PERSONAL UPDATE: Our first IVF/ICSI treatment

IVF/ICSI blog

UPDATED June 2014: See below…

Note: This post is written in reverse chronological order, so the newest info is first. Scroll to the bottom and work your way back if you are interested in the details as they happened.

 

June 2014

Sadly, we can’t afford another round of IVF and, as I turn 43 in October, the chances are almost nil now of a “natural” conception.

So it all ends here. Thank you to everyone for the supportive, kind and well-intentioned comments.

 

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November 15, 2013

So we’ve been great since it all went wrong – pragmatic, optimistic about starting a second cycle in a few months when we can save the money, openly discussing it with our family and friends, patting ourselves on the back for handling it so well.

But then today I read these two great-but-very-moving stories about pregnancy loss:

I was expecting to be moved but I wasn’t expecting to burst into a major sobbing fit. Loud, uncontrollable cries. Feeling terrible for these two women and their families who had gone so much further in their pregnancies before losing their babies, but feeling terrible for myself too.

Our dog, Mabel, rushed to where I sat on the bed, leaping up on the side to comfort me. It was quite magical really, the desperate desire to lick away my tears, to snuggle up against me. It’s amazing how dogs understand these things.

And she just stayed with me until I calmed down, slowly licking my hand and nuzzling her nose into whatever nook and cranny she could find.

My canine child.

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We had the final cycle appointment yesterday with Dr Talmor, our fabulous IVF specialist. He asked about Luscious – amazed that so many kind people share my luscious life with me every day – and we ceremoniously named him “Dr Luscious” in honor of his help along our IVF path. He’s still the nicest doctor I’ve ever dealt with and each time I see him, I wish we could ask him over for dinner but I’m not sure of that’s allowed.

I told him that it had been helpful for me to share our story through this Luscious blog post and the Facebook page, and that I was amazed by how many emails I’d received from people thanking me for discussing it. He believes that stories should be shared so we can increase understanding on the subject, and that we shouldn’t be duped by Hollywood celebrities magically falling pregnant in their late 40s. “All donor eggs,” he says. Don’t be fooled.

He confirmed that all our results throughout the IVF cycle had been brilliant, and was sorry that we’d fallen at the last hurdle. There’s no way of knowing, of course, why this embryo didn’t take. It just happens. But great that we coped so well along the way.

So we’ll try again. Hopefully around March 2014 depending on savings.

Thanks again for all the emails and Facebook messages. They’ve been amazing.

Natasha xx

 

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October 31, 2013

Sadly, it was confirmed today, via a blood test, that we lost our little Luscious baby.

It was a short but magical time, and I’m still glad we shared the news with you all: it took 5 years to get to this point and was worth celebrating.

Thanks for all the incredibly kind and generous messages of support. Hearing your personal stories, especially from those of you experiencing your own infertility struggles. It has been both touching and helpful thanks to all the great practical advice. I feel honoured to be trusted with your private heartbreak and, in some fortunate cases, the great joy associated with actually having a baby.

I weighed up whether we should reveal our story to over 110,000 Luscious Lifers via Facebook – 99.9% of whom we’ve not actually met in person – plus the thousands who visit the website each day, and decided it was important to share some of the not-so-luscious parts of my life, as well as the very luscious parts. Mr Luscious and I have a truly wonderful life together, but nothing ever runs smoothly, and infertility has been one of the challenges we’ve had to face together.

Before we decided to start a family, I had very little idea about the complexities of all of this. I just thought we’d have fabulous sex and get pregnant straight away, just like in the movies where it seems to happen on the back seat of a car after a drunken night out, on the very first time, with some dodgy boy your father warned you about. And then I thought, “Well, I finally met Mr Right and so the stars will align for us, surely?”

And whilst I had an inkling that it wasn’t ideal to be turning 42 on the day of our first embryo transfer, I thought it was still fine to have a baby later in life – just look at Halle Berry having a baby naturally at 47 – because I’d be in a better emotional and financial environment. Marketing content on IVF websites is full of fabulous diagrams showing success rates for women over 35 (up to 60% in some cases!) but sadly, you really need to read the fine print and ask a lot of questions to appreciate how little chance there is.

But it’s not all bad news: IVF increased our chances of having a baby to around 10%, rather than the approx 1% we have waiting to conceive naturally, and for that I’m very grateful. It may feel awful at the moment coping with our loss, but it’s actually an improvement on the month-after-month misery of getting my period and sobbing quietly on my own, wondering what went wrong (again) and feeling like a complete failure.

Circumstances beyond our control prevented us from doing anything sooner than we have, but I still wish I’d known more earlier.

