I am excited to announce that Charles and I will be welcoming a baby this summer!
It took us 3 1/2 years, 2 IVF cycles, 50+ doctors appointments, and over 100 injections to get to this point. Plus over $20,000 in out of pocket medical expenses. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
I first opened up about my fertility struggle last March and have been so appreciative of everyone’s support. After years of feeling alone in the struggle, I suddenly felt embraced by other women who had been or who were going through the same thing.
In case you haven’t been following this story for the past several months, here is a quick summary:
My IVF Story
After being diagnosed as a Fragile X Carrier with a Diminished Ovarian Reserve (this means that I can pass Fragile X on to a child and that I have a low egg count, two separate but linked diagnoses), doctors at Fertility Centers of Illinois recommended IVF. We did a retrieval cycle which yielded two embryos, both of which were genetically tested and found to be normal. Then I went on another cycle of meds to prepare my body for the embryo transfer. This process involved being put on Lupron, which I really disliked, and ultimately the transfer was unsuccessful. From start to finish that IVF cycle took 15 months.
It took a lot out of me both physically and emotionally and I needed a break. I went off all meds and took a trip around the world.
The Successful IVF Cycle
I do want to point out that I am not a medical professional and what worked for me might not work for others.
I returned to Chicago in July and returned to the fertility clinic. Two things happened, I was diagnosed with a cyst – nothing serious and it resolved itself on its own, but it messed up my cycle for two months and we couldn’t proceed with treatment during this time. Secondly, our doctor moved to Miami.
In September, my body was ready and we had a new doctor. Our plan was to use the one remaining genetically tested embryo from our previous retrieval cycle. We had some options regarding how we wanted to do the next IVF cycle. Essentially we needed to prepare my body for an embryo transfer and there are two ways to do this.
You can prepare your body for an embryo transfer either by going through an egg retrieval and transferring an embryo 5 days later or you can wait and go on different medications before transferring a frozen embryo. With my first cycle we had to do the retrieval, let the embryos grow for 5 days, then wait a month or so while they were genetically tested. This meant that I had to go on an additional cycle of medications to prepare my body for a frozen embryo transfer. I didn’t like these medications (they made me crazy) and the transfer got delayed for 3 months because my hormone levels weren’t in the right place. Plus – that cycle didn’t work. Ultimately, we didn’t want to do the same exact thing that hadn’t worked the first time, and I didn’t want to go on that medication protocol again.
Our original doctor had recommended pairing an egg retrieval with a frozen embryo transfer as our next step. I want to point out that combining an egg retrieval with a frozen embryo transfer is a bit of a hybrid of two different methods. It is more common to have an egg retrieval followed by a transfer of a fresh (not frozen embryo). But, since we already had a frozen embryo this protocol was available to us.
The egg retrieval process was easier on my body than the drugs that I took leading up to the frozen embryo transfer. Plus this treatment would give us the opportunity to get more embryos. We decided that combining an egg retrieval and a frozen embryo transfer was the best of both worlds for us.
In September, I started taking medication for the egg retrieval. I was very closely monitored during the egg retrieval cycle and the best outcome that I was told to expect would be retrieving two eggs. Sadly the egg retrieval failed, meaning that no eggs were collected and the one embryo remaining from the first IVF cycle was our last chance. The doctors asked us if we still wanted to proceed with a frozen embryo transfer in 5 days and we said yes. Part of me just wanted to be done with IVF.
The frozen embryo transfer was scheduled for October 15th, 5 days after the failed egg retrieval. I’ve written about embryo transfers before and it is a very strange procedure. It only takes a few minutes, it’s over almost as quickly as it starts. You don’t really feel anything. You have no idea if it worked or not, you just have to wait patiently for two weeks and hope that the embryo implants.
Once the two week wait was over, I went to the doctor’s for a blood test to determine if I was pregnant. I was shocked when I got the call that it had worked. I didn’t feel pregnant, and I had convinced myself that it probably wouldn’t work. I was told not to get excited. I could be cautiously optimistic. The good news also came with the news that my progesterone levels were low – even though I was already on supplements.
Crazy but true fact: even though I found out that I was pregnant just 11 days after the embryo transfer, I was considered to be about 4 weeks along! Here is how: doctors count pregnancy from the date of your last period, not the date that you ovulated, so you get a couple of weeks free. In addition, my embryo was already 5 days old when it was implanted.
