The Invasive Question

I have been honest with my emotions and open about this journey to virtually everyone I know. I have hoped that by sharing my story and being real with how hard this has been for me, it may help another feel as though they are not alone and more importantly, help others understand the fertility… or in my case, lack of fertility, journey people can experience.

So today, I get real with you again.

I feel pregnant.

I know…. eek, right?!

BUT

I am scared as it’s not confirmed by my doctor and the blood test will be in a few days.

My body feels tired and at times I feel crampy pressure.

It’s a very real possibility and I want to be excited, but it’s not the right time for it yet.


I have become incredibly sensitive to people asking about the IVF process and when we are going to transfer. (This is prior to people actually knowing that we transferred).

“So when are you going to transfer?”

A totally legitimate question, but that also means they know when we will find out and then they know when the most vulnerable stage of the pregnancy is, when miscarriage is still a very real possibility and when I am not sure I want just anyone knowing.

I’m not ready for everyone to know that we have actually already transferred.

The little Maxee is not frozen in Maryland.

Maxee is actually inside of me.

I feel like a lier as I’m not telling the full truth and the question actually stings.

It’s as though I have been walking around in a bikini, being vulnerable and open, and now I just want to wear a sundress and people keep asking to see my bikini.

Violated isn’t the right word, but it is interesting how my emotions and sensitivities have shifted.

I feel it’s because I am at the most vulnerable stage of this whole process.

Image result for pregnancy test unknown

The embryo is in me and I am waiting in anticipation of what the result will be and the result itself is raw and vulnerable and potentially life-changing.

We are nearing the pinnacle point in this whole journey.

Are we pregnant? My fear is that we aren’t.

It’s not my friends and family’s fault for asking about the transfer date, they have been invited into this journey.


This whole process has been so MEDICAL and SCIENTIFIC and I am just wanting to have some sense of NORMALCY when it comes to the allure of pregnancy.

To be able to surprise friends and family.

To share in the excitement of the good (GREAT) news.

What I can offer is that I will let you know as soon as I want you to know what’s going on.

I have up until this point, haven’t I?

If I can offer any points of advice from my experience this week is this:

If you know someone going through IVF and they get to this stage when they know how many emby-babies they have frozen, might you consider not asking WHEN they will transfer, but instead mention you understand this is a vulnerable time and are here for when they want to share any further developments.

I thought I would be open, but this is something I want to experience with Hubby and be able to share the news when we are ready.


My hormones and the extra shots of hormones each morning must really be getting at me.

I am shut off from being able to express joy other people’s IVF successes at this moment. My head says, “good for you, I hope I get to have the same.”

Yes, it’s a little sulky and salty right now and I know it’s my fear.

I feel too vulnerable and it’s out of my control if this embryo stays inside me.

There is also jealousy for the fact that other people are beyond this unknown stage and able to show the world their baby-bump.

I’m not there yet.

These last few days have been quiet, I have enjoyed the slowness of this season, giving my energy to the growth of the hopeful little one.

The next time I write, we will know the results of the blood test!

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Operation: Bring Maxee home

Sunday: This morning we left Denver on our 36-hour jaunt to Maryland to pick up Maxee and bring it home. Although we haven’t discussed names, choosing a nickname has been hard! I like the playful spin-off our last name with “Coffee Bean”, but we land on Maxee.

On the plane, I sat next to a delightful man from Boulder who is flying to DC for a national science convention when he asked where I was going, I shared about our fertility journey and how excited and hopeful we are for this weekend. I love being able to embrace this story and see the joy and magnificence this brings as the combination of nature, God, and science.

Our night is spent celebrating little Maxee (living in the petri dish at Shady Grove clinic) by eating a delicious meal at Wildfire restaurant at Tyson’s Corner.

We know it’s not a guarantee this will end with a beautiful baby in our arms, but we are grateful for this opportunity.

Tomorrow we get to reunite with our little one.

This is the closest we have come to being pregnant, and are enjoying every moment.


Monday: 10am: I am receiving my final acupuncture before the transfer. Sitting under the heat lamp, my body is preparing for the transfer.