  • I wish I’d known that I could have saved some eggs in my 20s or 30s in case anything went wrong down the track – the older the egg, the less chance they have of being viable.
  • I wish I’d known that many women having babies in their 40s via IVF are using donor eggs from a woman in her 20s, not their own eggs, which is why they have more success.
  • I wish I had been tested for many things sooner than I was – even just a year earlier when you’re in your late 30s/early 40s can make all the difference.
  • I wish I’d put money aside so we could afford multiple cycles.
  • I wish I’d not been impacted by the people who told me to “Just take a holiday – you’ll get pregnant then!” and “You don’t actually want a baby – they’ll ruin your life” and “It’s a sign that you shouldn’t be a mother” and “It’s your own fault for being a career girl and not settling down earlier” and “You shouldn’t want your own baby when there are so many babies who need adopting.”
  • And I wish I’d understood that infertility is a disease just as cancer is, that part of my body is not functioning as it should, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed by it.

I’ve learnt a lot so far and feel extremely grateful for all the busy bees in the medical community, both now and historically, who have committed to understanding the miracle of creating life. Even if we aren’t successful, others will be, and these future generations will benefit from what we’re learning today.

So, it’s a tricky, emotional time mourning the loss of the tiny life we created, but we’re a resilient, happy couple and we’ll be fine. The decision has already been made to do everything we can to fund a second round of IVF/ICSI, even if it takes us a while to save the money.

Thanks again for sharing this journey with us.

Natasha xx

 

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October 29, 2013

So I think it’s all over. I think we’ve lost our little Luscious baby.

I started bleeding late yesterday afternoon, horrible red blood clots, and later some weird dark grey sponge-like clots. It was far too full-on to be implantation bleeding. It seems to have stopped now, but I think it will kick in with a vengeance again soon.

I’ve been trying in vain this morning to get onto my IVF nurse but not having any luck. I assume I need to have an official blood test to confirm that it was an “early pregnancy loss” which is apparently the term for miscarriages for the first few weeks. *UPDATE* I finally got on to another nurse and she wasn’t hopeful based on the presence of blood clots. They can’t fit me in for a blood test until Thursday morning (2 days time).

The worst of it was calling my parents with the news, thinking about the baby we all miss out on. Our child, their grandchild.

Feeling pretty devastated but still grateful that we got to experience the chance to create another life, albeit a short one, with my darling Mr Luscious.

Natasha xx

 

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October 21, 2013

So I am officially pregnant!

I went in for the embryo transfer this morning and the best of our four embryos was implanted at 10am. On my birthday! The best birthday EVER. We might not succeed with this pregnancy but it’s still pretty magical to have made it this far.

I calculated that if we are successful, the due date is our anniversary, July 14, 2014. I joked with Mr Luscious that being Bastille Day, it might come out speaking French and wanting to storm the barricades!

The procedure itself was OK – like a pap smear, just as they said, so not particularly comfortable (I have a 5cm fibroid which always makes things trickier) but it was over within 5 minutes so not the end of the world.

My thanks to the team at Monash IVF and Monash Private Hospital for being cheery and optimistic!

I’m now at my parents’ home for the day, just taking it easy and discussing baby things with my mother which is really sweet. I’m remaining realistic about our chances, but intent on enjoying today’s excitement. We may never get this chance again, so it’s important to me to embrace as much of it as I can.

Here’s the summary:

  • We had 6 eggs collected last week, of which 5 were mature and able to be fertilised. Four of those were successful in becoming embryos.
  • Today, 1 embryo was chosen as it had developed the best so far and implanted into my cervix, which I got to watch on the ultrasound screen.
  • 3 embryos are still trying to develop in the lab – we’ll know tomorrow if any of them have made it further.
  • Any surviving embryos of good quality will be frozen for future use.
  • In Australia, they encourage you to only implant one embryo (maximum two), especially in your first round, and at my age (I turned 42 today), the chances of losing both embryos (if two are implanted) is heightened so we decided to stick to one embryo this time.
  • I continue with the Crinone (progesterone cream) until further notice, which will mimic the signs of pregnancy so scouring the internet for “two week wait” symptom spotting is futile.
  • I don’t need to take any other drugs for now which is great.

Here’s what happens next:

  • I just need to take it easy for the next two weeks, which is fine because I’ve already cleared my calendar.
  • Even if I start bleeding or develop a full on period, I still go in for a pregnancy blood test in two weeks time.

