IVF Round Two
Well here we go again… round two of IVF.
I feel stupid for thinking one round would work. We started our IVF path completely naïve to it all. We thought that because we have no fertility issues we would get lots of embryos on our first go. Yes, a few would be affected with SMA but the rest would be fine. To finish round one with no embryos was hard but knowing that none even made it to the stage of being tested was heart breaking.
I feel stupid because, despite being in the most horrific pain when we lost Mackenzie, a tiny part of me still secretly clung to the concept of there being a balance in the ‘universe’ and ‘karma’. Surely, I reasoned, if you lose a child then the universe would balance things out and you would get a ‘free run’ at the rest of life. Like the universe would say “No, you have handled enough, we’ll cut you some slack”. I felt that life wouldn’t be so cruel as to make you suffer having your child ripped from you and then make you face a battle to have her siblings??? Right??
Stupid, stupid me. There is no order to the universe, no karma.
After receiving the devastating call telling us that we had no embryos, we met with our fertility specialist, Dr Alison Gee from Genea. Dr Gee was just as shocked as we were. She explained that it is definitely not what she or the lab expected, given all of my test results had shown things were good; however, she said there is still a lot we can try. So together we came up with a plan. I would rest over Christmas and de-stress as much as I could – yoga, acupuncture, walking etc. I would start taking melatonin and Coq10 as well as my daily pregnancy multivitamin and vitamin D. I would also start a low carb, high protein diet.
Over the next month, I did everything in our plan and then some. I didn’t drink alcohol and I also cut down on coffee.
In early January 2018, we started round two. This time we went through what is called a ‘long down regulation’. This means (from my understanding) that it is a slower, longer regulation process to make sure they can control my hormones a little better and the eggs won’t be over stimulated (or over respond) to the hormones.
On day 21 of my cycle, which was 5th January 2018, I went in for a blood test. Genea were checking that I had ovulated, and my hormones were at the right level. Everything looked good and that day I started on the Synarel nasal spray, two puffs in the morning and two puffs at night. I did this every day until it was time to take the trigger injection, more on that later. I believe that Synarel is designed to reduce my own hormone levels so that they don’t interfere with the hormones Genea give me. It allows them to have more control over my body.
I was supposed to call them when I got my period next but one of the side effects of Synarel is that it delays your cycle…which was bloody annoying! I was SO ready to start the next hormone but had to wait. Isn’t it strange that some months in your life you desperately want your period to come and others you are devastated to see it?
Finally, on 17th January 2018, a week late, it turned up. This meant I started on Puregon 250 units each day along with the Synarel spray. Puregon is the hormone that stimulates the ovaries and makes me have lots of beautiful eggs not just the usual, one. Like in the first round, Jonny and I did every injection together in Mackenzie’s room. We would look at a photo of her whilst sitting on her nursery chair. Jonny would prepare the needle and I would inject myself. The needle was an epi-pen style so it was not too much fiddling around.
On the 26th, 27th and 29th of January 2018, Jonny and I went in to Genea in the morning so I could have a blood test and an internal ultrasound to see how many follicles I had and how big they all were. Each time they said that I had around 30 follicles but only about 10 were looking big enough. Genea were waiting for them to get to around 18mm which is the normal size that they need to be for you to have the trigger injection. Dr Gee ended up waiting until they were a little bigger this time before asking me to take the trigger shot. On the 29th of January the follicles were measuring around 21/22mm. So that day I was told to take the trigger shot of Pregnyl 5000 units at midnight. A trigger shot signals my body to do the final maturing process on the eggs as for normal ovulation. Egg collection must happen exactly 36 hours after the trigger shot.
That night Jonny and I stayed up; we thought of Kenzie, watched videos of her and tried to keep ourselves calm. Just before midnight Jonny mixed up the Pregnyl and we sat once again in Kenzie’s room, we kissed, held hands, spoke to Kenzie and then I injected the trigger shot.
At 11am on the 31st of January 2018, Jonny and I went to Genea for the egg collection. I got into my gown and sat waiting with Jonny, holding a photo of Kenzie. We met our anaesthetist for the day, who was absolutely lovely! She had actually just read our story in The Grace Tales. We had a lovely chat to her and then to Dr Gee, as always. Then it was egg collection time. I don’t remember much of this due to the anaesthetic but apparently, I spent the whole procedure talking about different foods I liked to eat. I wish I could say that was the first time that had happened….
Eleven eggs were collected. We were happy but cautious because that is the same number we got in the first round. We were also sent a link to the camera which was recording the development of our embryos. That meant that we would be able to see what they looked like on day one, three and five.
For anyone who hasn’t done IVF, the next few days are brutal. For me, taking the hormones is nothing, not a big deal at all but the waiting is the worst part, by far. They call you on day one, day three and day five to report on how many you have left and how many have dropped off.
On day one Genea called to Tell us that only six of our embryos were mature and only four had fertilised. That is about a 50% maturity rate when normally you would expect 90%...
Something wasn’t right, and I knew, I just knew, that this cycle would fail again. I can’t tell you how deeply I sank into a black hole. I fell into myself with depression. The next two days I went through the motions, of working, eating, sleeping but I felt lost inside. I was sure that IVF wasn’t going to work for us. We would have to get pregnant naturally then have the baby tested at three months and possibly terminate. Losing another baby. Life is so cruel. Why was this happening?
They call you again at day three to say how many are still going. We were told that only two were good and developing well while one was also ok but had fallen behind. I wasn’t overjoyed by this because we had three embryos make it to day three the last time.
At day five, they told us that two were good and one was in the race but still a bit behind. They needed to give the embryos another day though because they hadn’t hatched enough to take the edge cells for genetic testing.
Keep in mind that they can call you at any time of the day during this process. For about a week you are permanently on edge, petrified every time the phone rings that it will be bad news. It is a real mind game.
On day six, Genea called again to tell us that two had hatched (broken out of the egg membrane) allowing then to be tested and frozen. The third couldn’t be tested but we asked for it to be frozen, just in case.
Two made it to testing – we couldn’t believe it!!!!! So happy!
You get this rush, a thrill and a sense of relief. But then, you remember you still have to find out the results of the genetic test. For that, there is a two week wait for the results. We were testing for SMA but also testing for chromosomal abnormalities. This is because most miscarriages are due to a missing or defective chromosome issue. There is really no point transferring an embryo that has a chromosomal defect as it will likely miscarry anyway.
I cannot express the worry and stress this puts people through, but it is what it is.
I got the call two weeks and two days later, it was a Thursday and the day that our first 7.30 Report article came out, so we were already nervous. I had just read some unkind online comments about Kenzie from some online troll whom I assume is a crazy person, which had sent me into a spin. Honestly, who makes nasty cruel comments about a defenceless baby girl? I had left work that day due to feeling sick and stressed. I popped past the Post Office on the way home to pick up a package when Genea called. Standing in the Post Office. Why couldn’t I be home? Next to Jonny? My heart raced and my stomach dropped, I told the scientist I thought I was having a heart attack.
They said one is viable, one is affected.
The one that is viable is a carrier of SMA like Jonny and me but that is fine. The other was affected with SMA but also had a chromosomal abnormality which meant it probably wouldn’t have implanted or would have miscarried anyway.
After I got the call I walked to the car park in a daze and just stood there. I realised after two minutes I was standing in the middle of the road and had to get home to tell Jonny.
I was excited that we have one possible baby frozen sitting somewhere but also sad for the one little baby who we would never hold in our arms. Our life is just a constant seesaw of emotions. At that time we also realised that, given we wanted two more children, we would need to do a round three...