Waiting- Part 1

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Image: Denise Curran via Flickr

For many, waiting is a as much a part of trying to conceive as sex. When sex is removed from the equation for the couple trying to conceive through IVF, waiting becomes the single most frequent conception act. Waiting, just like its more provocative cousin, can come in many flavors and is done throughout the IVF odyssey.

The big waits are obvious. The most mammoth is the wait between the time the embryo is transferred and the results of the Beta HCG pregnancy test. In our case, this wait spans nine intolerably long days. Time moves very slowly over the course of what is commonly called the two week wait. I’ve often heard women say it would be just fine to be unconscious during this time and awoken only after the results are received.

March 13th is the date of our transfer which means on March 22nd we will have the eagerly anticipated results. The date is circled on the calendar. The hope and anxiety are already building.

The torture of the two week wait is followed in magnitude only by the wait a couple experiences between the egg retrieval and the final fertilization report. Money, hope, health, and mental well being are all riding on discovering whether the eggs fertilize and grow to a stage and quality acceptable to transfer and make a baby. Being sadistic people by nature, we chose to extend this period at our new clinic by throwing a little genetic testing into the mix. The time it took from retrieval to receiving the call that we had genetically normal embryos to transfer extended over 3 weeks.

Waiting for the genetic results is further broken down into waits that are much smaller. We experienced almost immediate gratification after retrieval and waited only two hours to learn that 22 eggs were retrieved successfully. The clinic then called 24 hours later to tell us that 12 of those eggs were mature and 11 fertilized. These were minuscule intervals in comparison to what came next. For the next six days we patiently but eagerly waited to be told that 5 of those embryos made it to the blastocyst stage and were good enough quality to be genetically tested. Next we waited two and a half weeks to learn we had two genetically normal embryos and two that needed to be retested, therefore requiring yet another two week wait. Our embryos were on my mind every spare moment during this time. Ultimately we ended up with three genetically normal embryos. Our last is the one we will transfer in March.

The longest wait of all was this summer and fall while we waited to work through a long process at our clinic that would culminate in our embryo transfer just last month. We first called in June and were able to meet with our new doctor in July. This was followed by another month long wait to get on the calendar to visit the clinic for our work-up to make sure we had a green light to begin our cycle. By November my ovaries were finally percolating and we flew back to our clinic again for egg retrieval surgery. After retrieval the wait was another two months as we completed testing on the embryos. In the months preceding retrieval we used the time to get our eggs and sperm ready to do their life’s work. We each took different supplements, limited alcohol, exercised moderately and ate healthy. At my peak I was taking 19 different supplements a day and Bill took 11. At least it helped us pass the time.

Tiny little waiting periods pepper the whole IVF process. Since our failed cycle back in January I have waited three days to get my period, three more days to start birth control, another 13 days to start lupron, and five more days to once again stop the pill. Each step takes us a little bit closer to our fate, whatever it may be. Though small in terms of actual time, these steps feel gigantic. When they come early, it can be unequivocally thrilling. And that is what happened today.

If you read a Deeply Disturbing Fascination with Toilet Paper you know a little bit about the waiting for that happens for a woman who is getting ready to start a frozen embryo transfer or other cycle. Since Saturday I have been a devoted student of TP. Today I hit pay dirt and was able to call my clinic to check off a critical step that will take us to transfer. Two days from now I will begin estrogen patches that will prime my uterine lining. I continue administering lupron daily but cut the dosage which should help with the headaches and other symptoms. Sadly the bitchiness caused by lupron will only be replaced by the emotionality of estrogen. The end result for me is about the same. Say a little prayer for Bill who catches the worst of the mood swings.

My call to the clinic today was a full day earlier than we all expected. However, no changes will be made to the transfer date. The lupron I am injecting keeps my reproductive system suppressed and on schedule. The extra day may only serve to give my lining just a tad bit of extra thickness to welcome our embryo home. A nice, thick, cozy lining should help that embryo want to stay for the long haul. With a little luck we will then be waiting for doubling HCG levels, morning sickness to pass, a myriad of ultrasounds, and ultimately a scheduled C-section date.

Even though meeting today’s milestone early will have no impact on when we actually get pregnant, it is a rare event to have something, anything come early.  I’ll take it.

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