Tommy & I were married in 2010. We had always wanted children, but we had a rule that we wanted to be married at least a year before we had a child. I went on birth control before our wedding, and began having health problems associated with it about 6 months into our marriage. I opted to have the birth control removed, and if we did happen to get pregnant then we would at least be married a year before the kid came. I was almost shocked when we didn’t “accidentally” get pregnant after we celebrated our 1 year anniversary. After that I began tracking ovulation dates and paying close attention to my cycles. Everything was completely normal, but still no pregnancy. I finally resulted to buying expensive ovulation kits to make sure we were timing things right. After a few months of negative ovulation tests, I quickly realized I was not ovulating, and scheduled an appointment with my doctor. He ran several blood tests, and those can back abnormal. My prolactin levels were extremely high, and he immediately ordered a brain MRI and scheduled me an appointment with a neurosurgeon and an endocrinologist. What they discovered was a pituitary tumor that was supposedly the reason I was not able to get pregnant. There were 3 options: surgery to remove it (a pretty invasive procedure), medication to shrink it (not recommended because I have type 1 diabetes and it would make my sugar levels crazy), or just to watch it until I started having visible symptoms. Because the doctors had just barely discovered the tumor, they wanted to just watch it for 6 months and then get a repeat MRI. This would give them an idea of how fast it was growing and possibly when it developed. This was very difficult for me. We had spent the last year of our lives trying to have a baby, then we found the reason, and now they just wanted to wait and watch it. This was the longest 6 moths! Anticipating brain surgery, hoping for the best, not even knowing what to expect, and just still hoping to one day be able to start our family. The doctors had warned us we were NOT to get pregnant within this 6 month period, and we were basically like “well if we even could we wouldn’t be here.”
We made it through those long 6 months and we were very anxious to get the MRI results back. We met with the neurosurgeon basically expecting to schedule surgery to remove the tumor ASAP so that we could try to have a baby. The doctor said that the tumor looked fine and we were in the clear to see infertility specialists. This was great news, but at the same time I was so unbelievably frustrated that the doctor just said things were fine. They weren’t fine to me. I had put my life on hold and had worried about the future basically everyday for the last 6 months. And he just said things were fine. No big deal. On our way home from the doctor appointment, after a good cry, we set up an appointment with the University of Utah Reproductive Center.
We had to wait a few months for an opening at the U. Which was fine because we wanted to see the best of the best. This also gave me a few months to track my cycles throughly again to be able to give the doctors the most accurate information. Our first appointment was basically an in-depth get to know you and medical history. They ordered so many tests and scans and wanted to know both of our backgrounds before we even moved forward. This involved lots of blood work basically every day throughout an entire cycle, semen analysis, ultrasounds, hysterosalpingograms, and much much more. They also wanted us to compete genetic testing prior to infertility treatments. Once we had been “approved” and deemed as suitable to produce a child, we were able to start coming up with a plan. This process took a few months to get results back. Then the infertility doctors meet as a group to discuss each and every infertility case individually to make a plan that each of the doctors feel comfortable with. I loved that this was a concern of the fertility clinic. I loved that they took the act of playing God, in a way, very seriously and would only do so with a proper environment, but at the same time I was so irritated that we had wasted months just running tests. We had met with the doctors so many times telling them our concerns and rush to start our family, and we still hadn’t even heard anything about what they even thought about our chances of even conceiving.
We finally received news that the doctors had discussed our case and were ready to move forward with treatments. We set up our appointment to begin the process. The doctors approved our genetic test. The chances of us having any genetic problems were completely normal and not a concern. My cycles were completely normal. My husbands sperm count was normal. They felt that we had very good chances of conceiving. They wanted to start out with artificial insemination (IUI). We would try at least 5 of these before jumping to in-vitro (IVF) in the chance that we still didn’t conceive.
