It’s December and we’re almost at the end of 2020! Hurray! I know this year has been a difficult year for many, but I like to choose to see the more positive side of things and be thankful that 2020 gave us the gift of time. It’s been a while since I blogged and updated you all on my infertility journey. Wow, it’s been a full year since I posted! I do apologize for not updating this blog often and it’s about time. So here’s what’s been happening in 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, I had so many plans scheduled. We had just kicked off the new year with another successful “Kickboxing & Networking Workshop for Boss Babes” and I was planning another really fun event with Mallory Cheung to host a Barre for BossBabes workshop for April. (Side note: follow me on @wulalaworkshops on Instagram for future networking and mingling events as well as my fertility journey). Oh, I also had a few weddings lined up for the season that I was so looking forward to! But when the pandemic hit and the province when into a state of emergency lockdown mode, I had to cancel my workshops and postpone all our events. It was a nightmare. However, a couple of weeks into the lockdown, I knew I needed to shift my mindset and focus. With no events, no work, and the hubs working from home (thankfully he was able to keep his job and WFH!), we were able to spend more time with each other and even relax a little more. Of course, financially it was tough since we were now living on only one income, but we made it work. I say that we were given the gift of time because we could now move forward with another IVF, something we may not have been able to do otherwise with our busy schedules. This “break” allowed me to fully rest and take better care of myself (both mentally and physically) so I was in a good place by the time we started this round. Thankfully, our clinic opened up in the summer as the province gradually started reopening businesses and we could schedule our IVF for July/August. We were excited. I was actually excited about starting IVF! Can you believe it? I never thought I’d get excited about doing another IVF. I truly thought the last one, was going to be our last one.
Before we could start our IVF, we had to go through the basic hormonal bloodwork and infectious screening again. Here’s a list of what the clinic tested me for on June 30th, 2020, which I believe was Day 13 of my cycle. I’ll include my real levels here as well for the hormonal panel, not only for me to keep track of here but also for those who want a better idea of where I’m at and/or if anyone sees something that perhaps could help me next time that none of my doctors saw or recommended. (P.S. I think this was about 10-13 tubes of blood >.< yikes!)
- AMH (this is out of pocket and is $70CAD) 4.4pmol/L: this is slightly higher from the last year’s test which was 2.8 so that’s a good sign!
- Estradiol 351 pmol/L
- Progesterone 0.5 nmol/L
- Prolactin13 ug/L
- TSH only 2.0 mIU/L
- FSH 3.6 IU/L
- LH 5.1 IU/L
- A complete blood count which includes RBC, Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, MCV, MCHC, RDW, Eosinophils, WBC, Neutrophils, Lymphocytes, Monocytes, Immature granulocytes, Nucleated RBC, Basophils, Platelets, MCH – to be honest, I don’t even know what most of these are and had to google what each of these blood cells do. It’s quite fascinating!
- Then for the infectious screening, it includes HepA, HepB, and HepC
Overall, no concerns with my bloodwork results. Next, is the 3D Baseline Ultrasound. The data results for my sonogram were pretty much the same as before and there are no major issues. I have an anteverted uterus, but my doctor claims this won’t affect pregnancy, and the size is good and I have a full-thickness endometrium, no fibroids, but I do have nabothian cysts on my cervix which apparently is common and not of any concern. At the time, my right ovary showed 5 follicles but contains a 2.5cm corpus luteum cyst, and my left ovary follicle count was 2. The corpus luteum isn’t of any concern at this point as these typically go away during your period. I had one on my left ovary before and now it’s gone so I believe it will be okay. As for the follicle count, we already expected it to be low since we knew early on that I don’t make many eggs. So with a total of 7 follicles, even with stimulation meds, I know I will only get at most 3 mature eggs in the end.
I had also requested to get a Sonohysterogram done the cycle just before my IVF to ensure that the uterus cavity looked good before we did an embryo transfer. I wanted to get an HSG (hysterosalpingography) done as well, but my doctor said it’s not needed since we’re doing a transfer. The HSG is a screening test for the diagnosis of tubal infertility, but since we were already scheduled for an IVF, he said there’s no point in checking this. They would check the tubes if we were trying naturally or doing an IUI. Overall, no concerns with the Sonohysterogram so we proceeded with our fresh embryo transfer cycle.
THE IVF CYCLE
We decided to try a fresh embryo transfer this round. Why? Ultimately, it was because we wanted to try something different in hopes that we would get a different outcome this time (a positive pregnancy). We’ve ONLY done frozen embryo transfers up to this point, we always did PGS/PGT, but something was telling me that I needed to try fresh this time.
