Frozen Babies

“Frozen Babies” isn’t just an intriguing title I thought up, it is exactly what I’m about to describe.  If anyone told me that Dan and I would now be putting our hopes for a family in tiny 3 days grown embryos (babies) that are frozen in a freezer somewhere in a fertility lab, I think I would have fainted.

However, here we are.

After my negotiated waiting time of six weeks, I was finally starting to feel a little bit like me again.  The massive bloating, aches and pains had subsided after about 3 or so weeks.  My bruises had disappeared.  And perhaps more importantly, my heart had begun to heal.  I was filled with hope again and was looking forward to getting going.

I work long hard hours at my job and had accumulated a whole lot of vacation and comp time.  As Dan had just opened his business, he was unable to take any time off.  He, being the amazing guy I married, encouraged me to take my vacation and go up north, to our family cottage in Muskoka, to take some time to truly relax.  My parents were also on vacation so I could spend some quality family time.  I was loving my time up north and was spending my days reading a book on the dock in the sun.   On July 26th, I drove the 3.25 hours home for our long awaited fertility check up. 

I did my blood work and transvaginal ultrasound, and patiently waited for the results.  Our RE indicated that if my hormone levels had not settled or my lining was still thick, we would have to continue to wait.  Our RE popped in with a smile.  He said my tests were back to normal and we had the green light to get started.

Today was officially Cycle Day 1.  He called in a nurse to explain how a Frozen Embryo Transfer worked.  This was all new to me.  She gave me the good news- Frozen Embryo Transfers, or FET, were generally like a fertility holiday compared to the pain and procedures needed to do a fresh cycle of IVF. 

This time, we already had the eggs that were previously extracted.  They had already been fertilized and made it through 3 days of growth. It was at this point when the lab took them and cytogenetically froze the living embryos.  The fertility community calls these various things, my two favourite are ‘frosties’ or ‘popsicles’.  

I don’t really know how to morally explain what I think about this… The easy answer is that it’s easy to judge this when you aren’t backed into a corner.  I would have loved to have had an opinion before on FET just to compare it with now- but frankly, I’d never heard of it!  Now, this was our only shot.  The end result, however, was that we felt comfortable going ahead with this process as the other option would have been to grow all the embryos, select the best two, then let the rest die.  Embryos can only live outside of the body for a short period of time. 

So, we had the babies ready to transfer.  We just had to build my uterus to get nice and thick.  I needed to trick my body into thinking I was in the middle of a ‘normal’ cycle so that my body created a welcoming environment for the embryos. 

The first stop was to the cash register and we had to pay the clinic prior to going ahead with the treatment.  Cha-ching $$!  I can’t recall exactly, however I believe the cost of the actual procedure wasn’t that bad, somewhere around $1500.

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Next was a trip to the pharmacy in the clinic to buy medication ($$$!).  In order to get my body to start to build a thick cushion for an embryo to stick to, I needed to start taking Estrogen supplements.  These were little blue pills (not THOSE little blue pills!). 

The deal was that I was to take one pill in the morning, and one at night for 10 days (total 4mg a day).  Then, on CD 10, I would come back to the clinic to check on my uterine lining.  The goal was to get it over 8mm but no more than 14mm.  I was sitting around 4 mm and had a bit to go.  The hope was by CD 10 my lining was thick and we could do the transfer 2 days later. 

I didn’t have to come back to the clinic for 10 days?  Hell, this WAS vacation.  I could do it.  So I went down to Pita Pit to visit Dan and his new store, had lunch, then drove the 3.25 hours back to the cottage.  I spent the next 10 days taking my pills as required and enjoying the sunshine and family time at the cottage.  My Dad knowing how much I hate driving, offered to drive me down and back for my CD 10 appointment.  The only issue was that the appointment was for 8am.  So off we left at 4:30 am to make the 8am appointment. 

CD 10: Blood work and Transvaginal Ultrasound.

I waited on the results in the clinical room while my dad slept in the car.  The idea of joining his daughter in the clinic for an appointment to try and get pregnant perhaps was where the line was drawn.  My Dad and I are very close, but discussing transvaginal ultrasounds perhaps was a bit too close.

The RE walked in with bad news.  My lining had not grown, at all.  I was on a low dose, however many patients react to only 2 mg of estrace (estrogen).  I was on 4.  She upped my dose from 4mg to 8mg daily.  Now 2 pills in the morning, 2 pills at night.  I had to come back in 2 days.