So we now had a plan. We were so excited. But now the real waiting game only began. We had to wait until the beginning of a whole new cycle. We had to rearrange our lives to schedule our appointments on certain days for ultrasounds. I went in for our first ultrasound to get the go ahead to start medication, and we received devastating news. Cysts. I had a large cyst on one of my ovaries. They basically said “sorry, we will see you next month.” I was so mad. I was so tired of waiting. I had told them I had had cysts in the past and they had seem them in few of the ultrasounds I had previously had, and all they had said was they were completely normal. Well if it stalls fertility treatments it’s obviously not normal. So we waited another month, and finally were able to begin. The process of an IUI basically involves an ultrasound right after your cycle begins. From there the doctor prescribes the amount of medication they feel you need to produce multiple eggs in one cycle to make you as fertile as possible, but also not too fertile because they do not want multiple pregnancies because it increases risks. They do several ultrasounds throughout the month to make sure things are developing properly. Then right before ovulation, the husband gives a semen sample at the clinic that is spun and processed to produce only the most viable and prime sperm to use for the insemination. 24 hours before the IUI a trigger shot is given to make sure ovulation occurs at the exact moment of the insemination. Our first IUI happened to fall on a saturday morning. It was so strange to be at a doctors office on a saturday morning, when every other office is closed. I thought we would be the only ones there, but to my surprise there were several other anxious couples there too, in the exact same situation as us. So we got there, Tommy did his part of the IUI, then we had to wait about an hour while they spin the sample. So we went to breakfast, and then returned for the procedure. They hand you your sample- which is basically a syringe with the sample in it placed inside a cooler. So you just sit in the waiting room with your cooler on your lap, waiting for them to call you name. It was finally our turn, they took us into the same ultrasound rooms. The nurse comes in, places the sample, and then they make you lay still with your legs raised for 30 minutes. Then after your 30 minutes you get up, get dressed, and go home. So simple. We went though 4 IUI’s with unsuccessful results over about a 6 month period, some months we had to skip over because of cysts and other issues.
In-vitro was a whole different ball game from IUI’s. We had no clue what we were getting into. It took us a few months to prepare for our IVF round. We were given a calendar, that was unlike any calendar I’d ever seen before. Who needs a calendar to keep track of medications to take? Well I memorized that calendar and had several copies I carried with me to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes. Each day that month consisted of several huge shots and so many pills, and not to mention feeling like a crazy person. My sweet husband felt like I was a pin cushion and I couldn’t have made it though that crazy experience without him.
The first major part of the IVF round is the egg retrieval. They sedate you because it’s pretty painful and I was so nervous going into the procedure but I was also so ready to have the eggs out of me. I felt like I was so huge and the doctors suspected we would get over 20 viable eggs. I was so sore and just uncomfortable from my ovaries being over stimulated and full of eggs. After the retrieval was done the doctors let us know that we had 20 viable eggs. The embryologist would call us every few days and let us know how the embryos were developing and what day would be best for the transfer.
The embryologist called us after the first couple of days to let us know that we had 10 embryos that had fertilized and were continuing to grow and develop. At that time he let us know that everything was looking great and that there was 1 specific embryo that was textbook perfect. This was very encouraging news, especially that we had so many embryos growing, when I had had friends who never even got any viable embryos from this whole experience. The embryologist called us again right before the transfer to tell us that 4 embryos had made it past the blastocyst stage of development. He again mentioned his amazement for the 1 embryo. He just kept saying “you have this one PERFECT embryo.” They let us know that they would freeze 2 of the embryos separately for future use, they would prepare the 2 strongest embryos for our transfer.
The next step of IVF is the embryo transfer. I assumed this step would be very similar to the IUI’s, but I was very wrong. This ended up being the neatest, most worth while part of all of our fertility treatment experience. I didn’t realize it was more of a surgical procedure than just an insemenation. They offered to sedate me again because it can be very painful, but they recommend being awake to watch. I opted to be awake, but they did give me some medication to make me a little loopy briefly because of how much pain I was in. We talked with the doctor doing the transfer for a while before the transfer about how many embryos we were going to use. The doctors recommended only transferring 1 at a time. I felt very VERY strongly that we needed to transfer both. The doctors gave us several minutes alone to make a final decision. Tommy and I talked about the pros and cons of both scenarios. Whether the challenges of twins would be harder, or if the chance of having this fail completely would be worse. We prayed about it, and ultimately Tommy left the decision in my hands. We transferred 2 embryos.
