I just wanted to say thank you for all the sweet and heartfelt messages you shared with me after last week’s post. It was undoubtedly one of the most difficult blog posts I’ve ever written, but my hope is that by sharing our story, I’ll perhaps provide some hope and comfort to those who are going through similar experiences right now.
Our doctor called a few days after our initial appointment and told us that all the tests had come back as “normal,” and that we were good candidates for IVF: In Vitro Fertilization. It was then that we started to hash out a game plan.
Before we started our personal journey with In Vitro Fertilization, I knew a bit about IVF, but not a ton. I obviously didn’t know what it would be like to actually go through it, so today, I thought I’d share just that.
The first step was regulating my cycle and starting the stimulation process with shots.
Oh, the shots.
My cycle “calendar” arrived with several larger-than-life boxes of medications. I organized a nice little pharmacy on our kitchen table and tried to mentally prepare myself for my first injection. Since Trevor usually worked late, I was going to be on my own for this.
I remember pacing around my home in tears, and then finally holding that scary-looking needle to my stomach. I’d thought it would be easy, but turns out my brain isn’t really wired for self-inflicted pain.
Okay, doing it NOW.
Hmm, no let’s call Trevor.
Okay, but really he’s not coming home so let’s get it over with!
Nope, can’t do. Seriously can’t do it.
This internal dialogue continued on for longer than I’d like to admit, but after quite the long pep talk, I took a deep breath and did it. Not exactly enjoyable, but also not as bad as I thought it would be.
Here’s the thing, though: it wasn’t just that one injection. There were hundreds of them over the course of our first round of IVF. And what seemed doable in the beginning wore on me as we progressed with our journey. By the end of stimulation, I felt like a walking pin cushion.
On day seven of my medication cycle, I had to fly back to Colorado to finish preparing for the “retrieval,” which is when the eggs are surgically removed so that they can be fertilized in the lab. Due to work, Trevor wasn’t able to come with me, so my mom did.
I’m not sure I could ever repay my mom for all she’s done for me in life, but this act of love might take the cake. Basically, retrieval can only happen when the body is ready, so it was a difficult waiting game. My mom did everything in her power to keep my mind off things while we waited it out at an extended stay hotel and I continued injections. We took walks, went shopping, tried new restaurants, and watched endless movies in bed together. Remember this post? Yea, she was really excited to shoot photos and did such a good job!
Every day, I went into the clinic for an ultrasound, and hoped and prayed that it was time for the trigger shot and retrieval procedure. Several days after our anticipated retrieval date, we got word, and Trevor flew out. For a brief moment, I felt a sense of peace.
Things were happening.
The next morning, I woke up feeling a tad nervous but also incredibly hopeful and excited. We arrived at the clinic and made our way up to the surgical suite where serene music and friendly nurses helped to calm my nerves. Katie, my sweet nurse, put the IV in place, and I remember then that I suddenly became terrified. I’d been in hospitals and sedated several times before, but this was totally different.
Soon, I’d find out whether a family was in the cards for us.
The procedure was fairly easy for me since I was completely knocked out! When I woke up, Trevor was right by my side. I couldn’t have been happier to see him, but boy, was I out of it. I recovered for a few hours at the clinic, and then we headed back to the hotel. We had takeout in bed, enjoyed a few days of bed rest and then finally flew back to Chicago.
Over the new few weeks, time seemed to move to an agonizing pace. But here’s what occurred:
We received a phone call the day after my retrieval telling us how many eggs had been fertilized. After that, we had to wait five days to find out how many eggs had made it to the “blastocyst stage,” which simply means maturity. After that, we waited two long weeks for genetic test results to come back.
I haven’t mentioned this before, but the miscarriage we’d had the previous year was due to genetic abnormalities in the egg. Because of this, and because getting pregnant had taken us so long, I’d always been fearful about the quality of my eggs, so those two weeks were the worst. When we finally got the call telling us that we had some good embryos to work with, we were over the moon!
We couldn’t have been more excited to move forward and try a transfer. But first, more needles. Medications arrived on our doorstep, and I endured another week or two of playing voodoo doll with myself. Once we’d completed the “prep work,” we headed back to Colorado for a much shorter trip. And this time, together!