Upset that the ‘easy’ part of this treatment was, yet again, not so easy for me, I walked back to the car to tell my dad the bad news.  I was so hopeful and excited about this round.  It was going to be easy and quick… and successful.  This was not the start we planned.

We hopped back in the car and drove back to the cottage.  By noon, we were back at the cottage and I was trying to forget that my stupid body that hated me.  It wasn’t so easy.  My hope and excitement quickly turned to dread and worries.  Was this going be as bad as the other rounds?  Quite frankly, the ups and downs of hope then disappointment when my body refused to cooperate were untenable. 

CD12: Another 3.25 hours drive leaving the house at 4:30am to make the 8am appointment.  Blood Work and Transvaginal ultrasound.

More bad news… My lining has grown, but hardly.  I was at 4mm and needed to progress to at least 8mm.  I was now at 4.5mm.  Greattt.

The RE then decided we were going to get aggressive.  She knew my story of extremely long cycles with no luck from previously and wanted to try to get my body ready asap.  I think my defeated face when she told me the 4.5mm also helped.

She was now doubling my dose.  I was on 2 pills in the morning and at night for 8mg daily.  Now I was up to 4 in the morning and 4 at night (16mg daily… aka a LOT!).  The second change was that instead of taking them orally, I was to insert them vaginally.  She said this was a better way to absorb them and would hopefully kick start everything.

I walked down to the pharmacy and purchased more meds then hopped back in the car for another 3.25 hour trip back up north.  We were back up north by noon and I was already trying to forget fertility.  It didn’t work. 

The idea of inserting these pills vaginally was a new one for me… uhhhh, ok.  Like do I literally just shove them up there?  The answer was yes.  But the best part was they are blue… and so from this point forward, everything was blue.  Trust me, it gives you a jolt when you urinate blue… Wonderful- I’m now a smurf.  A non-pregnant smurf.

My vacation was ending and on CD 14 I drove home to the clinic for another appointment. 

CD 14: Blood Work and Transvaginal Ultrasound

It worked!  My lining was now up to 8mm and we were cooking with gas!  We were ready to go.  The nurse came in to explain the rest.  She explained that tomorrow the lab would choose two of the four remaining embryos and thaw them.  Thawing embryos was not an exact science so we just had to hope.  There was a very good chance that one or both may not survive the thawing.  The clinic would call us once thawed and let us know how it went.  If one died, we could always select another one to thaw out as we did have 4 left. 

Additionally, I was now to start giving myself progesterone suppositories to mimic the progesterone that is normally released by a bursting follicle.  These suppositories were three times daily… vaginally.  Then the fun part, the nurse explained that we had to have at least 2 hours between when I inserted the estrogen and the progesterone so they would both absorb.  Superb… a party in my pants!

My new schedule:

8am – Progesterone Suppository (white chalky pill)

11am – 4 estrogen tablets (little blue pills)

3pm – Progesterone Suppository

8pm – 4 Estrogen Tablets

10pm – Progesterone Suppository

Wonderful… I literally had to set alarms on my cell phone and spent the majority of my day running to the washroom with my purse.  Furthermore, the estrogen was now taking full effect on my body.  My levels had sky rocketed and everything now ached.  Even lightly brushing my body felt like you were stabbing me with knives.  I couldn’t sleep because of the aches and pains.  Not to mention, welcome back emotional hell!

CD 15: The lab called with the news.  One embryo survived the thaw perfectly.  It was now growing in an incubator and was doing great.  The bad news was that our other embryo that was a 12 cell previously, was not doing well.  10 of the 12 cells had arrested during the thaw and we only had 2 left.  The chances of this embryo implanting (and getting me pregnant) were very unlikely. 

Hearing this news I started to cry.  Can nothing just go as it should?  Why does everything have to have some bad news component to it?  This also meant very hard decisions.  The clinic explained that they would still recommend transferring both embryos tomorrow- there was something called a ‘buddy’ effect and the second embryo might assist the healthy one in implanting.  The other option however, was to let this one arrest (die) and try and thaw out another one from our remaining two.  There was no guarantee that the new one would survive, and that would mean we’d only have one embryo left in case this round of FET didn’t work.

How do you make these impossible decisions?  We decided to hedge our bets with the one healthy ‘frostie’ and one not so great ‘frostie’.  Now we wait for tomorrow to do the transfer. 

This could be it… we are getting pregnant!

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