As they began the transfer, one of the several doctors in the room explained what was going to happen. All of a sudden the procedure room began transforming and things began moving very fast. The doctor explained how one of the physicians would be at my stomach doing an ultrasound, watching and making sure the embryos are placed correctly, and that we would be able to watch this step on the TV screen right above us. Then the doctor doing the actual transferring of the embryo would be between my legs. Then the embryologist would be bringing the embryos directly from the lab which connected to the procedure room. The embryos would be placed on a microscope, which we were able to see on another TV screen in front of us. They explained as all of this was happening and it was the absolute coolest thing I’ve ever seen. They signaled to embryologist that they were ready. In their full medical gear they brought the embryos in and placed them on the microscope. We could see both of them clear as day. Our potential children were right there on a screen in front of us. They the doctor explained as he sucked both of the embryos into a tube to be transferred into my uterus. They used excess semen to push the embryos into the proper place for implantation. They told us to watch over to the ultrasound screen that we would see the fluid travel into my uterus. It was incredible to observe. From there they finished the final steps and completing the transfer. The doctors congratulated us on being currently pregnant with twins. It was the neatest experience. It was so emotional and just such a blessing to be so involved in this creation process. They left me and Tommy in the procedure room for about 45 minutes for recovery with the screens still up frozen on the ultrasound picture of our twins. After the transfer they recommend strict bed rest to help the embryos implant. These are considered “Princess Days” and it was actually really needed to just try to recover from the ordeal I had just put my body through. It was also strange to think that I may be pregnant. I had thought about this after the IUI’s, but this time it was such a different process. It seemed more real.
Two weeks after the transfer I was scheduled to go in for a blood test to find out if we were pregnant. The levels wouldn’t exactly tell us if both embryos had implanted, but it could tell us if we had higher than average levels then it could suggest twins. If the levels were within normal levels, we were definitely pregnant, but we wouldn’t know for an additional 2 more weeks until we would be able to count the heart beats in an ultrasound. They also tell you if you have anything abnormal or bleeding to call before the 2 weeks. During those 2 weeks I had no pregnancy symptoms at all. I felt completely normal. Even when I had the IUI’s I had so many symptoms (tender breasts, nausea, crazy dreams) but during these 2 weeks I had nothing. The day before my blood work appointment I had sever cramping and bleeding. I knew I had started by period. I was having period cramps and period bleeding. I was devastated. I called my doctors office to let them know that I didn’t need to come in for blood work the next day, that I had started my period, the procedure had failed. I relayed all of this to one of the nurses and she kindly said she was so sorry and she would let the doctors know and then would call me back. To my surprise a few hours later one of the doctors actually called me. She told me they still wanted me to come in for blood work the next day. She said it would let them know if the levels were even slightly elevated it would give them an idea if the embryos had maybe attached and then just miscarried to possibly give them an idea of things to change for the next round. So I reluctantly went in the next day for blood work, telling the excited phlebotomist that I had started my period and already knew I wasn’t pregnant. His mood completely changed and was pretty somber with me. He let me know it would take at least an hour to get results back and they would call me as soon as they were in. From there I went back to work and tried to do everything to keep my mind off of the phone call that was coming, but at the same time constantly watching my phone to make sure not to miss the important call.
The phone rang and my stomach and my heart did a flip. The doctor on the phone verified it was me and told me to make sure I was sitting down. She said that my results came back that I was indeed pregnant. My levels were well within normal pregnancy limits. She was aware of my bleeding and cramping, and still wanted me to come back in 2 days for repeat blood work to make sure I was still pregnant. I was so happy! And then suddenly so nervous that maybe I wasn’t still pregnant because I was bleeding and not having any pregnancy symptoms. So I called Tommy to relay the good news, and he was so excited, but we decided to hold off on telling family anything until after our repeat blood work and even the ultrasound 2 weeks after that if we were able to verify pregnancy. However this was hard because all of our close friends and family knew the exact layout of our IVF calendar and what days exactly we would know if the procedure had worked.
The repeat blood work came back with even higher elevated levels. We were definitely pregnant and they scheduled us for our viability ultrasound in 2 more weeks to hear the heartbeat(s). On that phone call the doctor congratulated us on being 4 weeks pregnant. It was just unreal.
At 6 weeks pregnant we went in for the viability ultrasound to see the fetus and hear the heartbeat, At this point we learned that it was indeed only 1 baby. And we knew it was our PERFECT embryo that had made it through. Tommy and I cried together and felt so thankful that we opted to transfer 2 embryos. We were so happy and excited to share our long-awaited unbelievable news.