In honor of National Infertility Week, I’m going to give a glimpse at some of the ways I got through my first round of IVF. For a lot of you, I know this is not a topic you care about in any way. Yet, knowing that infertility affects one in eight, my hope is that this post can reach and encourage even one person out there who is in embarking on their own IVF journey. I’m not a doctor or therapist, this is simply how I got through my first round of IVF.
How I Got Through My First Round of IVF
For clarification sake, one “round” of IVF consists of an egg retrieval and egg transfer. There are many routes and options that you can go depending on what your doctor recommends. I wanted to break up my retrieval and transfer to give my body a break in between. This means that I took a boat load of medication so my body would super-size its egg production and then those eggs are gathered at the appointment where I was put under general anesthesia.
Many patients transfer one (or more) of the good eggs gathered at that time right away (after it’s fertilized, of course). This is called a fresh transfer. I opted to freeze my eggs and transfer the optimally fertilized ones at a later point for several reasons. One was to give my body a break from all I just put it through. It just makes sense to me that if things aren’t so hyper-stimulated, there would be a better environment for an embryo to thrive. The second is that I really wanted to test the fertilized egg (blastocyst at this stage) to reduce our chance of another miscarriage. Our doctor said that it was around 30% less of a chance. Any percent better was music to my ears!
Doing a fresh transfer certainly isn’t wrong, and there are benefits to going that route as well. It would save time and money and ultimately end up with the same results as if a frozen transfer was done. It’s just a different path than we chose. Whether fresh or frozen, these tips on how I got through my first round of IVF can apply.
Have Patience and Low Expectations
You’ve made it this far. You’ve chosen your doctor and which IVF option is right for you. You’ve somehow managed to get finances in order too. Congrats! Those are honestly huge hurdles to get over. If you’re like me, you want to get the ball rolling, and fast. Time is ticking, I’m getting older by the minute and I just want to get closer to holding that baby in my arms, like stat!
A big thing I learned is that the IVF process took a lot longer than I expected (especially being that I went the frozen route). It turns out, for a lot of this you need to wait for your body to do certain things. Wait for your period to start, wait for your eggs to reach a certain size, wait for your lining to reach optimal levels, wait to respond to certain medications. Wait, wait, wait. I’m blessed that for me, everything went very smoothly. I know tons of women whose IVF rounds were postponed because one of those things not looking like it should.
Even with things going smoothly, from start to finish it took months. We finalized our doctor, finances etc I believe in April and we found out our first transfer worked in October. Six months is a long time when you’re super impatient to begin with ;-).
So my advice here is to go into it with low expectations of when and how you think things will go. The body is very unpredictable and you want things to be done right. When you get that first “estimated calendar”, I’d recommend looking at that as a very fluid thing. Great if it works out, and completely normal if it doesn’t. Just breathe and buckle up, expecting to be in it for the long haul.
Take it Day by Day
When I got my first shipment of medications (along with my calendar of when to take what), I was completely overwhelmed. Completely. It felt like the first day of the quarter in college where you get the syllabus and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the estimated homework for all your classes. It’s daunting. In the same way, this “IVF Syllabus” made my brain go into panic mode. Sure, there was a little excitement too (one step closer, after all) but the overarching emotion was sheer panic. Am I really putting all these drugs into my body? How am I supposed to give myself this many shots? Will I turn into a raging hormonal monster?
Like so many things in life that overwhelm, my best advice is to take it day by day. You do need to look ahead at your calendar and stay organized, but really, truly, take one day at a time. Get through that one, and then worry about the next :). Soon, those days will add up and you’ll be through it.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
It helped me to constantly remember why we were doing this. It’s fairly obvious but it still helped to have little reminders of the worthy end game. Some women liked to buy a onesie, or something tangible that they could look at to give them hope and motivation. For me, for some reason that was too painful and I felt like buying something might be jinxing it. I’m very strange that way:). I liked to watch successful IVF journeys online. There are a ton and not only did they make me feel like I wasn’t alone in this, but the positive outcome reminded me why this could all be worth it.
Rally Your Troops
Support systems! I can’t say enough about them. In my post Love, Faith and a Little Science, I really poured my heart out about how the people in my life made dramatic differences. Again, everyone is different and the level of support we need varies, but you will need some. Not all the same either. I adore my close friends and talked about IVF some throughout, but I also didn’t want to bombard them. I hate feeling like I’m endlessly complaining about something, or be that person that only talks about one thing. It’s the same reason that I really didn’t blog a lot about this process as I was going through it. For many, it’s cathartic. I appreciate those people because I have read many of your blog posts and they were such an encouragement! For me, I didn’t want infertility to overtake and consume, and so I was selective on how much and to whom I talked about it.
I still needed a place where I could go (on the daily if needed) and talk and vent. Luckily, in today’s age, there are many placed you can go for support. There were a couple of FB groups that I loved and made real, genuine, friendships within. I also took a local Yoga for Fertility class or reached out to those in my life that had gone through this themselves. This is the level of support where you can get wrapped up in the minutia with others who totally get you.
I think it’s also important to have the support of others that have no idea what you’re going through, but love and care for you. These are the family members and friends that will pray for you and encourage you, but also get your mind off of it when needed. You know that they will gladly listen but they also provide grounding relationships because they create an environment of normalcy when the rest of your world has been flipped upside down.
Support can look like so many things. When it came time for me to give myself my first injection, a couple of my close ride or die friends came over (with ice cream) to not only help me get through that injection but also to bedazzle my sharps container. I figured if I had to look at that bold, red container every day, it might as well make me smile.
Extrovert or introvert, you’ll need support on some level. It will make this process a ton better! If you’d like the name of FB groups or contacts, please let me know and I’ll be happy to get that for you:).
Don’t Quit Your Side Gigs
Staying busy helped me immensely. Doing the things that you love will take your mind (somewhat) off the things that you don’t have. Besides, “they” say that it may be awhile until you can do all those things at the same frequency once you have kids. Personally, I packed my schedule with as much fun as I could have during my first round of IVF.
Obvious yet crucial, trying to reduce stress is super important. There are so many ways to do this, from meditation to exercise, etc. There will be lots of times when you physically don’t feel like doing much, but even a gentle walk can help. When we came home after the transfer, we spent an afternoon watching comedies. I even read one account of a husband who dressed up like a clown during their appointment at the clinic. Laughter is good for the soul! Acupuncture was also a stress reliever for me and I had a treatment right before and after the transfer as well as the weeks/months leading up to it. Find all those things that make you smile in life and do them often :).
Know When To Say No
On the flip side of staying busy is to also give yourself an extra measure of grace and take it easy when needed. This process is an emotional roller coaster. It’s okay to say no to a dinner with your friends who all have kids or not go to a co-workers baby shower. Listen to how you’re feeling and take a night in if you need it. Even if it’s filled with tears.
Keep an Ongoing List of Questions
You’re going to have tons of questions. Even if you feel like you’re the most annoying person on the planet, keep asking them. You’re paying these people a ton of money and this is a huge deal. Ask away. If they’re a good clinic they’ll answer all of them and without judgment. Often times, you’ll forget some of them because you have so many. An ongoing list is a lifesaver.
These are just some of the things that I found to be invaluable in getting through that first round of IVF. I’ll try to follow this post up with one on all of the things we did (old wive’s tales etc.) that may have helped up us get that positive (or in infertility terms, BFP). Whether your first round of IVF is successful or not, hopefully, these things will help get you through it! Just know that you aren’t alone and that you’re a strong, incredible woman. Don’t lose hope, beautiful warrior!