Yesterday in Part 1, I shared how we ended up going down the path of IVF. Today, I will share some of the alternative things I did to assist my body through IVF, but this post is mainly about how to manage the stress of going through IVF. IVF takes a toll on your body physically, but it also takes a huge toll on your emotional state, especially if you have to go through multiple egg retrievals and/or embryo transfers.
Bill and I decided to do a frozen embryo transfer (FET), because we planned on having our embryos biopsied and tested for chromosomal abnormalities. During the IVF process I was screened for 109 genetic diseases, and thankfully came up negative as a carrier for all of them, so Bill didn’t need to be tested, and neither did our embryos. Our plan was always to go through a retrieval cycle, and then a few months later we would do a transfer once the results were in for our embryos.
My doctor was putting me on a pretty modest ovarian stimulation protocol because of my high ovarian reserve, but the first step was over a month of taking birth control pills. I am not a fan of the pill, but it was necessary here. We committed to IVF after Thanksgiving, and they don’t do any IVF in December, so I would be on the pill a little longer than they would have me on it otherwise.
There were things I did leading up to IVF for fertility, like taking specific supplements, castor oil packs and self fertility massage, diet tweaks, and even trying to add in some super foods like liver. If you have a hard time getting liver into your diet, I highly recommend Julia Childs Chicken Liver Mousse. It’s good! I’m also very particular about what personal care products I use, as well as home cleaning products. We aim for low low toxins in our home. I don’t use fragrance ever, and all of my beauty products are Beautycounter.
I was very lucky in that everything went perfectly throughout the entire stimulation protocol. It was also really cool to see my body do the work, however there were some key things that I did for my emotional wellbeing that I think really made a huge difference in the outcome of our treatment cycle.
IVF takes a huge toll on your body, but it also takes a toll on your mental health as well. Our clinic has referrals for therapists, because it’s so important that women are supported through this. I did find out from my doctor that most women don’t share how they are feeling emotionally with them.
I knew that IVF wasn’t a sure thing, so I did several things to support my body leading up to IVF, as well as emotional support throughout IVF. I did my best to only do things that resonated with me, and that felt good. If it felt like extra work, or I was resisting it, I didn’t do it.
I made sure I was seeing my chiropractor throughout all of our fertility treatments and especially IVF. Our chiropractor doesn’t do cracking, it’s all activator adjustments and massage. I often leave feeling so calm that I could go to sleep. I also did NET with my chiro before we started IVF, and I think this was part of the reason I was open to it, we had cleared my emotional blocks around it.
I saw my acupuncturist throughout IVF, and went for a session the day of our embryo transfer. As I mentioned in my prior post, my acupuncturist is a real healer, and I felt so calm when I was there. It was a great time for me to let my body rest.
I have an amazing therapist, who I see weekly, and have since March of 2016. I’m a huge advocate of therapy. It was key to my healing, and a huge support during IVF.
The thing that I credit the most for my mental state during our cycle, and what I think helped us have a successful cycle, is Molly Nichols program for IVF and Egg Donation, Fertilize. I’ve had sessions in the past with Molly one on one, and I cannot recommend her work enough. She is another healer. She conceived her twins through IVF after 7 years of infertility (also unexplained), and then went on to have two surprise natural pregnancies, with the most recent one being at age 40! Molly and I were actually pregnant at the same time and had our daughters within days of each other.
Molly is a master at guided visualizations. She is intuitively guided with them, and I am constantly amazed by her. She has taken me through guided visualizations during a one on one session, and she has a true gift to be able to do that on the spot. Her program helped me visualize how I wanted our cycle to go, and everything happened just as I envisioned, even down to how the day of my egg retrieval went, and the day of our embryo transfer.
The day of our egg retrieval, I was extremely nervous. Surprisingly not for the outcome, but for surgery. I had never had anesthesia before, and was so stressed about the procedure that I didn’t sleep the night before. When I got to the clinic, the nurse who met me in the surgery center was so sweet and friendly. The nurse anesthetist was soothing, and loving, and massaged my hand as she looked for a vein. She made sure I held on to my rose quartz heart until they took me into surgery.
When they woke me up, the first thing I said was “you are all so loving.” I also wouldn’t open my eyes to walk, said I really liked the nasal cannula, and when she told Bill and my mom that she had to give me extra Versed because I was resisting it, I chimed in and said “I’m a control freak.” I guess it was some good stuff. But I vividly remember waking up and feeling like I had been so taken care of, and felt loved throughout such a scary thing for me.