11:15am: Here I am, sitting on the cream couch, with Property Brothers playing on the flat screen in the background. I am sitting, after just emptying my bladder and refilling it with exactly 16oz of water… Waiting.

I get to take my embybaby (Maxee) home today and it gets to be and grow inside of me until it’s ready to come out. My prayer is that in the next 9-10 months I am able to pour every ounce of love, prayer, hope, confidence, and health into this little one. My heart is happy to be sitting here and a little nervous.

  • What will the procedure feel like?
  • How will I feel after?

I can’t believe this is as close as we have been to have our own baby!

  • What will it be like to be pregnant?
  • How will I feel?
  • What will the next few weeks mean for me?

So many unknowns.

My stomach is a little crampy but mostly calm.

I am 45 minutes away from being semi-pregnant!


At what point does one become pregnant?

  • Is it a successful transfer?
  • A successful nesting or implantation?
  • It is it with the results of the pregnancy test in two weeks?

I have been praying for a healthy womb, for a clear space to call home.

Free of any negative energy and in its place a positive, healthy home that will encourage and support little Maxee.


“Hilary Maxwell”… it’s time to go!

12 noon: we are called back to the room.

12:20: Dr. O’Brien welcomes us, shares the news that our one embryo is in the incubator and thawed out perfectly. She shares that the 2nd embryo with the genetic mismatch had an extra chromosome 3 (meaning either Hubby or I contributed 14 instead of 13 chromosomes, making this particular embryo not viable.)

Joining her are 2 nurses. One nurse squirts the ultrasound jelly on my stomach and pushes the monitoring wand on my bladder (yup, cavity full!) and the second nurse asks me to confirm my name, date of birth, and social security number before she confirms the one embryo with me and Dr. O and then leaves the room.

Dr. O is a delight and we engage in small talk about what’s about to happen as she inserts the catheter into place (yup, that’s an uncomfortable pinch).

Hubby pulls out his phone and begins to film what we see on the large screen tv plastered on the wall.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_8767.jpgOur second nurse is in the lab next to us and has taken control of the TV screen. Before us, blown up, is the petri dish with a couple of air bubbles and this round thing with a cluster of little circles inside… that’s our Maxee, 5 days ‘old’.

12:26pm: Nurse draws the liquid and embryo into a syringe type and enters into our room. She and Dr. O exchange a specific protocol for transferring the syringe filled with liquid and our embryo. It reminds me of when I used to rock climb and the belayer and climber had to exchange a control check before the climber proceeded to climb.

“On belay, belay on, climbing, climb on”.

Dr. O wiggles the already inserted catheter so we can see it on the screen (and yes, I can feel it) and then proceeds to insert the filled-syringe into the catheter and in a matter of seconds we see a white blurb… our embryo on the screen shoot out from the catheter. It lands just where Dr. O wanted and it’s been a successful transfer. (Hubby gets it all on film!)

12:30pm: Maxee is with me!

I continue to lay there with a drape over me as Dr. O spends 15 more minutes with us answering our questions and unknowingly validating our decision to work with her.

I am scared to use my stomach muscles to sit up and even more scared to stand up, let alone go to the bathroom.

What if Maxee falls out of me?

I am assured Maxee won’t and begin to dress.

Our discharge nurse helps us to know exactly where the progesterone shots are to occur on my backside (we were just a ‘little’ off) and I head for my final acupuncture appointment to help the blood flow before we head to the airport.

Dr. O did not prescribe bedrest, just casual walking, and no heavy lifting or intense working out for 2 weeks.

We asked about skiing. She was hesitant to answer and her worry is more about if I am hit by someone else on the mountain. Although she said no, she also said it really depends on how crowded the mountain and the likelihood of me getting into a tumble.

I don’t know what my answer will be for myself, but for now, the answer is no as I let Maxee get situated.

7:30pm: I can’t believe I am sitting here on the airplane back to Denver, with a little embryo growing inside of me.

I know how fast the cells multiplied in those 5 days after fertilization and can only imagine what is happening inside of me right now.