Reflections on the process so far:

  • In our case, we decided it was best for us to talk about our situation, for better or worse. Clearly this is the most private thing any two people can go through together, but it suited us to share what was going on with the people in our lives.
  • Reading and asking lots of questions is crucial – the medical staff are there to help but are not going to inform you of  absolutely everything which might be useful.
  • Get onto IVF/ICSI as soon as you possibly can!! I spent years seeing doctors, alternative medical practioners, trying different things in my diet, trying different positions, having tests done etc, but all without any success. And as eggs deteriorate at an even faster rate once you turn 35, there’s no time to lose. Yes, emotionally and physically we were not in a good place (complications all around us) but if I’d know to have some eggs frozen years ago, our chances today would be significantly higher than they are today.
  • Beg, borrow or steal the money required. OK, so don’t steal, but with each month or year that you put things off, the less chance you have of being successful. Yes, it can be torturous trying to put the funds together, but I think it’s worth the effort.

A word of warning:

Even when you think you’re doing the right thing and choosing the right doctor, I think it”s best to remain sceptical. Not everyone is looking out for your best interests.

  • The first specialist we saw at Melbourne IVF told me that I absolutely needed to have a laparoscopy (costing $6500-7000) payable to him before we could continue, and then the $11,000 to proceed to IVF. This turned out to be complete nonsense and caused us a huge amount of grief and delayed things for about 10 months whilst we tried to figure out how come up with the money. In the end, we went onto the public health system for the laparoscopy. After more grief watching the months tick by, I finally got to the public hospital who told me that if you’re doing IVF you absolutely don’t need this operation. I can only assume that the specialist in question had another child to put throught private school. Naturally, we didn’t go back to see him again.
  • The second specialist we saw was at Monash IVF, the rival business to Melbourne IVF. Initially the process was also bumpy, as this time the specialist told me I needed to have a tubal dye ultrasound, costing $500. At his wife’s clinic. This time, we did go ahead but it also proved to be useless and simply delayed things further. Sadly, this doctor also had an arrogant, cliched doctor’s personality and told me sharply that if I couldn’t come up with the money, I had no right thinking I could bring a child into the world! Charming, eh?
  • Things improved greatly when we saw Specialist No. 3, also from Monash IVF, Dr Alon Talmor, who has been kind, thoughtful, educated and thoroughly pleasant – the complete opposite of the first two doctors (who came with outstanding reputations but I’d question how this could be, other than in the “conman” category). He charged us next-t0-nothing for consultations, rang me personally to see how I was getting on, and was always thoroughly professional.

The moral of the story is to shop around. Just because you do your research, think you’re on the right track, and get a referral to one doctor, don’t feel obligated to continue with them if you aren’t comfortable.

Once again, my thanks to everyone who has provided support. I’m well aware that I’ll probably be updating this blog post with sad news in the weeks or months to come, relating to our lack of success, but it’s been a pretty amazing journey so far, and I’m grateful that we’ve gone through it. Even if we never get to become parents together, we’ve had this amazing experience.

And who knows, maybe we get to the be the lucky couple who makes up the 10% success statistic 🙂

Cheers, Natasha

PS. Here’s a great post about things not to say to someone dealing with infertility. Please read it and the comments underneath it.

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October 19, 2013

Today is Saturday, “day 3” after the egg collection operation on Wednesday (“day 0”).

On Thursday I felt uncomfortable but the pain was bearable. Yesterday, however, was hideous. Excruciating pain and discomfort in my stomach and ovaries, and I could hardly walk, but fortunately today it’s reduced about 50%. Strong painkillers and the very useful wheat heat packs from Luscious Lifer Lori Leskie were the only things to get me through. Not something I want to go through regularly but hopefully the end result will be worth it.

Despite being told we collected 6 eggs on Wednesday, the IVF nurse called me on Thursday to say there were 5 eggs and 4 of them fertilised. Four is amazing.

Apparently, we have a 25% chance of one embryo surviving to “Day 5” for Monday’s implantation transfer (my birthday!), but I’m sending every positive vibe I can to those four little potential Luscious babies in the lab. I’d be grateful if you did too 🙂

Cheers, Natasha

 

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October 15, 2013

Tomorrow morning I go in for the egg collection operation.

It’s done under an anaesthetic but apparently the pain afterwards can be quite horrible so I’ve been told to ask for the good drugs! And Luscious Lifer, Lori, is making me some wheat packs to help – how nice is that?

It’s all still been going very well to this point, with words like “brilliant” and “perfect” being used to describe my ultrasounds and blood tests for these first two weeks. Remember that this needs to be in context of me being 41-going-on-42 on October 21, so should not be compared to someone in their 20s or early 30s. But we’re trying to enjoy each bit of good news as it comes along.

Emotionally I feel great – I think it’s the fact that I finally feel part of the “motherhood” brigade, if only for a few days. The hcG which was injected last night is actually derived from the urine of pregnant women (so glam!) so technically it might be true to say that you CAN be a little bit pregnant!

Physically it’s been a bit yuck but completely bearable. If we are successful with egg retrieval tomorrow, and hopefully fertilisation in the 24 hours after that, I’m not looking forward to the progesterone gel which is apparently not for the feint-hearted, emotionally or physically.

