The girls and I talked way back when we started LLN about me writing a post on IVF when the time came to bring awareness to it. Most of those close to me know what a long and hard struggle I went through to get pregnant. It is still very hard and emotional for me to talk about. I’m already tearing up thinking of what to type next. I honestly don’t know how to write about this topic other than to share my personal story (which has a happy ending when it comes to IVF) so hopefully you’ll stick around and read until the end. It is not the happiest or easiest story to tell or read for that matter, I’m sure. But if there is anyone out there reading this or going through something similar, and I can help you to not feel alone in the process or give you some hope then this makes it all worth it. I am very honest in my story telling and do not sugar coat things so just consider that a forewarning for what you are about to read.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning of my “trying to get pregnant” journey. I got married to my soon to be ex-husband (that is a story for another time) when I was 27 and he was 38. Let’s just call him Doug for the story’s sake. He already had two sons from his first marriage who were pretty much grown up, as Doug was 18 and 20 when he had his boys. He then had the brilliant idea to get a vasectomy as a 20-year-old and some wack job doctor actually went ahead and performed the procedure. Doug and I decided to get the vasectomy reversed in December of 2013 which was two months after we got married. Just in case anyone wants to know or has questions about that, it cost us $10,000 and was NOT covered by insurance. It was also a pretty painful surgery for him but we thought we’d be able to get pregnant once things were ready to go. The surgery was “successful” in the fact that he had sperm. But he had around 100,000 – 200,000 or so per ejaculation when the average healthy man should have around 20 million per ejaculation. Once we found that out, we both assumed it was his sperm that was the reason for why I wasn’t getting pregnant.
We then moved to Switzerland in September of 2014 for Doug to start a new company and pursue his dreams. We still had sex whenever I was ovulating but that was about it for the “trying”. I was a little hesitant to get pregnant over there just because I was SO far away from my friends and family and I figured that was why it wasn’t happening. I wasn’t used to being so far from home and I was very stressed out a lot due to the uncertainty of his business and our financial situation over there. Switzerland is a VERY expensive place to live and being married to a serial entrepreneur (whose companies never succeed) is also very hard and taxing on the mind and bank account. So, I just figured I was still young enough and had plenty of time to get pregnant and have the 3-4 kids that I always pictured I would have. Then very abruptly in September of 2015, Doug informed me that we had to move back to Austin, TX because he was stepping down from his company due to his business partner being a crazy person (this always seemed to happen to my ex-husband and again, a story for another day).
So, off we moved back to Austin and I was SO happy to be back in the states. We moved to a suburb of Austin called Steiner Ranch and I loved it! Doug was busy with his new business with his new partner but I felt like the pregnancy was just around the corner. I must admit, I did like to drink wine, a lot of it. I think partly because I was unhappy in my marriage and depressed about the pregnancy thing taking so long. After being back for about 11 months, we bought our first house. It was my absolute dream house and I had a perfect room picked out for a nursery! I was sure I’d get pregnant then- taking prenatal pills, tracking my ovulation, etc.
Cut to January of 2017 and it still hadn’t happened. I made an appointment with the top fertility doctor in Austin. Doug and I went in, explained his vasectomy (I was 30 years old at the time, turning 31 in April and Doug was 41). The doctor guessed it was just a sperm issue and stated we’d have to do an IUI or two and then I should be pregnant because after all I was only 30 years old. Of course, they have to run tests on both male and female just to check. Well, as the tests revealed, it turned out that I had premature ovarian failure and a low follicle stimulating hormone level. This was NOT good news. I had the ovaries of a women in her late 30’s and a husband who had a low sperm count not to mention antibodies in his sperm that were fighting against my eggs due to blood getting in the tube during his vasectomy reversal. Needless to say, I was crushed. Once the doctor called us in to tell us this, he said we had a 1% chance of getting pregnant with our own child and we should consider an egg donor. I was freaking 30 years old!