Dr. O said implantation can occur in 36 hours and there is no way of truly feeling it happening. She even debunked the thought of implantation bleeding, although might be slight, the bleeding people experience is at times a few days after the implantation. Since I’m on both estrogen and progesterone the likelihood of any bleeding is slim to none, so I know not to be looking for anything as a sign this week.

Hubby called me ‘mommy’ for the first time today, I like how that sounds.

Although I feel excited by the opportunity and possibility, I am also very aware that this little one may not take and we might not be pregnant.

It’s a 70% chance of pregnancy at this point… that still leaves 30%. So I am going to keep things mellow for my body this week, eat warm foods, drink warm water to give Maxee a wonderful environment to enjoy and get a lot of rest.

Tonight, we get to bring our Maxee home and pray that it sticks to become a viable pregnancy. We still hold our breath until we have a positive pregnancy test.

The 2-week wait (2WW) begins.

IVF: Phase 2… preparing the 9-month “home”

The start of phase two of IVF has begun. Once we set a transfer date, Dr. O’Brien counted the days leading up to the transfer by going backward. Eighteen days from ending birth control, 17 days from my first ultrasound after all the waiting. Everything looks clear and we are set to go.

I begin with Estrace, an estrogen pill, which I will take 3 times a day. Fortunately for me, this same estrogen pill was what I used earlier in my fertility journey as a suppository so I am grateful to be ingesting it this time. I will do this for 11 days and then go in for another ultrasound.

The side effects aren’t horrible, and in fact, I can hardly notice a change in my being. Might this be because I am comparing it to the ridiculous amount of hormones I just rid my body of over these past weeks, possibly?

It feels good to be on medication that is helping without making me into a witch.

The goal is to grow my uterine lining so that it’s nice and ready for little Maxwell Bean to nestle in.

My days continue as normal, not thinking too much about the transfer date, which is less than 2 weeks away!

I am grateful to not be consumed with thoughts about what the transfer will be like or if it will take. Instead, I am happily practicing living in this moment, as my body prepares a little home.

Image result for pills and shotsOn day 11 of this routine, I go in for what I hope is my final ultrasound before we fly.

The lining needs to be at least 8mm thick with no major follicles growing.

My doctor didn’t even prescribe me Lupron (an ovulation suppressant drug). My theory is because it took major dosage for me to produce follicles in the first place that she is not concerned about my body deciding to produce follicles now.

She is correct, no follicles and my lining is just shy of 8mm, sitting at 7.25mm. The little home is getting ready!

Dr O gives the green light to proceed!

I am so excited and we move forward to book our car rental and hotel for the night we will be staying in Maryland.

Yet, what’s next is not enjoyable.

I always imagined IVF to be full of shots in the rear-end, but up until this point, it has been in my abdomen or pills… not bad and not too painful.

That is about to change.

Starting tomorrow, I (ok Hubby) will shoot 1ml of progesterone oil into the intermuscular area of my buttock every morning precisely at 7:15am. If I falter 10-15 minutes, it could cancel the transfer!

Nurse Christine gives me some pointers on how to help this not be as painful. I wasn’t worried about a shot until she began to explain how it’s ok to use a heating pad after and to be sure to switch sides eatery day so as to not completely hurt one side.

She explains this is an oil-based liquid so it’s a little thicker so it may burn a tinge.

Uh… what is about to happen to me?

She also shares it’s best if Hubby administers the shot for a better angle and then jokes, “unless you like to inflict pain on yourself”.

Eek! What is this going to be like?

She also gives me instructions for the day of transfer.

The transfer is set for noon, arrive at the clinic at 11:30 with a photo ID. Be sure to empty my bladder completely at 10:45am and then proceed to drink 16oz of water before 11am. Don’t use the bathroom after 11am. A fuller bladder helps Dr. O position the catheter more precisely as to release the embryo in the correct location.

I have my marching orders.

Do we want to know the gender?

The PGS testing came back a week earlier than expected. On my voicemail, nurse Christine stated we have 1 healthy viable embryo.

She even offered to share the gender since that is a part of the chromosome testing.

Woah, I am overwhelmed with emotions.

It’s been 8 days since our two little embryos went for testing and the results are said to take up to 14 days.

