The Cycle

Deep Freeze

This was a banner week for fun stuff arriving in the mail. In addition to my diploma, another piece of paper arrived this week:

Very important communication from our clinic

Time to make the annual decision about what we do with our 5 frozen embryos!  It turns out that storing embryos is sort of like a magazine subscription or Costco membership: you have to renew annually.  We were offered a few choices: store them for another year, donate them or destroy them.

Unlike renewing a magazine subscription or membership, however, our decision required a witness.  Guess decisions involving human tissue require a little more effort.  If it were an online form, I bet we would see screens like “Are you sure?” Yes. “Are you really, really sure?” Yes. “Are you absolutely, positively sure?” followed with “This action cannot be undone.”

We chose to store them for another year (it wasn’t ever up for debate). 

Stay cool, totsicles.  Hopefully we can use you eventually.

Third Beta

Even though we technically started cycling in August (I started stims in late August, but F had been on her part of the regimen since early August), I will forever associate September with our cycle because it consumed the entire month and all the important parts of the cycle happened in September.  While September ended well with the news of our positive beta, it was nice to start a new month, October, with good news.

I heard from the clinic mid-afternoon on October 1 that our third beta came back at 1892.  It had increased more than 150% since Monday.  We had passed another hurdle and now had to wait 4 long weeks for our first ultrasound.

We Have Doubling!

I greeted Monday, September 29 with a mix of anticipation and dread.  Anticipation because we would have another beta today and hopefully it would be a great  number.  Dread because it would tell us it things were going in the right direction or if we were in store for more worry and possible grief.

I had decided to stay home for my mental health that day which was a good and bad idea.  I didn’t hear from the clinic until mid-afternoon, but the news was worth the wait:  beta was in the 700s!  It was a good number.  It had more than doubled.  I exhaled a tiny bit and felt the anxiety begin to build for Wednesday and our likely final beta.

The Beautiful 312

Celebratory cognac after positive beta

Celebratory cognac after positive beta

Beta day was September 27, a Saturday.  For the previous two weeks I had seesawed between hope, optimism, despair and conviction that the cycle had failed.  J and I knew we would try again–at least one more time–before moving on, but I knew that a negative on our blood test would hurt like hell and mean more waiting.  And when you have been at this for 3 years, a good bit of that time has been spent waiting, and the last thing you want to do is more waiting. 

That morning we got up and drank our coffee on our back porch while waiting for the phone call from the clinic.  We figured it would be early afternoon, so we distracted ourselves by somewhat histrionically going through the songs on our iPhones and assigning songs as ringtones to friends and family members.  I still chuckle when I think of some of the ones we picked.

The call came around 1pm.  And it was positive.  “Beta is 312,” the nurse told us.  A very decent beta number based on what I had read.  After getting off the phone with the nurse, F called and we congratulated each other.  She sent me pics of the positive pregnancy tests and told me that she had been testing positive since about 7 days past transfer.  J and I just looked at each other in shock.  It was positive!!!!  Something had worked!  We had never heard those words before. 

Next thing I knew, J brought in the bottle of Remy Martin cognac that had been sitting in our bar for years.  It was very good cognac and there was only a little left…J had sipped on it for years.  We had decided to save the rest of it for a special occasion, but there hadn’t been one.  However, here it was now.  I hadn’t cried yet, but I almost cried when I saw the bottle and the glasses because of the symbolism.  THIS was our special occasion.  Even though it was barely afternoon, we each had a very healthy snifter of the cognac.  Hey, it was a special day!    We called our family and then decided to get out of the house to celebrate by going to the local outlet mall (yes we lead thrilling lives).  Everything seemed so surreal.  I confess that I was ecstatic for about 5 minutes before worry over the next beta, two days later, set in.  That would be the true test for me b/c the next beta would indicate if our numbers were increasing properly.

But September 27 was a wonderful day.


Blood drawing bruise

Blood drawing bruise

I don’t feel that I can do justice to our baby without talking about how s/he got here.  We used IVF at a local clinic.  In retrospect, the entire month of September was spent cycling.

F began the medications to suppress her hormones in August, and the weekend before Labor Day I got the green light to begin stims.  They were treating me as my own egg donor, so the goal was to obtain as many mature eggs as possible from me. 

One of the reasons we decided to pursue surrogacy was because I supposedly stimulated well.  Obtaining good eggs that made good embryos hadn’t been a problem in the past.  Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. In short, I had the cycle from hell.

bruised stomach

bruised stomach

My ovaries seemed not to want to respond to stims.  The doctor kept upping my dosage until I was on the “Hail Mary” last hurrah level of drugs that they give extremely poor responders.  We had felt smug because we hadn’t had to spend a lot of money on the drugs because we had some leftover.  That smugness soon evaporated as I became on a first-name basis with the specialty pharmacy.

I finally started responding to the drugs after several days and felt cautiously optimistic; then my estrogen dropped, which is never a good sign.  They upped my dosage again, and my hormone levels began to increase again.  Every day I was at the lab in the morning for bloodwork and ultrasound.  My arms soon looked like a junkie’s. 

Fearing cancellation at any moment, I cried constantly.  I couldn’t eat and subsisted on the odd combination of smoothies and salt and vinegar chips (not together).  I was baffled.  Why wasn’t I responding? I felt like I had waited a year only to get to the starting line and find I was out of gas.  If the cycle was cancelled, I would have to wait 2-3 months to try again.

after IV

after IV

Amazingly, I made it to retrieval and had that the day after my birthday.  Happy Birthday to me! They retrieved 21 eggs. Wow.  Three days later we were back in the clinic for transfer.  I had hoped for a 5-day transfer because research shows that at that developmental age, it is easier for the embryologist to pick out the embryos most like to implant (BTW…embryos are transferred; implantation is what you hope they do.  It drives IVFers crazy when it is referred to as “implanting the embryos.”  If doctors were able to implant the embryos, IVF would have better success rates). 

Three embryos we transferred

Three embryos we transferred

Anyway, three-day transfer was what we had, and we transferred three embryos.  I wasn’t sure how much hope I had for the cycle at that point, but at least we had made it to transfer.  There is no chance of a positive outcome if you don’t get that far!

And then we had the LONG 14 days until beta day.  F could test all she wanted, but we agreed that she wouldn’t tell us the outcome until the official beta results were in.  I started feeling a little bit better about the cycle when I found out that we had 5 embryos make it to freeze.  J’s birthday was two days before beta, so we had a low-key celebration and planned to celebrate for real afterwards.  And then came beta day…