The transfer procedure was calm and, honestly, beautiful. We were able to meet the embryologist and watch our embryo be placed, which was one of the most awe-inspiring things I’d ever seen. Our baby was “hatching” while the procedure was being completed, and seeing that flicker on the ultrasound was all the hope we could have asked for.
When the embryo was safely inside me, we returned to Chicago and started the next waiting game: it would be nine long days before we could determine (via blood work) whether I was pregnant. You’re supposed to wait, as blood work is the most accurate way to test for pregnancy but I knew I would never last that long, haha. I didn’t want to take an at-home test too early for fear of a false negative, but at the same time, it was driving me nuts. So each morning I would weigh my options before using the restroom, and the internal dialogue continued.
Let’s just try it today!
Be responsible, Shaheen. Wait. It’s not that much longer.
Are you being serious? You’ve waited for years, and the pregnancy test is right there. It could always be a false negative so don’t stress.
Okay, maybe let’s wait.
By day six, I gave in and peed on the stick. Trevor was in the shower, and I distinctly remember throwing open the curtain and screaming. And then, suddenly, I was soaking wet: a combination of the shower but also tears of joy. We were so, so excited.
Of course, we were also scared.
The miscarriage, which occurred the previous year, changed our perspective on everything. We’d taken the “fun pictures” and imagined our little baby and made plans for the future before, only to wind up completely devastated. This time, to protect ourselves, we were a bit more guarded. We couldn’t allow ourselves to get as excited as we’d been the first time around; how could we survive another heartbreak? We knew this embryo was “normal,” which definitely helped to ease our fears. But, very honestly, we weren’t prepared for how scared we’d be. Instead of joy (the expected reaction to a positive pregnancy test!), every day was filled with intense worry.
On the ninth day, we had blood work done and waited for the call from our doctor to confirm the pregnancy. And despite the “+” sign we’d seen on the at-home test, we just couldn’t believe what we heard.
It was official. We were pregnant!
The next few weeks were scary for me. With Trevor’s work schedule, he wasn’t able to make it to my 6.5- or 8.5-week ultrasounds, and before each one, I’d sit in the car and cry in fear of what I might see. Luckily, though, I saw the heartbeat every time.
By week 12.5, I was “transferred” to Rush for OB coverage, and since Trevor worked there, he was able to pop over for our appointments. That first one with him was so incredibly special. It was also the first time we saw our baby look like an actual baby. It was a real human who waved at us and moved all over the place. Even if I tried, I don’t think I’d be able to describe how it felt to see our baby, so I’ll leave it at this:
Our hearts were bursting, and suddenly, everything we’d been through had been worth it.
At the end of the day, I’m thankful for our journey. Do I wish it had been a bit easier? Yes. But Trevor and I grew together and learned so much about each other, and our love and admiration for our families became endless. The support and kindness our close friends showed us was unbelievable, too.
I think that our child will grow up knowing just how much we wanted him. That we prayed for him, and did everything in our power to have him. That he’s a miracle.
IVF is a very personal and emotional journey, and I totally understand why so many people keep their stories private. But as I’m lucky enough to have this public outlet, we wanted to share our story with those who are in need of something positive right now. I also thought it was important to be transparent about what we went through, since it can sometimes seem like everyone just blinks their eyes and ends up pregnant. And if I hadn’t shared this, perhaps it would seem that way to the woman who’s currently in the middle of her battle with infertility. You are less alone than you feel.
If you have any questions about IVF or CCRM, or are simply looking for someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out. (It’s worth mentioning that Trevor and I couldn’t recommend CCRM more. We also have family and friends who went through the clinic and, like us, expressed that they’d never felt more cared for while they were there.)
If you’re still reading, thank you—from the bottom of my heart!—for making it to the end of this post and for all the love and support you’re shared. I put together a little video for Trevor and I and thought I would share it here too. Note to self: you are not supposed to film videos vertically on your phone (who knew?!) and snapchat filters are the most fun when on bed rest.
Lots of love from us and Baby T!