I check the message and before I know, nurse Christine is sharing the results of our PGS testing.

No time to gear up for the truth, I simply take a breath.

“You have one genetically normal embryo and so we will be able to proceed with this”.

My heart drops.

I know, I know. I should be happy to have one.

I’m still mourning the loss of fertilized eggs from 12 to 2 (which to me is a huge drop off rate).

We have 1.

We went from 20 eggs retrieved, to 13 mature eggs, to 12 fertilized eggs, to 2 blastocysts, to 1 genetically normal.

I would be lying if I said I was overjoyed to learn we have 1.

Unfortunately, my excitement has been mounting over the weeks and months of preparation for IVF. I have heard people who have ended up with 1 in the end of their cycle.

But not me.

I thought I was going to be different.
I had my hopes set on multiple embryos that we would be able to implant over the next few years to make our family complete.

The truth is, I’m a little sad and disappointed.

I had my hopes on having more and had set myself with higher expectations based on what ‘could be’.

I know, I know.

Everyone says, you just need one. Which is true.

Let me explain.

We are apart of the Shared Risk Program at Shady Grove. This was one of the reasons we chose them.

They give a soft guarantee for a live baby birth at the end of 6 IVF cycles, or your money back. Everything (except the medications) are wrapped up into one price.

If you don’t have a successful egg retrieval to embryo process, you can do another egg retrieval for ‘free’ (except for the medications), and you can do this up to 6 times for no additional cost to the clinic.

What is ‘successful’? Good question.

One embryo at the end of an IVF cycle is successful.

So since we have one, then we need to implant this one before we would be able to do another retrieval.

The caveat is, if you have a successful/ live birth, the package goes away.

Any future egg retrievals would need to be paid for by us.

Pretty incredible, huh?

So here’s the ‘issue’.

We want to have more than one child and if we get a live beautiful baby out of this embryo then in order for us to have more children, we would need to pay the full price of IVF, again.

If we would have had more embryos that made it to this stage, then we would have some more frozen and in the waiting.

If we had no embryos make it to this stage we would go back into the egg retrieval stage and have the opportunity for more embryos.

I’m not not grateful for the one.

I’m just pouting because I’m scared that we won’t be able to have more children in the future.

I know, I know… we can always adopt or do another egg retrieval… it just prolongs the process.

It’s just not what I had created to be the story to be.


If our goal was 1, I would be happy.

I guess I shouldn’t have set my sights so high as to have all our kids frozen and at the ready for us to implant when we want.

That would be too easy.

That would give me too much say in the timing, too much control over my family.

Nope, God has other plans.

It’s true, I don’t really know what the future holds for me and I know that God always pulls things together in a way that I could have never imagined.

I’m just letting myself be bummed.

I lean into the tears and let myself feel the disappointment.

I don’t really want to have an only child and the thought of adopting seems so daunting at this point.

Maybe I won’t like being pregnant and having 1 embryo/pregnancy is a gift.

If we transfer now, I will be 36 when I give birth and that puts my eggs a year older than now, which only means fewer quality eggs and less of a chance for more healthy embryos.

I feel like my chances aren’t great at 35, after this retrieval, so the thought of 36 or 37 is a bit uninspiring.

Maybe a pregnancy will kick my body into gear and I will get pregnant naturally the second time around.

I don’t want to have to spend more (outrageous) amounts of money to try this again. If this one embryo does result in a live baby, then our Shared Risk package with Shady Grove goes away and we will have to pay for a full retrieval again.

Maybe this little embryo will divide and we will have identical twins.

The chances of this are single-digit percent, but God is big. He knows the story.

So I just sit here. Trying to allow my head knowledge of what God can do seep into my heart.

It’s not happening in the way that I wanted.

I thought I was surrendered to the process, but I made one mistake in my mental preparation.

I got too fixated on the idea of having multiple embryos that set the bar too high and now my expectations have not been met.

Before I get too ahead of myself, I still need to actually GET pregnant.

Something I have not been able to do in the past.

There is no guarantee that this 1 embryo will nestle in and grow.

I am very well aware that this may result in a miscarriage and we will be back to square 1 (a 2nd’s egg retrieval) with more information about my body.

