We started our IVF cycle at the beginning of March. My husband (I think we’ll call him C just to keep his identity off the internet) was still reluctant and felt that we hadn’t tried long enough naturally to be taking such actions. When we sat down with the doctor he told us that we had impaired fertility based on the morphology (shape) of my husband’s sperm. Most men have around 14% normal forms – my husband had 5%. When we spoke to a urologist he explained that this could easily have been the result of too many hot baths…(and boy does C like to marinate in his own dirty water). In sum, our RE told us that we would probably be able to conceive but the timeline was more likely to be 2 years trying naturally – not 2 months.
I went ahead with the cycle despite the fact that C was in the Middle East on business and not fully on-board with the decision. He was about 80% there….but I had to pull the trigger and start the cycle. There were some disagreements but in the end we both agreed that if we wanted to have a second child, time was of the essence. We signed up for PGD in addition to the IVF cycle. PGD stands for Pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis – on day three of the embryo’s life a single cell is taken out and examined. They check for 9 of the most common abnormalities and if both chromosomes are found to be present the embryo is deemed normal. This process adds a whopping 7 thousand dollars to an already hefty 17,000 dollar cycle fee -but we wanted to get it right the first time. Many people use PGD for gender selection – and so, we decided to put back all the boy embryos and freeze the girls for another cycle. As I write this I want to go back in time and slap my face as hard as I can.
In our minds this would be a one shot deal – certainly if nothing was really wrong with either of us this would work on the first try!
Thus the cycle began. C gave me nightly injections of Follistim and Menopur in the muscle and I gave myself shots of lupron in the am. Follistim and Menopur tell the ovaries to produce follicles – lupron shuts down your system so that you do not ovulate before the doctor has had a chance to extract the growing follicles. My ovaries responded well – it looked like I had approximately 15 follicles and was told to trigger (you take one shot intramuscularly at exactly 34 hours prior to retrieval of the eggs). For us this occurred at approximately 1:25am. on a Saturday morning. On Monday am they retrieved 8 eggs and 7 fertilized with ICSI. ICSI is a process whereby a single sperm is selected and introduced into the egg…it is an efficient way of getting the egg to fertilize and thank God we used it or nothing would have fertilized at all.
On day 3 the embryologist began the biopsy to determine the health of our embryos. At approximately 3pm that afternoon the doctor called to tell me that we had five boy embryos and 2 girl embryos..and that each and every one of them was abnormal. Down syndrome, trisomy, polyploidy, Turner syndrome the words just kept coming….I remember hearing him but not being able to really understand. He repeated that there had been a catastrophic result with our embryos and that there would be no transfer. I felt like I was underwater. I called C and could barely get the words out. I went into my boss’s office and cried. C came to get me at work. I was so upset I couldn’t breathe.
Later that night we called the doctor again. He told me that I was taking this way too hard and that he had seen this happen to other women. “How many times in your career have you seen someone at the age of 37 have absolutely no normals” and he said, “a handful”. The internet told similar stories – one well known doctor wrote that women with all abnormal cycles were almost guaranteed to produce this same result over and over again. This doctor recommended going straight to donor egg. I was devastated. The thought that I might never have my own biological child sent me into a tailspin for a few days. I emerged ready to tackle the problem. I spoke at great length with my RE and he said that after talking to the embryologist their recommendation was that I do another cycle with PGD and if we received the same result, we would begin talking about using a donor egg.
During the next 30 days I earned my google MD. I read every article, every paper on the subject of aneuploidy, PGD, IVF outcomes…and then I remembered early in March before the cycle started. C’s best man Dave had visited from the UK. His kids were very ill at the time with high fevers. One week later during the beginning of my cycle I caught this virus. I had a fever above 101 for over 3 days. The internet told me that this fever could have damaged my eggs and created the result. I wouldn’t know until the next cycle – but I clung to that hope like you cannot imagine.
These were the darkest days I’ve ever known…. it would be a full 30 days before I would know if I’d ever potentially be able to have a biological child of my own.