A Frozen Cycle

After a failed fresh round of IVF, it was time to move to a cycle using our extra frozen embryos. It varies by clinic, but mine felt confident letting me move straight into one. The basic format is as follows:

  1. Start birth control
  2. Stop birth control
  3. Start injections to prevent egg growth and ovulation
  4. Start estrogen pills to trick your body into thinking you’re growing an egg
  5. Stop injections
  6. Start progesterone, in whatever form your doctor advises (gel, suppository or injection), do a massive injection of HCG
  7. Embryo transfer! Do another massive injection of HCG
  8. Wait.

We started this cycle way back before Thanksgiving, almost exactly one month ago. Cycle lengths have to be flexible based on how the body responds to the medication.

In addition to the things listed above, I also had about 6 monitoring appointments, which consist of a blood draw and ultrasound to make sure everything looks good. Doctors generally prefer the lining of the uterus to get to at least 8 mm thick before they consider doing a transfer. That makes sure that it is nice and cushy for the very tiny embryos and they can find a good place to implant and grow. This cycle, mine refused to grow. For a normal woman, the lining grows by 1-2mm per day. Mine was less than 1 over the course of 3 days. We ended up extending our original estimate by almost a week to give my lining time to grow properly.

Once my lining was finally up to 8 mm, then the fun started happening. And by fun I mean pain. So you remember the three different way to get progesterone? This cycle my doctor wanted me to do suppositories and injections. The injections tend to work better than suppositories, so I was okay with that. What I was not okay with was doing both, so I asked if we could just do a higher dosage of the injections. Luckily my doctor agreed and increased the dosage to 1.5 cc instead of 1 cc.

Oh yes, back to the pain. I had read about the injectable PIO (progesterone in oil) and it seemed very scary. There were tons of recommendations to make it hurt less. Everything from warming it up first to pinching the skin really firmly, to stretching the skin as much as possible to using ice and using a heating pad. It was a lot to take in. So I asked my nurse for advice. She recommended pinching firmly and injecting slowly.

For those who don’t know, David has to do basically nothing in this whole process, so I made him do all my injections. It is a totally fine experience for me, but for him, he’s stabbing his wife with a needle every day. Not one of the funnest things to do with your wife. When we got to the PIO though, it became a whole different story. The needles we’d been using up until then were about an inch long. The PIO ones? About 2.5 inches, and thick. Oh yeah, and they have to go in the muscle in my butt.

On the plus side, they don’t hurt at all when the needle goes in or the liquid goes in. On the negative side, after the first one I was okay for about 4 hours, then the pain started. It is a constant pain that does not go away before the next injection. After the second injection it was pain on both sides as we switch injection sites every day. So now I just have pain all the time. If I get pregnant, this child/these children will literally be a pain in my butt. I will have to continue the injections until between 10-12 weeks until the placenta takes over making it. Wee fun. I know it’ll be worth it if it works though!

 

Just a few short days after starting the PIO, it was transfer day!

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I was up bright and early to get one last workout in. Gentle walking can help increase blood flow to the uterus and help with everything going on.

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I normally do at least 30 minutes with much more vertical feet than this, but I didn’t want to raise my core temperature too much, or stress myself out too much, so just 15 minutes this time.

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We’re ready to go! Our clinic is in Beverly Hills, which means it can take anywhere from 18-60 minutes to get there. I figured since we needed to be there at 9:30, it would be safest to leave at 8:30. There ended up being almost no traffic, so we had time to stop for gas and a coffee for David.

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My bladder has to be full for the doctor to know where to put the embryos, so I was told to drink 32 ounces of liquid between 9 and 9:15. I was also told this last time, and ended up having to drink more at the clinic, then having some other unpleasant things happen, so I decided I would try and drink 64 ounces of liquid before we got there. I almost made it, but not quite. I was probably a good thing I didn’t, because it ended up being too much and my bladder was too full!

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We both get hospital gowns, booties and lovely hats! We’re ready to go! Too bad the doctor isn’t!! He was on an international conference call, which meant we had to wait around for him to finish. With a full bladder.

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This is my post-valium, gotta pee face. Where are you doctor and why are you taking so long!?

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Oh! That’s why I need to pee so bad! The big black part surrounded by a white outline? Bladder. Huge bladder. I was thankfully allowed to relieve some of the pressure, but only for 10 seconds. It helped immensely!

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Post transfer, feeling good. I got to experience a first for this round. Last time I had a catheter in my bladder, but I didn’t need one this time. After the transfer the ultrasound tech asked if I’d like a bedpan. I told her to check back in 5 minutes and I’d let her know. Three minutes later I asked David to go and get her so she could get one for me. I knew I wasn’t going to make it the full 20 minutes they have you lay after the transfer. It was my first experience using a bedpan, and let me tell you, it was amazing. When you’ve had about 50 ounces of liquid with someone pressing on your bladder for about 5 minutes, you just don’t care. I need to pee, and I need to do it now.

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Here I am, waiting for the nurse. After you get dressed, and the husband goes to get the car, they ask if you’d like to go to the bathroom. Again. Even if you just went. I of course said yes, and am glad I did. Now I’m sitting and waiting for her to come back to wheel me down to the curb where the hubby waits with the car.

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Because it is so close to Christmas, I didn’t want to inconvenience my mom by asking her to come up for my 48 hours of bedrest, which end on the morning of Christmas Eve. That means that David is in charge of taking care of me. He made a lovely lunch of mac-n-cheese with spam, broccoli and mushrooms. After lunch I had a nice nap to sleep off the valium. Later he made me a snack of cucumbers. And dinner obviously, but that didn’t get photographed.

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Cordelia loves to snuggle, especially when the weather turns cooler. She isn’t too bummed that I have to be horizontal for 2 days! She’s also fairly good about respecting the tummy. Once I block it, she won’t try and lay on it. It’s a rule we have for after transfer. We don’t want her stepping on me and doing anything to hurt our chances of success.

 

We have successfully completed a FET (frozen embryo transfer) cycle! Now all there is to do it wait, get a blood test to make sure progesterone and estrogen are at the right levels and adjust meds if necessary, then do a final HCG blood test. Good luck us!

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Crazy Lady Pills

At the beginning of the month I started a new, different round of medication.

I started with one pill a day, and over the course of a week increased it to three pills a day. I’ve been back in for a few blood tests to see how well the medication is working. It isn’t quite doing its job. My last appointment was on Sunday morning, and luckily I got results quickly since they’re only open for a half day on the weekends. Unluckily, my doctor recommended upping the medication from three pills daily to six pills daily. That meant fitting in four more pills that day when I had only planned on one.

If you look up medication side effects online they’ll generally have things like: may cause dizziness, nausea, sore throat, fever, etc. They fail to have things like: may cause extreme irritation with husbands breathing and crying during your show when waiting to see if people will turn off their Christmas lights. Yes, that second one just happened to me this evening. I really did get teary when I wasn’t sure if the people in the town would turn their lights off. On a tv show.

I like to call this pill my “crazy lady pill”. It has truly turned me into a crazy person. During my normal, pre trying-to-make-a-baby life, my hormones were relatively level. Most women experience increasing and decreasing levels of hormones throughout their cycle. I don’t have hardly any variance. Dealing with hormones is a very strange experience, for both me and David.

I’m hoping that at my next blood draw there will be a marked increase and I can back off the drugs a little bit. Oh I am so hoping for that!