Hi!! As most of y’all probably know, Blake and I went through IVF at CCRM last month. If you have been getting my email updates, you know that it’s been so good to be home. I have been sharing every step of our process with my prayer warriors, but I wanted to take the time to share our journey with those of you that are thinking and praying about walking through IVF. Our experience this time around was night and day different from the first time. So, I hope to spare you some of the mistakes we made along the way. I will be sharing tips and details about my experiences the whole month of November on the blog. So keep checking back each week for more.
For you to fully understand our journey, I need to take you back to two years ago when we walked through IVF the first time. When we were first experiencing the beginning signs of infertility, we had some preliminary testing with my OB/GYN, who recommended that we see a specialist. After more testing, the specialist told us that IVF was our only option, so we decided to move forward. My OB/GYN gave me the names of two clinics: one 2 hours away in Birmingham and one 45 minutes away in Georgia. After being told that we should be a “slam-dunk case,” we chose the closer clinic for convenience. This clinic is one that only offers IVF during set cycles throughout the year. We decided to get on the May-June cycle, along with 20-25 other women.
Honestly, from the very beginning, I felt like part of a herd of cattle being herded in. The doctor put us on birth control to get us all on the same cycle, and we all started on the same stim meds (Lupron and Gonal F). About five days in, I felt crazy….. like falling on the floor crying because I don’t know what I am going to wear crazy. And if you know me at all, you know I have probably never in my life cried about what I was going to wear. When I went in for my first round of blood work and ultrasounds, I could see the look on the nurse’s face when she got my results. My estrogen levels were off the charts. I was progressing way too fast (which means I was on way too much medicine). At this point, my doctor should have cancelled my cycle. But instead, he called me in a prescription to bring my levels back down and proceeded with the cycle. Around day eight to ten, I was put on bed rest because I had so many follicles developing and was so swollen. Every time I walked into the doctor’s office, they treated me like I was a ticking time bomb for my ovaries to rupture. They told me to slow down over and over (I was already walking at turtle speed). Having about 30+ follicles, I was expecting for them to retrieve over 20 eggs. Well, when I woke up from my egg retrieval, the doctor told me that they were only able to retrieve 10 eggs and all of them were fragile. When I got home from my retrieval, I threw up immediately from the anesthesia and laid down in bed because I didn’t feel good. When I got up to go to the bathroom about an hour later, I was bleeding A LOT….. pouring out for a solid ten minutes. Of course I called the doctor immediately, and the nurse told me that was normal (SO NOT NORMAL) and if it didn’t stop later in the day to call back. Out of the 10 eggs that they retrieved, only 3 fertilized; they were so weak on day 3 that they decided to implant all of them then. Fast forward two weeks: the office called me to say that I wasn’t pregnant and that the doctor recommended we go the donor egg route because I had poor egg quality.
I tell you this story because I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing a clinic. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but I so wish we had gotten a second opinion and more testing the first time around. I think the reason it took me so long to try IVF again is the horrible experience I had the first time. I am not telling you this story to scare you because my experience was definitely not normal. On every level. But, choosing a clinic is SO important. Take your time. Research the doctor. Research the lab. Get a second opinion. Get tested somewhere else. It’s worth every bit of the extra time and extra money.
My experience at CCRM was nothing like the first one. Going into it again, I felt more prepared because I had walked through it before. But to start things off, my entire IVF cycle at CCRM was completely built around my body. I didn’t have to get on birth control and force my body to work around the doctor’s schedule. I started my calendar based on my natural cycle. I strongly recommend finding a clinic that works around your body. At CCRM, I had a nurse assigned to me. She knew all the details of my case and made me feel like an individual, not part of a herd. After these months together, I truly consider her a friend. After very thorough testing and analysis of other factors like my age, the doctor decided on my personal protocol, which included different meds and much lower doses. This time around, my stim meds were Menopur and Follistim. I told my doctor that I had used Lupron as a stim med last time, but he did not agree with that decision. Because of my experience last time, my nurse let me schedule blood work and an ultrasound on day 4 just so that we could make sure all of my levels looked fine. And they did. I progressed right on schedule. By the end of the two weeks of stim, I had over 40 follicles. I was swollen but nothing compared to last time. I could move around fairly easily, was never put on bed rest, and my doctors and nurses were never concerned about my ovaries rupturing. When I went in for my egg retrieval, I woke up to find out that they were able to get 31 eggs. Of the 31 eggs they retrieved, 21 were mature. And out of the 21 mature eggs, 12 fertilized. Out of the 12 that fertilized, 7 made it to day 5 and 6. My doctor usually does a frozen transfer, so I will return to Denver in mid-December for the transfer. An important point to note is that I did not bleed one drop after my recent egg retrieval. Also, my numbers were so much better two years later even though a woman’s numbers usually decline with age. From finding Dr. Schoolcraft to hearing about our 7 embryo babies, we have witnessed God’s mighty hand in one answered prayer after another.
From the day I had my first phone consult with Dr. Schoolcraft, to my one-day work up to the day I left Denver, my entire experience at CCRM was different – in a great way. Yes, it cost a lot more and I had to step away from home for two full weeks, but it was worth every penny and every second. I can’t emphasize enough that the clinic you choose matters. The doctor you choose matters. The lab you choose matters. You don’t have to choose CCRM, but please do your research. My body could have had irreparable damage from my last cycle because I was treated like one of the herd. Praise Jesus I have no lasting issues! But when I look back, it’s terrifying to think what could have happened.
If you have any questions about CCRM, I would be more than happy to answer them. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week I will be walking you through all the lifestyle changes Blake and I went through to prepare our bodies for this cycle.
Thanks for standing with us during this time! All the forms of support we have received, but especially the prayers, have meant the world to Blake and me. If you want to stay updated on our journey, you can join our prayer warriors email list here. I hope and pray that I can be a resource and source of encouragement for all of you walking through this season. It is so incredibly hard, but God is so very good.
Love you all!