There are so many unknowns at this point and the thought of all the various options of how this can play out exhausts me.

Yet again, I learn I’m not in control, I don’t have control over the outcome of these experiences and all I can do is put forth my best effort and trust that God knows what is to be the unraveling of this story.

God, help me accept the plans you have for me. Help my heart be overflowing with gratitude that we have this little embryo and appropriately excited at the thought that I could actually have a biological baby (something I wasn’t sure would happen).

Help me be joy-filled and prayerful about this little embryo (who does have a gender which nurse Christine knows!!)

God, help me to change my thinking around this news and shift my heart so I can exude positive thoughts and love for what you have done so far in me through this journey.

So here we sit, with one lovely, wonderfully healthy embryo.

WE HAVE ONE!!!!


Next steps you ask?

Well, I got my period a couple days ago and since we are wanting to do a transfer when it works with our schedule, I will go back on birth control to time the correct days leading up to the transfer date.

Day 6. How Many Embry-babies?

I have butterflies in my stomach. Today is our call with Dr. O to find out how many of our remaining 11 are still growing and are viable blastocysts. Although we have 1 confirmed, we still have another layer to get through before we can move towards the transfer, genetic testing.

We have no reason to believe we will have any genetic abnormalities, but we also never know what’s going on in these genes and dividing cells.

I am so scared that the results will be so small that in the end we won’t have any to work with. I have to turn my thinking around.

My body is hot as I think about the call (in 10 minutes).

We have waited and prayed and although my prayers were for 7 blastocysts, I have come to peace that no number will guarantee a baby.

Instead, I turn my thinking to accepting what is and letting it be the story of faith that even if we just have the one that goes into genetic testing, that all will be exactly as it is supposed to be.

I want to control the outcome.                                                                  I can’t.

I want to protect my emotions.                                                                 I can’t.

I choose to feel with a healthy openness to being vulnerable to the desire of my own biological babies balanced with low expectations of the outcome.

Regardless of the number, God is in control.

Not me.

~~~~~~

We get the call.

Dr. O’Brien first asked how I was feeling and was sensitive to hearing how my recovery has been over the past 6 days. She hesitated to give me both the Lupron and HCG shots as my trigger shots for this very reason, it makes the bloating and swelling worst.

This discomfort is worth it to me if we are able to have babies.

stem cell.JPG 25.jpg

Then she let us know, we had one more egg make it to the blastocyst stage and was biopsied and frozen this morning.

There is a possibility for us to have one more, which we will have confirmed tomorrow.

All others did not progress and in a sense ‘died’.

My heart sank.

From 11, there are 2. Maybe 3. (Just confirmed we have 2, 1.9.19).

These are not the final embryos we will use to transfer.

We have one more stage, on more hurdle, to get through, which is the PGS- genetic testing.

We will know in two weeks what our final number of embry-babies will be.

Until then, I just have to keep waiting and trusting that God knows what he’s doing in all of this.

My heart feels quiet. I have no words.

 

Here’s some more information from Fertility Smarts about Day 6:

Day 6 in the IVF lab – Final Number of Embryos Known

On Day 6 we know the final number of embryos suitable for freezing. Day 6 is the final day in the lab for the embryos at most clinics. The embryologists will assess the remaining embryos and if they have continued to grow overnight they will freeze all that are of good quality. Embryos that have not made a blastocyst by this day are not viable and will not be frozen. Most labs do not grow embryos longer than Day 6 because they need to either be frozen or to be in a uterus after Day 6.

Chromosome Screening

If you choose to undergo chromosome screening on your embryos, a single cell called a blastomere can be taken from each embryo on Day 3, or a small group of 4 to 5 cells can be taken at the blastocyst stage around Day 5/6. This is called embryo biopsy and is done before the embryos are frozen.

Chromosome screening allows the lab to select and thaw only genetically normal embryos for transfer in a frozen embryo transfer cycle. This type of screening is recommended for women who have had multiple failed IVF cycles or are of advanced maternal age (38 or older). The pregnancy rates are very good for all ages of women when the embryos have been screened before transfer.