For medications, I took Gonal-F (300 IU) for the first week, then GONAL-F (225IU) + Luveris (75IU) + Orgulatran already, as my levels were rising a bit faster than usual (compared to my previous IVF cycles). I was on Orgulatran for 4 days until I got my trigger shot.
At the start of the cycle, my follicle count was only 3 even at such a high dosage of Gonal-F, it was still only 3 follicles in total (LO; 2 and RO; 1). Cycle Day 7 showed 2 on my left side (sized at 1.6 and 1.0 and 0 on my right side. By Cycle Day 10, the two on my left ovary grew to 2.3 and 1.7! And my right ovary had one popped up at 1.1. My endo lining was at 1.2cm and my E2 levels were at 1094 with an LH surge of 5.61! So I had to take the trigger shot that day. We couldn’t wait anymore and risk that dominant follicle. My transfer date was set! I was so excited and felt really good about it because my lining had never been thicker than 1.0cm nor have I ever had a follicle grow past 1.9cm! This felt like a good sign.
Out of the 3 follicles, only the 2 on my left were retrieved since the one on my right was too small. Of these 2 that were retrieved, both were fertilized with gradings of ______________
One thing I should let you know is that I did combine TCM treatments with this IVF protocol this time, something I had not done in the past. I’ll discuss this more in my next post.
On the transfer date, I wore my pink Gudetama egg socks. I wore these socks for all of my appointments so they felt like my lucky socks. Later that afternoon, I visited our TCM practitioner to get acupuncture right away (more on this later) and then went straight home to rest.
I stayed on bed rest for the next two weeks.
PROGESTERONE OIL INJECTION
Immediately after the retrieval day, I was told to take POI. I couldn’t believe I had to continue poking myself >.< I thought I was done with needles! BUT, they told me the oil injection showed better results compared to the suppository inserts that I had in the past. So I’m like, “okay. fine.” As much as I hate taking needles, I did notice a huge difference. I think my body accepted the POI much better than the suppositories. Less messy and no nasty discharge. It’s an intramuscular injection. If you haven’t tried the POI yet and you plan to, I recommend the following tips to help reduce the soreness.
- warm up the oil by rubbing the bottle between your palms before extracting the oil
- apply a warm towel or warm water pouch on the injection site for a few minutes
- don’t do the injection before bedtime as it’ll be uncomfortable to sleep with the soreness. if you do the injection earlier, time will help alleviate the soreness before you go to bed.
TWO WEEK WAIT (TWW)
Oh, the infamous two-week-wait. It’s dreadful, isn’t it? This is probably the toughest two weeks ever in the entire IVF/fertility process. Just waiting to get that pregnancy test done.
During these two weeks, I felt like I was being quarantined! I stayed in bed and only got up to go to the bathroom and shower. Even in the shower stall, I had a sitting stool where I’d sit and just let the water run down my head and body. I did everything I could NOT to disturb the little bean and prayed hard that it would find it’s nesting place within the walls of my uterus. My husband did all the washing and cooking and brought food to me upstairs on a bed-in-breakfast tray. I sat and watched Netflix, read a book, did some colouring, and took daily naps, sometimes more than one. It was great the first week, but then I got really bored and restless. Advice: Prepare activities in advance for yourself to keep your mind busy during this TWW.
It’s September 11th, 2020. The two-week-wait is over and we go in for our first beta (pregnancy) test at 9:30am. By noon, my Nurse Coordinator calls and she goes, “Hi Lisa, your HCG level is at 124!” We are both silent for a moment and I stare at the hubs. I ask my Nurse Coordinator, “did you say my HCG is at 124? so…I’m….” She says, “You’re pregnant! Congratulations!”. I breakdown in tears immediately because I’ve waited to hear those three words for soooooooooo long. Let me say it again, “YOU.ARE.PREGNANT!” I could barely even speak, but I managed to thank her and she told me I needed to go back in two days for a second test as well as to check my TSH levels”. The hubs was freaking out because he thought it was bad news as I was crying hysterically. When I told him the good news, he wrapped his arms around me and we both just cried happy tears. It was the most joyous moment ever. After we composed ourselves, I decided to call my best friend, Lucy to shared the good news. She’s been there for us every single step of the way and even helped drop off some soup during my TWW. Next, I called my Mom. My Mom is my biggest supporter and without her, we would not have been able to survive another IVF. Along with my IVF warriors whom I keep contact with, I also texted a few of my closest friends who are a part of my support system. I am incredibly grateful that I have a great support system as I know not everyone is so lucky. When I first started this TTC journey, I didn’t have anyone (other than the hubs and my best friend), but it makes a huge difference to have a support system that includes people who have also experienced infertility since they can truly understand the tribulations that you go through/have been through.