I was put back on progesterone in oil shots which are the worst of all the shots in the IVF process. I was on the shots for over a month until I started to develop rashes concerning enough to be removed from the treatment.
During this time we quietly hoped. We didn’t tell anyone. I went to the doctor every week to have a blood test and ultrasound. Charles came with me always excited to see how the baby was growing. We saw the embryo grow from a small speck to the size of a gummy bear.
At 7 weeks, the nurses at the fertility clinic told me that I would be graduating the following week and that my care would be passed off to my ob/gyn. During the 8 week appointment our doctor told us that given the facts that I had been so closely watched and that the embryo had been genetically tested, he thought that I was in the clear. Charles took me out for a special graduation dinner to celebrate. Honestly, I almost broke out a cap and gown – I had spent 2 1/2 years going to the fertility clinic – I could have gotten another Master’s degree in that time! Let me stress that IVF is a major time commitment.
How I’ve Been
I felt great the first few weeks. I was eating extra veggies and cooking healthy meals for myself. Slowly exhaustion started to set in. By week 8, food aversions were dictating my meals – the only thing that I could stomach was white carbs.
The puking started at week 9. I wasn’t able to work – fortunately I was weeks ahead on blog content and it was the holidays so things had slowed down. Weeks 9 onward have been pretty bad. Sometimes I feel like I am only capable of sleeping and throwing up. Charles has been a saint and he does his best to take care of me.
I am 16 1/2 weeks along now and am due on July 2nd! The doctor keeps reassuring me that the morning sickness should subside soon.
Charles and I are so so excited. There are no words. The excitement has been growing each week – especially now that we are out of the first trimester. Please know that complaining about all the puking does not mean that I am not thrilled. I have learned that you can be sick to your stomach and excited at the same time.
Facts About Getting Pregnant
I want to take a minute to talk about getting pregnant. Throughout my 3 1/2 year struggle to get pregnant, I came across so many pregnancy announcements. While I am always happy for someone having a baby, the tough part was how so many of these announcements included humble brags about how quickly they got pregnant. It was hard to read.
The worst was when people still complain about how long it took them to get pregnant, when they did so naturally, and in less than a year.
Let’s look at some facts:
It isn’t unusual for it to take a year to get pregnant (if you are under 35) source
Women between the ages of 25 and 35 have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant each cycle source
12.1% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 are affected by fertility problems source
7.3 million women in the United States have sought treatment for infertility source
It’s estimated that 1 in 6 or 7 couples have trouble conceiving source
What I want you to take away from this is that if you are struggling with infertility, you are not alone. And if you are able to get pregnant within 12 months – consider yourself lucky and please don’t complain about how long it took you to get pregnant.
Now some quick facts about IVF:
The chances of a successful IVF cycle vary based on many factors, but the statistic is that women under the age of 35 have a 39.6% chance of having a baby with each IVF cycle source
The average cost of a single IVF cycle in the U.S. is between $10,000-$15,000 source
Just 1-2% of births annually in the United States are the result of IVF source
I feel like I have talked about this a lot, but there are many reasons why couples turn to IVF. IVF is a treatment for a wide variety of diagnoses. It’s also key to note that an IVF cycle isn’t the same for everyone, there are different types of IVF cycles and the dosages and medications involved can vary.
One thing that so few people understood was that my fertility problems are part of my genetics – it’s a situation that can’t be changed.
Some women get lucky. Some women are like me. The success of this IVF cycle is the result of a lot of luck coupled with carefully following doctor’s instructions.
To other women struggling with infertility – I wish I had a way of making your situation easier or advice to give but please know that I am always here if you want to chat or just vent. The best way to reach me is to direct message me on Instagram @thekittchen. I know that opening up to other people who were going through IVF/had been through it helped me to feel less alone and that loneliness was one of the worst parts of the experience. I am rooting for you.
Lastly, THANK YOU. Thank you for reading my website and for following along and supporting me on this longer and more complicated than anticipated journey. I have always felt so lucky to work for myself but that has taken on a new meaning now that morning sickness is limiting my ability to work normal hours. I feel like if it wasn’t for my readers I wouldn’t have had the flexibility to do two rounds of IVF or the ability to earn an income while I have been sick.
I owe a huge thank you to Jenn Lake and her husband Bob for taking the first photo!