Alternately titled, no penises were inserted during the making of this science baby….
If you’ve ever known anyone to do an IVF cycle, most of what I’m about to tell you won’t be a shock. However, I’m surprised by how few people actually KNOW what it entails, so I thought I would share for what it take to make a science baby. Plus this feels like the ultimate oversharing opportunity.
What we actually did was ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Once the eggs have been retrieved, a sperm sample (my husbands) is washed and the highest quality sperm are individually injected in the each egg. Then you see which fertilized and which ones keep producing. The background to how we got here, is in this post.
Here is a handy chart of stats from the cycle, in case you don’t want to know the nitty gritty:
|Total days on birth control pills
|Total days of self-injection
|Total number of blood vials drawn
|Total vaginal ultrasounds
|Total procedures I underwent
|Total self-injects given when not at home
|Total rounds of antibiotics
|Total vaginal progesterone suppositories
|Total number of people in and around my vagina who are not married to me
|Total number of pounds gained that weren’t baby weight
Good times, right?
The birth control pills are pretty straightforward so I’ll spare you any details. The very first thing that happened in all this happened in July of 2013, when I underwent a procedure called an HSG (first 2 people in and around my vag who weren’t married to me, check!) and a round of blood work. You can read about that here.
Before we got started with the fertility clinic, I was also sent to do a complete blood work up, including a review of all my infectious diseases. They took 13 vials that day.
Once we were given a green light to go, I underwent a pretty standard ultrasound with what I will henceforth refer to as a dildo cam. It’s technically a “transvaginal ultrasound wand” but they literally put a condom on it before each procedure and it’s pretty phallic so, dildo cam it is.
Dildo cam condom stash!
This process just counted my antra-follicle count (how many eggs were sitting in my reserve, to determine if I had average or below average for someone of my age) and looked at the thickness of my uterine lining. Everything looked good here!
The next was a saline sonogram which wasn’t as bad as the HSG but something I could live without. It’s saline into your uterus so they can see it. It causes contractions like in early labour. Plus you’re half nude and watching it. More people up the vag, more dildo cams and SURPRISE, you have an intrusive fibroid and are going to need a hysteroscopy to have that removed.
The nice thing about a private clinic is things move fast. We were set up for the hysteroscopy within a week and I was there for my 4th up the vag procedure. I had to use mistoprostol to dilate my cervix (which is also used as an abortion drug). I got a nice little cocktail of oxycoden and Ativan and 2 very nice ladies showed me on a screen a procedure in which they snipped a 2 cm fibroid out of my uterus. There was a LOT of uterine contraction with this, especially because they shoot air up there so they can maneuver around. This was uncomfortable but totally tolerable. I was at home in bed with a selection of snacks 2 hours later and back at work the next day.
I spotted for basically an eternity after that process, which was terribly inconvenient. Pretty soon I was off the birth control and in for my baseline blood draw and SHOCK, another dildo cam. This is where they check hormone levels and determine your medication protocol. I was deemed likely to over respond, which meant I would need extra monitoring. We went in for a brief training where a nice nurse showed us all the ways in which I would inject myself. I left hoping my husband was able to listen, because after stabbing myself and bleeding on the training supplies, all I could hear was buzzing in my ears. We left that day with a selection of medications and tools. This was really happening.
The week we were set to start injections, my husband’s grandmother died (on our daughter’s birthday) and had him travelling 4 provinces over to attend a funeral. This left me on my own with a 4 year old and injections to give myself for the first time. Lucky for me, I have amazing friends and one was able to come over to play with Everly so I could have dedicated time to my first self-stabbing.
I sat in the bathroom sweating and anxious. I had to mix the one med with the right amount of saline, using the special Q-cap to move the liquid to the solid vial, then mixing and changing the cap for the syringe to a needle. I then had to set-up the inject pen for the second shot, properly putting in the needle and dialing up the right dose. Once I was finished, it was go time. I had The Thread on iMessage for back-up.
All Set Up
Here we go!
I managed not to pass out, but did realize I had forgotten to swab my belly with alcohol before the first shot so, texted my husband immediately that I was going to die. Aside from a little burning and getting an instant hot flash that lasted about an hour, this wasn’t so bad.
The next day, I had to attend my grandparents anniversary party, 4 year old in tow, and due to timing was required to do my injections in the bathroom at the party. This wouldn’t have been an issue had my husband been with us, but it was a bit nerve racking being my 2nd day on injects, and seeing that no one else knew. I managed with minimal panic, and the next several days were done without much excitement.
This continued on for 5 days. Every morning at 730am, I drove 30 mins to the clinic to have a blood draw, and because I was responding so quickly, a dildo cam for added effect. They wanted to be sure not to overstimulate me and risk cancelling the cycle.
On the 5th day, we added a 3rd medication to be taken in the morning, which is designed to stop your body from spontaneously ovulating all the follicles you’re working so hard to get to the same, proper and mature size. The first time I had to do one of these, I actually had to do it IN MY CAR. Timing man, with this it’s LITERALLY EVERYTHING. I did feel kind of bad ass when I did it, however I also hoped no one caught me shooting up in a business park parking lot at 815am.
Getting ready for the car shot.
So now we’re at 3 shots a day if you’re counting.
More blood draws, more dildo cams, more people up the vag.
On the 8th day, I was told I could trigger in the evening. The trigger shot is given approximately 36 hours before they retrieve your eggs so that you ovulate and they can aspirate them with a catheter which is, you guess it, attached to a dildo cam.
This is the mixing needle. Do not inject with the mixing needle.
Fun fact: Pregnyl is made from the distilled urine of pregnant women. I envision them being force fed slurpees in a large warehouse.
