the eggs with my husband’s sperm (which he’d provided while I was having the procedure) that afternoon and would let us know the following morning how many eggs were mature and how many had fertilised.
The pain was minimal while I was at the hospital but I felt much more uncomfortable in the evening when the pain relief had worn off. So I spent the rest of the day napping and chilling out on the sofa, trying to keep my mind off what was happening in the embryology lab.