Wednesday, January 4, 2012

looking back

I've always been open about our use of IVF. I have not, however, ever really discussed the details of our IVF cycle. Despite the clear success in the form of our son & daughter, our cycle was not pretty. Not at all. From the first ultrasound, I was convinced we were doomed.

First, a mini science lesson. Eggs (which are of course necessary for pregnancy) mature inside and are released from follicles. During a typical month, a woman will have one dominant follicle, which is how a normal woman gets pregnant. During IVF, a woman takes drugs to create many, many follicles. The goal is to retrieve lots of mature eggs so that they can be fertilized, so that hopefully a healthy embryo (or two) can grow and then be transferred back to the woman's uterus and given a chance to implant. Not all eggs retrieved will be mature, not all will fertilize, and even of the ones that fertilize most will usually not grow and survive as needed. The more eggs you get, then, the more chances you have to actually have a baby.

When we started IVF, I was only 27 years old. Other women around my age said they had 20 plus eggs retrieved. Though I had lost three babies, I had always responded well to meds and had no reason to think I had "egg problems," so I was expecting similar results. Lots of eggs, meaning lots of chances for our healthy baby. On January 3, 2010, that expectation came to a grinding halt. One of my ovaries showed only one sizable follicle, and the other showed around 5 or 6. Although I had several more days of shots ahead, I knew that my dream of a high number wouldn't be coming true. My doctor told me to expect around 10. 10 eggs. I had read that no more than half would fertilize, then no more than half of those would grow healthily. I was devastated with these odds. In the journal that I was keeping at the time, I wrote that I thought we wouldn't even make it to transfer...that we would have no little embryos to put into my womb.

My doctor and Andrew stayed positive, making "quality over quantity" our mantra. I cannot tell you how many times Andrew said this, but I can tell you that I wanted to throw things at his head an equal number of times. As often happens in our home, though, Andrew was right. I may not have had many eggs, but the ones I had were clearly top-shelf.

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