Someone who has been there when I needed guidance for years is my friend Katy Bray. She is an amazing intuitive coach, and she really helped me navigate through embryo week. I felt as though I had a taste of the baby blues after my egg retrieval, because your estrogen is at third trimester levels when they retrieve the eggs, and you just abruptly stop hormones, and all of the eggs come out, and your hormones plummet. When we got the call for how many day 3 embryos we had, I sat on the couch and cried uncontrollably telling Bill that they needed me. They were all alone, and they needed me. I just wanted to sit in the embryology lab and tell them I loved them and to keep growing. So I told them from afar.
I connected with Katy as I was struggling with embryo week. Molly’s program had helped me with the entire process, but I needed a little more help here. The one thing I tried to do throughout all of IVF was to let go of numbers. It’s so easy to focus on the numbers, and end up disappointed. It’s common for the numbers to go down, and it can be scary to ride that out. Katy told me that she kept hearing “all you need is one” to the tune of “All you need is love” by The Beetles. That was my mantra. I was open to all of the embryos, and in my mind I told them that if they all wanted to be here, I would carry all of them, but I put most of my energy into focusing on that one healthy baby. I sang “all you need is one” to myself over and over.
I wasn’t going to share numbers with you all, because I don’t want anyone to be discouraged, but our numbers appeared discouraging, and we have a healthy baby from that cycle, so I’m hoping sharing will bring about some hope to those of you going through this. As I said, my doctor put me on a modest stim protocol. She ended up retrieving 14 eggs, 10 of which were mature enough to fertilize. Since we had planned to test the embryos, then that meant we would be doing a frozen cycle, and having a transfer at a later date. They all needed to grow to a day 5 blastocyst. Since we were doing chromosomal testing, we needed to also do ICSI, which is where the embryologist takes one sperm, and injects it into one egg. This is done to limit chromosomal contamination from other sperm when you let them traditionally fertilize in the lab.
Out of those 10 eggs, 6 fertilized. All 6 made it to day 3, and just two made it to day five. Although my doctor was happy with both embryos, only one of them was developed enough to safely biopsy. My doctor was giving us these results herself, and she said to me “this isn’t what I expected for you.” We trusted her completely, and asked her what she thought we should do. We had limited time to decide because they needed to be frozen. She told us we could do another retrieval to try to get a bigger batch and more to biopsy, but we couldn’t afford that after doing a retrieval, and I didn’t want to put myself through that again back to back. She had originally told us she would only do a one embryo transfer for me, but said if we decided not to test the embryos then we could transfer two. She told me that both embryos were of the quality she would expect to go on to be a healthy pregnancy, and based on my age and health, she didn’t think we needed to test them.
We were at the office when we got the news about our embryos. As soon as we hung up with our doctor, I went downstairs to our kitchen and started crying. I had gone through the entire cycle with so much hope and excitement, and now the fear was bubbling up, and I had to let it move through me. Once I cried, I was hopeful again. This feeling rushed over me that we had two babies waiting for us. It felt so close, and so real, and I went from “we only have two…” to “oh my gosh we have two!” I can still remember that feeling.
Bill and I talked, and since a biopsy can damage the embryo, we decided this was our sign not to biopsy, so we opted out. My doctor had mentioned in passing once about embryos competing for space in the womb, and that could be a reason why a two embryo transfer may not be successful, and I was nervous about the potential for multiples, so we decided to stick to a one embryo transfer. In my gut, I felt like if we put both in it wouldn’t work, and one at a time was the right decision.
Even though our cycle didn’t go completely as we hoped, it was still perfect. I visualized that one healthy baby, and our sweet Isla is now here with us. We have one embryo that is still frozen, so I feel like we ended up with the perfect amount. I always wanted 3 kids, but I am happy and will be okay with just one if that is all we get. My doctor told us that she wouldn’t be surprised if we conceived on our own next time, but of course that may not happen for us. Since we didn’t test our embryos, we don’t know if the one that is frozen is viable. It may be abnormal, and would’t result in a viable pregnancy. I’m just grateful that we got our little miracle girl. If we are blessed with another baby naturally, or again through IVF, or naturally and one more through IVF, we will be thrilled, but if this is it for us, that is okay too. At least right now, in the throes of the 4th trimester, it feels okay 😉
My heart is with those of you going through fertility treatments. Don’t forget to take care of you, and know that there is always hope.
I will be back soon to share what our transfer was like, and the unexpected roller coaster of early pregnancy after IVF.