By this time, I feel like a turtle desperately searching for a hole. I am FULL of eggs. Walking hurts, sitting hurts, everything hurts. I can’t wear my clothes, I already look 4 months pregnant.
10 days after starting injects, it’s go time. I’m changed into my fancy gown, all my vitals are checked and I’m given an IV.
Ready to have these eggs retrieved…otherwise I’m looking for a hole in which to drop them.
While I gown up the husband heads off to the porn room to make his contribution and is back waiting for me in the recovery area when I’m done.
Laying in a room with my legs in crazy stirrups, I remember saying hello to my Dr, his nurse, a resident and someone else…4 more people to the list of those around my vag. I remember his assistant telling me they were putting the conscious sedation medication into my IV and that I might feel sleepy. I remember thinking something really funny and I probably passed out cold with a giant, stupid grin on my face. I only hope I didn’t tell the RE that he looked like Aidan from Sex and the City and that if someone is going to make a baby in me that isn’t my husband, I’m glad it’s him (I totally said that I’m sure).
The next thing I recall I’m drinking water in the recovery area asking my husband if I had walked out there. He’s looking at me like I’m insane for even thinking I could walk. I wasn’t very coherent. We get a report: 12 follicles retrieved. We breathe a sigh of relief, I’m informed that my usual pea sized ovaries are currently the size of plums.
Within an hour, they have me up so I can use the bathroom. I take a minute to see how I’m feeling, and promptly puke up my water. GLAMOROUS BABY SCIENCE!
My hubs drives me home while I roll around in pain, puts me to bed and I sleep the sleep of 1000 tired women.
There is bloating and discomfort but I’m back at work the next day and things aren’t so bad (except still looking 4 months pregnant and being up 5 lbs.).
The next day, we wait on the fertilization report. The kids aren’t even really genetically complete human beings yet, and they are getting report cards.
11 mature eggs, 10 fertilized. SCIENCE BABIES!
It’s time to start my progesterone. Do you know what an effervescent vaginal tab feels like? Because I do. In fact, I know what 3 per day for almost 6 weeks feels like. All 174 of them. Certainly the most unpleasant part of this entire thing. I particularly enjoyed the 3pm bubble vag I got to do at work each day.
The next several days are a series of breath holding, hope and anxious phone rings. Every morning we get a call from the embryologist with an update on the eggs, and luckily everyday things are looking good. The goal is a 5 day transfer, when the baby has made it to blastocyst stage. Alternately, if they don’t think they embryos are high enough quality to make it, or if there is a clear winner in the race toward genetic supremacy, they will opt for a 3 day.
By day 4, we still have all 10 embabies, at varying stages of advancement. This is some really serious science and I won’t even get into all the details. Basically, you’re looking for the cells to divide at an average rate over the course of the days. We’re booked in for a Day 5 transfer on a Saturday. Once again, my friend comes to the rescue and takes Everly to her dance class so we can go and get impregnated.
Let’s put a baby in there!
Back in my gown, back on the table, this time with my husband in the room. We talk to the embryologist who informs us we have one little leading embaby, and no others ready for transfer or freeze. Out of 10, only 5 look like they have a shot at making it to day 6, when they will cryogenically preserve them for use at a later time. This is actually above average results, so we’re still quite pleased.
Within 15 mins we’ve had a catheter guided impregnation. This time, they even skipped the dildo cam and use a uterine ultrasound wand. We watch on the screen as a tiny bubble appears in my uterus; a tiny bubble which contains the genetic material of an entire human being. Just like that, I’m PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) and we head back to the city for a quick lunch before going home to our daughter.
The little white dot is the air bubble around our blastocycst. Science baby!
9 days go by and we wait. We are surprisingly calm, but I refuse to pee on a stick because every time I’ve done this in the past it’s been met with crushing disappointment. My birthday comes, and I spend a lovely day at the spa with my mom and friend, and eat an obscene amount of Chinese food later. 2 days after, I line up on a holiday Monday at 7:30am to get my blood draw to see if I am in fact pregnant.
I have no signs. No symptoms. Nothing. I have only a long string of painful disappointments in all things pregnancy to reflect on. I can’t even begin to let myself believe this could work. I watch my phone obsessively the entire day, knowing the clinic will call me. I cannot miss the call.
When I see the clinic number come up, I freeze. I am home alone with my daughter and I know I have to answer it and deal with it, no matter what. I hear the nurse on the other end say “I just wanted to let you know your results are in, and your beta HCG is 145 – at this stage anything over 100 is considered pregnant”.
Shock and awe. My daughter is yammering. I can’t formulate words. The nurse asks if I’m ok and all I can say is yes. She’s confused, so I tell her I was so convinced she would have something else to tell me, and I can’t even absorb what she’s said. She laughs and congratulates me, tells me to get another blood test in 2 days, and if I don’t hear from them, all is well.
Unfortunately, my husband texts from work to see if they’ve called and that’s how I tell him we’re pregnant. Not the romantic, cute way to announce it but then again, nothing about this process has been romantic or cute. It’s been pure, amazing science.
That was April 21, 2014.
Since then, things have been pretty status quo. I feel pretty awesome; we saw at heartbeat at 7w2d and then heard it for the first time (160 bpm) at the midwife at 11w2d. At 12w3d we completed our first trimester screening, and everything looks good.
CRL – 5.95cm
We’re having a science baby. For real.
There are 3 snowbabies in a lab 30 mins from the city. Technically twins of the baby I’m carrying (they all come from the same ovulatory cycle, so they would be considered quadruplets I suppose). We will leave them there for a year, and then decide how to proceed. SCIENCE!