We tried IUI unsuccessfully in the spring which led to the development of two uterine polyps that eventually resolved themselves. The birth control that I had to go on in that process upset my cycle in ways that I had never experienced. At one point, I was having a period about every two weeks. It stalled our fertility process.
In July, my partner and I met with a fertility specialist in Milan. That doctor was blunt and honest. In English and Italian, I heard that our dream of being parents would only happen through IVF. We could do it in Italy or in the US, but that would be our option. We had to have some hard conversations about what that would mean for us financially; we committed to the journey.
I started looking for fertility clinics in the Bay Area, and at our first meeting with Spring, we knew that we would start the process with them. There was a clarity and honesty, and we were well apprised of the risks. I could go through all the injections, the egg retrieval process, and then still not end up with a viable embryo at the end. Since we would only be able to do this process once, our dream of being parents would be over.
In August, while attending the wedding of friends, I got a positive on my ovulation prediction kit. Doing one of those while camping in a composting bathroom? Not easy. August 17 I started the injections: 225IU of Follistim/Gonal-F and 150 IU Menopur every evening at 9pm. For every night but one (he deserved that dinner out), Matteo was with me, preparing shots with me. Though I gave myself the needles, he was there. The one time he wasn’t, I realized how much I was putting aside for his benefit. Those two shots were the most painful things, and I shed more tears to add to the sea of them. I didn’t put on the facade that everything was ok. Preparing for retrieval is just awful.
In that process, I also had appointment after appointment. August 17 at 9:15, August 21 at 7:20, August 24 at 7:10, August 26 at 9:10, all leading up to egg retrieval on August 29 at 6:20am. Spring is in San Francisco and we live in Berkeley. For all but one of those August appointments, Matteo went and we would leave the house between 5 and 6:30 am with the expectation of a normally 30 minute trip taking up to 2 hours. Coffee in those days was EXTREMELY important. This was also happening as I was gearing up for the first semester. On weekday appointments, I would drive into the city with Matteo for our appointment, drop him off at work, and then drive for 40-45 minutes to go to work to start my day. Sometimes those days didn’t end until 9:30/10pm when I finally got home.
In the August appointments, they were looking for how my body was responding, how many follicles it was producing. When we first started with Spring, my doctor noted that the ideal situation was to have at least 12 follicles, considering my age, and even then, we might not end up with any viable embryos at the end. For me, every time they did an ultrasound, I had between 4 and 6 follicles on the right side, and 1 on the left. At one appointment, the only one that Matteo couldn’t attend because of an office appointment, they only saw a total of 5 follicles developing, though with all the drugs, I felt like I was suddenly a giant balloon. I bought myself tunic dresses and stretchy pants, because everything else was uncomfortable. After that appointment, I asked Matteo to always come. I needed his support with such bad news.
August 29 at the egg retrieval they ended up harvesting 18 eggs. Considering where we started, it was already a mirable. 17 viable, but they used the 13 strongest. Eventually, we ended up with 6 viable embryos.
After that, to help my ovaries return to normal function, I had to start birth control on September 9 for 3 weeks. October 3, I had a baseline ultrasound and then started another series of ultrasounds and more drugs. October 3-7, 5mg of Letrozole shots. October 25, HCG 5000 Units/Ovidrel shot. I had ultrasounds on Oct 3 (9am); October 11 (9:15am); October 15 (11:45am); October 17 (8:50am); October 19 (7:10am); October 21 (9:40am); October 22 (10:40 Blood Draw). All leading to transfer day on October 26 at 12:30pm. Every weekday I went to work right after my appointment, trying to stay positive. On the transfer day, I started the day at a Zoom Academic Policies Committee meeting and then ended up in blue anti-slip socks and scrubs at 12:30pm. Only because I was advised to go home, I continued to work from home on the couch.
For some reason, on transfer day, I was also extraordinarily tired. I had a long afternoon nap and prayed in the house that I had just cleansed the night before with rosemary and sage. I had salted the doors and anointed myself. I saged myself, Matteo, even the dog the night before. I wanted no negative energies around me.
Then the 2 week wait.
You’re not advised to take a pregnancy test any time in there. There are too many hormones in your system from the drugs … but I cheated and took a few anyway on November 4 (too early) and November 6. I saw the shade of a forming second line, but nothing solid. Just had to wait.
On November 8, I had the dream in which our child announced his presence and told me his name. Considering I named my first book that way, I put a lot of stock in that dream, because I was sleeping and woke to a definitive positive presence in the room.
On November 9 at 8am, we had the blood draw and by that afternoon, I knew and told Matteo that day.
Then another blood draw (Nov. 13 at 7:45am) and ultrasounds (November 27 at 8:20am and December 11 at 8:20am) … now here we are.
I share all this, because I think it’s important to be transparent about IVF processes. It’s not easy and the rest of life doesn’t stop. While I was waiting to find out if we were pregnant, I still had to support faculty and staff and students in my work. I still had to teach and grade and attend meetings and be present.
I was also extremely lucky in this process. I didn’t have any mood changes or extreme fatigue. Besides gaining an unknown (I stopped weighing) and untold amount of weight, I was pretty even keeled. I didn’t have ovary overstimulation, though I had ovarian cysts, which were resolved by the birth control. We also had a successful implantation on the first go that has now advanced to over 12 weeks. Our chances of a healthy live birth at this point are very high. And we have more embryos to try again when we want to build our family.
Me? I’d be very happy to have 6 kids and a small farm in Liguria in a decade or so … but as I grow older, who is to say that every implantation will be successful? Years ago, I saw myself at a table with three older teen/adult children. The table looked just like that of my mother-in-law before I had ever been to Italy and met them or been to their home. This was before I had even met Matteo but I knew that my husband was on the other side of the vision. It was as if I was looking at a living photograph, knowing that the photographer was someone I loved and he was just on the other side of the camera/my vision. I saw our children, clear as day, though.
Not all visions or dreams come true. Right now we are living ours in a journey to become parents, growing to become worthy of our children, one day at a time.
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