IVF (MORE DISBELIEF)
When I last left off, we had adopted our son and at the same time, had very quickly fallen pregnant and miscarried for a 5th time. We decided to take a few months pause and did just that. In the spring of 2019 we decided to take our first steps towards continuing to build our family and for us, we sat down the path of figuring out if biological children were in our future. We were open to ideas and wanted to continue doing as much testing as possible to avoid recurring miscarriage.
We met with yet another IVF clinic and I instantly did not like the feel of this one and felt they were pushing me into IVF but for no other reason than most miscarriages were due to chromosomal issues, therefore if we went the IVF route and tested embryos we could avoid this. We had only had the option to do testing on one of our pregnancies (the 3rd miscarriage) and it came back with no chromosomal issues. So as you can imagine, their reasoning was tough for me to follow.
So we once again took a step back to re-group and think about a plan forward. I did some genetic testing, which I won’t go into great detail here, other than to say it was fascinating and I believe uncovered many of the issues we have dealt with and I so wish I had done this testing years ago! I do feel like the information revealed from that testing could have set me on a better path towards a healthy pregnancy.
I also got a referral from a friend for a new IVF clinic and when we went in, I immediately felt more at ease and appreciated the doctors candor and admission that because we were already getting pregnant, he could offer some help, but it would only be one piece of it. He also insisted on doing testing on my husband, which no one else had done (and I had always been shocked!). We had never done a sperm analysis, assuming things must be fine since we were falling pregnant. However, he wanted to do a sperm DNA fragmentation test and when we got the results, we found out this was an issue. WOW, for anyone walking the path of inferrtility, you know that finding potential causes to a miscarriage are pretty rare, so we felt excited to have another piece of our puzzle. And as I’m sure many women can relate, I was relieved that for once, this part was not on me. The best news was that there were ways to help improve and control for this issue. One of them being IVF and using TESE sperm (which can help prevent some of the fragmentation occurring to start with).
Armed with this new information, I felt more on board with a plan to move forward with IVF. Honestly, though, I was still very hesitant to try and carry the child. Our plan was to do a retrieval and to see what we ended up with. My thought was depending on the number of embryos, we could have me try with one embryo, but if we had additional embryos, we would still be open to other options like surrogacy. So while we didn’t have an exact plan, we did feel confident moving forward in this direction.
By this time it was fall of 2019 and I set out to do my egg retrieval. Given my age and AMH levels, the doctors were pleased when I ended up with 9 eggs in total. I also felt like this was a good number to start with, even knowing we would likely end up with fewer embryos (as an aside, I felt strongly that any healthy embryos we had, I had a moral obligation to give them a chance at life, so I honestly had a concern of ending up with too many embryos).
My husband did his part, using the TESE sperm with hopes at decreasing any DNA fragmentation on his sperm. We ended up with 8 embryos and started the process of seeing which ones would make it to the blastocyte stage. The next 8 days were difficult, each day, the news got worse and worse until finally by the end of the week, we ended up with no viable embryos. Here we were again, at a very unexpected and devastation place. I think even the doctors were pretty shocked by this outcome. We had gotten pregnant several times, so ending up with 0 embryos to even start was devastating.
I was not expecting this outcome, nor the grief that followed. I had a lot of scenarios in my head, but all of them included making it past this stage. We were hopeful that by doing IVF we would open up our possibilities for growing our family and that might even include multiple possibilties, including the option of some day having a gestational carrier (this felt like a safety net to me). But instead, we were left with absolutely nothing to show for this round and really no hope for moving forward.
This was also another point in our relationship where next steps were difficult to even talk about and in some ways felt like even more of a rock bottom than any of our miscarriages had. By this point, we were regularly seeing a couples therapist and honestly, I’m so glad as this was one of the toughest seasons of our marriage. Of course, we had our son, and believe me, life was SO much better with him in it, but at the same time, this failed cycle brought me right back to that spot I had been in a year and a half ago. That spot where I found myself saying, enough is enough and not sure I could take any more heart ache or devastation.
Ivan often accompanied me to my IVF appointments.
What Helped Me
Having a diagnosis (sperm DNA fragmentation) that helped to justify IVF made me feel more confident in going forward with that path. I am an advocate of doing as much testing as possible so that I am making better informed decisions based on our specific situation.
Seeing Multiple Doctors
I was not afraid to switch doctors and keep looking until I found one that I felt was understanding our specific situation. He did not initially think IVF was the best fit for us (even though he was an IVF doctor) until after our test results came back indicating IVF could provide an advantage to getting pregnant on our own due to the sperm fragmentation.
IVF is a huge commitment physically, emotionally & financially! I encourage you to find a doctor that is right for you.
IVF, Continued (SURPRISE?)
We finally got to a place where we decided we would eventually give IVF one more go, but would first do a full 90-120 protocol of healthy eating supplements, like really go for it. Up until this point, I had been doing most of the things, but because this journey had gone on for 3+ years now, I knew there was probably more I could do. So starting January 1 of 2020, we both fully committed to doing everything we could over the next few months and to give this one more try.