Summary to date:

  • I finished with the twice-daily injections, and had the once-only Pregnyl injection last night which contains hcG.
  • I’ve blown up like Violet Beauregarde in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and hoping no Oompa Loompas are going to take me away to be squeezed!
  • 10 follicles have developed, with 5 growing to the right size (approximately 18mm each).
  • My oestrogen levels are good, which indicates that there should be at least 1 egg.
  • We are hoping for 5 eggs but we could be lucky with more than that, or unlucky with none at all.
  • Of any eggs we retrieve, they expect 50% will be mature enough to try fertilising, so we might be lucky with 2-3.

What’s happening:

  • Wednesday: Fasting from 4.30am, ie. no breakfast.
  • Wednesday: Mr Luscious has to provide a sperm sample. Again, not glam!
  • Wednesday: Hospital at 9.30am, operation at 10.30am, should be out within 4 hours, and home to recover.
  • Wednesday/Thursday: We should know how many eggs we retrieved, how many were viable, and how many eggs were fertilised, if any.
  • Thursday: I start inserting the progesterone gel, daily.
  • Friday (“day 3”) or Monday (“day 5”): If we were successful creating an embryo, it will be implanted back into my womb.
  • Approx 14 days later: Blood test.
  • If this cycle doesn’t work out, it might be 2-3 months before we can try again, as we’d have to wait for all my levels to get back to normal.

I’ve learnt that doing a home pregnancy test during this time is futile because it might give me a false positive as I’m pumping my body with hcG (ie. derived from women who have been pregnant) and then progesterone which is trying to replicate a natural pregnant state.

Cheers, Natasha

 

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October 9, 2013

Hi Luscious Lifers,

I just wanted to say thanks again to all the fabulous folk who have emailed to wish us well on our IVF/ICSI journey. We’re now 7 days into our first round…

It’s going well, albeit the twice-daily injections into the stomach are pretty hideous, and apart from bloating, insomnia and a bit of a headache, I’m feeling fine so far. I suspect it will continue to worsen each day as the role of the injections intensify, but compared to five years of being poked and prodded and the emotional rollercoaster of our “unexplained infertility” path, at least we have some chance of a positive outcome.

Mr Luscious has been a gem, giving me all the injections and making life lovely as always. And whilst it’s not romantic and certainly a lot more technical than a fun roll in the hay, at least we’re doing it together.

At my age (41, but going on 42 this month), we only have about 13-20% chance of any IVF success, but this is far better than the 1% chance we’d have without IVF.

 

Here’s what’s happening:

  • We’re going through Dr Alon Talmor – the nicest specialist I’ve ever met – and the team at Monash IVF in Clayton (Melbourne), who have been terrific.
  • It’s costing over AUD$11,000 for this first round – eek! – so this has been a struggle to organise.
  • I’ve had 7 days of stimulation injections so far, and still have a few more days of  injections to improve my chances of producing a good batch of eggs. I’m on Puregon (Follitropin beta) and Orgalutran (Ganirelix).
  • In a couple of days, I’ll have the first ultrasound and blood tests to see how I’m responding to the drugs.
  • A couple of days after this, I’ll have an egg collection operation whereby they try to extract as many eggs as possible (normal, non-IVF cycles usually = 1 egg). 36 hours before this operation, I’ll have a final injection called Pregnyl (Chorionic gonadotropin).
  • The eggs will then be checked out, as many of them will be immature and not viable for creating an embryo.
  • Mr Luscious’s sperm will be “washed” and inspected to find the very best ones, and then injected directly into the viable eggs. This is known as an “intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection” (ISCI) and is supposed to increase our chances of matching up the best egg with the best sperm.
  • We then wait 3-5 days to see how the embryos develop in the lab.
  • If there are any successful embryos, I will have one transferred back into my womb in the hope that it will continue to thrive.
  • We then have to wait for the dreaded “two week wait” and I have to take additional drugs such as progesterone to ensure the embryo has the best environment for surviving.
  • The “two week wait” is a very confusing time because the progesterone mimics pregnancy, whether you’re pregnant or not.
  • Even if I get a positive blood test at the end of the “wait”, there’s still a 35% risk of miscarriage (for my age), but if I can get to the 12 week mark, I think it reduces to about 5% thereafter.

I hope this gives a little insight into what’s going on. I’m trying to pragmatic about it and not get my hopes up too high, but my brain is still veering off and dreaming about babies and nurseries and other sentimental things.

Please continue crossing fingers and toes for us! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all the messages of kindness and support.

Natasha xx

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. Kanika Dugal November 30, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Such a nice post. I think your post is the motivational post for other couples who are really want a baby from this treatment. again thanks for the sharing…

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