Well, this joy was short-lived. My second beta test showed my HCG levels had dropped to 68. I freaked out for a second but told myself there’s a chance it could go back up. Maybe one of the embryos didn’t make it so that’s why it dropped, but maybe the other one is okay and it’ll be okay, maybe I’m dehydrated and I just need to gulp down some more water. My nurse coordinator requested that I go back in two days later to make sure the HCG levels are dropping safely. I felt like it was too soon to withdraw blood again and plus, my TCM advised that I shouldn’t withdraw so much blood so soon as it could affect the pregnancy. TCM’s belief is that the baby needs more blood to survive and if too much blood is taken away from the mother, the body will become weak, thus the baby won’t be strong enough to hold on. I requested to go back 1 week later instead so that my body had a chance to replenish the blood lost. My nurse said that would be fine. My third beta test showed my HCG dropped to 2.0, which is essentially baseline, which means it’s a negative pregnancy test. I’ve lost my little bean. The nurse was somewhat empathetic, I could tell she didn’t want to give me this news. She said I should expect to bleed soon if I haven’t already. Well, two days later I started spotting. Oh, the horror. September 21, 2020, is now the WORST day of my life.
I officially lost my baby on September 21, 2020. As the spotting increased throughout the day and turned into full-on bleeding, I started falling into a dark hole. About 2 to 3 days later, when I went to the bathroom in the morning to pee, I felt a huge PLOP in the toilet. Something had just fallen out and I just sat there blankly too scared to get up to see because I just KNEW what it was. It took me a minute to force myself to get up from the toilet. I stared into the toilet seeing all the red and then this dark black-ish red lump just sitting at the bottom of the toilet. My heart started racing rapidly. I didn’t know what to do. Do I flush it? Do I try picking it up? What do I do? I was freaking out but I couldn’t call my husband. I didn’t want to show him this and I don’t think he’d want to see it anyway. It was quite traumatic. Without thinking, and maybe it was muscle memory, but my arm went to the flusher and I ended up flushing it down…. I cried. I cried hard. I felt so bad for not giving my little bean a proper burial, I felt bad for flushing it down the toilet like it was poop, I was scared, I was lost. I felt like my heart just sunk and flushed down the toilet with it. Every single day I cried. Sometimes multiple times in a day. I let myself go to feel the pain, the hurt, the loss, the grief. It was heavy – I think I was crying out all the disappointments and hurt I was feeling for the last 7 years. However, by allowing myself to truly feel everything, I was able to start my healing process. To this day, I still mourn over our loss and I don’t believe it will ever go away. We just find ways to cope with it and live each day.
This has been by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my 37 years of life. I have just experienced one of my biggest fears, something I never thought I’d even thought I would experience. A miscarriage. Technically, this would be defined as a Chemical Pregnancy since it was just before my first ultrasound (7 weeks). However, I still consider this a miscarriage, it’s still a loss, no matter which way you put it because…I was pregnant. I was 5 weeks and 2 days.
LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
I know that generally, people will announce their pregnancy after the 12-week mark, but you know what – tell whomever you want, when you want. If there is trust in that person and they are there to support you no matter what, if they’re your own personal cheerleader and confidant, then tell them if that’s what your heart wants. Don’t listen to others who tell you what you should and shouldn’t do because if it feels RIGHT for you, then it’s right.
I told probably about a handful of people when I got that positive test. I knew that if I didn’t, it would eat me up inside and probably just make me feel stressed out. I knew that they would be happy for us and if things didn’t work out, I knew that they would be there for us too.
You may be wondering what our next steps are from here. Well, about 2 weeks after the miscarriage, I went to see a new TCM. I loved my TCM, but I wanted to get a second opinion. First, we had to clear my system and make sure my uterus is ‘clean’ to start trying again. After seeing this new TCM for 3 cycles, we decided to give ourselves a break. To be honest, I feel like I am in this never-ending dark tunnel. It’s been a full 2 years non-stop at this and I am tired. So we’ve decided to give ourselves a mini-break, especially since the holidays are around the corner. 2020 has been hard enough and we deserve a break.
We will look into another TCM again in the new year and also talk to our RE about a new IVF protocol as well. I’ll discuss my TCM experience in the next blog post and how it helped me with this IVF protocol, why we decided to switch TCMs after, what we liked and didn’t like about TCM#2’s practice.
Feel free to follow me on my second Instagram account handle @wulalaworkshops – There is a highlight reel “IVF 2020” where you can watch the entire story of this round.
As always, if you’re also struggling and just need a fellow warrior to chat with I’m here for you! There is an amazing community of women and I’ve met some incredibly strong warriors over the past few years who are now a part of this support system. So if I can be a part of YOUR support system, it would be an honour.
I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
You are strong!