Against all odds and our doctor’s advice and statistics, we decided to give IVF a try. You have to do so many tests- the HSG test to check your uterus is clear, blood tests, etc. I ended up on the highest dose of hormones meaning I had to take 4-5 shots a day for about two weeks in my stomach, get my blood drawn every other day and attend appointments at the fertility doctor every other day to check my eggs or follicles. I want to make it clear that this “top fertility” doctor did not make me feel hopeful or like he had my back in this process. At one point he said to me “this doesn’t make you any less of a woman” when my eggs weren’t maturing and I almost lost my shit on him. He also just treated me like any other patient and put me on the same drugs he would anyone else when I was clearly very young to be going through something like this.
By the end of all the countless shots, I had one mature enough follicle and three tiny ones not big enough to where the doctor felt it was worth going through the egg retrieval surgery. So, we converted to an IUI (where they take the sperm in what looks like a turkey baster and shoot it into your vagina). Also, the doctor told me to “give up” on that cycle but I insisted on the IUI. The IUI did not work. So, that process was about $18,000 on drugs (the fertility drugs are SO insanely expensive and not covered at all by insurance) and doctor visits and tests, down the drain. I was devastated. I did pretty much give up at this point. For about a month. Then I thought just to keep doing IUI’s which is where you take the hormone Chlomid and some estrogen (which makes you freaking crazy) and track your ovulation. When you ovulate, your husband goes to the clinic, ejaculates into a cup and then they “turkey baster” it into your vagina. I did this for about 6 months y’all and never had any success but it was way cheaper than IVF. Each IUI cycle was about $800 rather than the $28,000ish for what a full IVF cycle was costing us.
It was when I went on a yoga retreat in Medina, TX with a few of my favorite Austin ladies and friends where I did a lot of reflecting, praying and meditating that lead me to the decision to switch doctors. During one of my previous appointments to check on my follicles during an IUI cycle, Dr. Kaylen Silverburg, who is now my favorite doctor ever, was stepping in for my doctor because mine was out of town. He asked me why I was doing IUI’s instead of IVF and I told him I had already done IVF and only had one dominant egg and three little ones and was told the surgery couldn’t be performed for less than 4 eggs (because that was what my doctor said). Dr. Silverburg said “I’ll do the surgery for 2 eggs, I’ve had sets of twins from 2 eggs!” Right then I knew I was with the wrong doctor and needed this confident, positive, make it happen kind of doctor on my side. I decided to give IVF another try.
Doug had done a lot of research on fertility drugs because the first ones I tried didn’t seem to do much other than make me crazy and he found that HGH (human growth hormone) was working in some women to stimulate their egg production. We went to our new doctor with this information when we went to meet with him and he actually listened to us. He had never used it before but he was willing to let us try. So, he prescribed me HGH, Menopure and Lupron. I would take two shots in the morning and three in the evening for usually 9-13 days, depending on how my eggs were reacting. You also have to go to the lab every other day to get your blood drawn so they can send it to the doctor and check on levels, as well as go to the doctor every few days or sometimes every day to do an ultrasound to see how the eggs are progressing. I honestly have NO clue how women who have full time jobs do a cycle of IVF because of how time consuming it is, not to mention how hormonally and emotionally it screws you up. I applaud you ladies; you are true warriors.
After all of this, we found out that it was finally working! This cycle, my eggs were just growing away and there were several of them. Not nearly as much as a 31-year-old should have but in the end of this process, my amazing doctor retrieved 11 eggs. 11! I was overjoyed y’all! I couldn’t believe it. I had gone from a year prior not even being able to have the egg retrieval surgery because I didn’t have enough eggs to getting 11! It was a true miracle. Honestly, it was the new drugs but hey, I was ecstatic. Anyone who has gone through IVF knows that’s not the end. That’s kind of a new beginning. While I was in the egg retrieval surgery, they took my husband back to get his sperm, clean it and then they injected one into each of my eggs. This is when the waiting game begins. You go home, rest, drink Gatorade and wait a couple days for a phone call.