How we got here part 6: FET #1

And so finally this update brings us up to the present day…

After finding out about our 2 normal/balanced embryos in November 2015 we were ecstatic and keen to move on with a frozen embryo transfer (FET) as soon as possible. We went to see the doctors in early December and were told by them that they wanted to be sure that everything had been checked before going ahead. I got given a huge list of blood tests to do, in addition to a hysteroscopy to check that everything was ok in my uterus. This meant more delays as this exam had to be done mid cycle, and what with Christmas the months dragged on and on turning into another frustrating wait.

In February 2016 we were finally ready to go and I started Progynova (estrogen) tablets daily to suppress my natural cycle. Just like in my stimulation cycles it seemed that my body required more drugs that other people and so I had to return 3 times to check the lining with increased drugs each time. By the end of this stage I was on 4 Progynova tablets a day and a Climara estrogen patch that needed to be changed every 48 hours.

Up until this point I had been lucky to avoid any psychological effects of the IVF hormones, but this time was different. The high levels of estrogen made me extremely anxious and I had an almost constant feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach and was barely able to sleep. It didn’t help that work had been progressively becoming more and more stressful over the last few months and I was starting to struggle under the combined pressures. I took a couple of days off and thankfully was given the ok from the doctor that the lining was thick  enough and that I could start progesterone. Just a few hours after starting the pessaries the anxiety fell away and I was feeling wonderfully relaxed….like I light had been switched on in my head.

I didn’t sleep amazingly well the night before the transfer, but I assume that’s pretty normal. We received the call to say that our embryo had defrosted ok and we rushed into the hospital for the transfer. This time I’d also decided to try out acupuncture, so had been to a session the evening before, and then went to one the afternoon afterwards.

I returned home and spent the following day working from home feeling pretty positive. The following day I returned to work and found my boss acting rather strangely…I tried to ignore it and remain calm, but just before the end of the day he called me into his office and fired me…

I was speechless…he knew all about our IVF struggles and up to this point had been very supportive as I hadn’t let them get in the way of my work. We had even scheduled our second IVF in August so as to avoid taking too much time off from work. I knew that they were having financial troubles and it was a small company so I wasn’t necessarily taking issue with the fact that he couldn’t afford me any more…but I was insanely angry about his timing.

After another (understandably) sleepless night I called in sick for the remainder of the two week wait, which could be easily justified given the circumstances. I was infuriated by his behaviour, but tried my best to put it to one side and focus on being positive for the embryo inside me.

I sent my husband off on a skiing weekend and hung around the city with a couple of friends trying to stay relaxed and positive. A week or so later I was at the stage where a urine test would have shown a 100% accurate result (9dp5dt) but decided to hold off testing until my official beta day (14dp5dt).

The nurse called me with the HCG beta results that day. She said it was positive but at 89 it was pretty low and so I needed to return two days later for another test. And so followed a new kind of wait, a hopeful yet agonising one to find out it we were finally going to get some good news. Unfortunately we didn’t. Instead of doubling the HCG had halved, which meant we were to expect a miscarriage shortly…

Gutted doesn’t do my feelings justice at this point…

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How we got here part 5: IVF #3

After our holiday from hell in Barcelona we came back to Milan and returned to work and vowed to move on as quickly as possible…

Luckily we had seen a doctor at our original hospital in Milan in July before leaving for Barcelona and we had booked in a third IVF (all funded by Italian health service except for the PGD/PGS) as a back up in case the second didn’t work.

So I put my head down and kept busy with work and yoga and generally tried to relax as much as possible in preparation for the next cycle which was scheduled for October.

I went into this third cycle feeling much more calm. All the things I had been worrying about (i.e. all the worst case scenarios) had already happened, and so I didn’t really have any hope left, and so anything to worry about. It was just a case of going through the motions: the daily injections, the visits every other day to the hospital, the egg collection, the waiting for results…

This time the doctors, having reviewed our two previous cycles, decided to add daily Luveris injections into the mix which can apparently help with egg maturation. They also upped the injections of Gonal F, starting from 350/day and going all the way up to 450/day by the end of the stimulation phase. On the 9th day of injections the doctors decided that 6 out of the 12 follicles were large enough and so didn’t want to wait any longer for the others to catch up as they thought that the best embryos were likely to be the fastest growing ones.

So we triggered and went ahead two days later. 7 eggs were collected and 6 fertilised. As we were on the public health service we didn’t get and update between fertilisation and day 5 when potential biopsy would be, so it was a long nervous wait. Finally the doctor called to say that 2 embryos had been biopsied on day 5 and frozen and the biopsies had been sent to Rome for preimplantation genetic testing (PGD/PGD).

The results took around 4 weeks to come back and when they did they were emailed through to me which I wasn’t expecting. I read them on my phone on a crowded bus surrounded by schoolchildren with an agonising painful mouth a day after a very very painful wisdom tooth extraction.

I couldn’t believe it….BOTH EMBRYOS WERE NORMAL/BALANCED!!

This was almost as good as finding out we were pregnant! I was leaping around for joy and ripping my new mouth would open by smiling and squealing too much. I texted S and my parents immediately and despite the agonising pain (which continued for another 3 weeks…it was its own kind of hell) felt hopeful for the first time in a long while…

How we got here part 4: IVF #2

After finding out about my Robertsonian Balanced Translocation in July 2015 we decided to proceed with our plan of a private cycle in Barcelona in August. We wanted to keep moving so doing it in August meant that we could combine IVF with a relaxing holiday and not miss too much work. Well that was the plan…

The lead up to the start of the cycle wasn’t that relaxing at all: there was a lot of stress at my work which included the sales director wanting me to work through the August break (which NOONE does in Italy) to deliver on a promise that he had made to a client without checking first. Grr…

We also had issues in communicating with our clinic in Barcelona. They took days to respond to my emails and it was difficult to call them which made things difficult, particularly when buying and starting medications.

Despite all this I started the drugs: down regulating from CD21 of the previous cycle with Buserelin nasal spray followed by Gonal F 350 daily from CD3. We also made it from Milan to Barcelona with our medications intact which was kind of torture for me as I was totally panicked about getting them on the plane and keeping them cool in the middle of the extreme European heatwave in years.

We had a shorter stimulation phase this time (11 days in total) but it was definitely worse in terms of side effects. The Buserlin made me depressed for a week and the Gonal F made my ovaries explode as well as giving me waves of nausea for several hours after each injection. This was not ideal when I had to take it every night before going out for dinner on holiday.

After 11 days of this we triggered and waited for egg collection. A couple of days later we were in the swish private hospital with me surrounded by lovely private doctors and nurses feeling optimistic. We had 9 eggs collected and went off on a road trip out of Barcelona up the Costa Brava with our heads held high, the music blaring, the sun shining and hope in our hearts.

Unfortunately our elation was shortlived. We had a large drop out as only 7 eggs proved to be mature and only 2 fertilised. To add to the disappointment I came down with an UTI and ended up having to take antibiotics.

As part of the swish (and expensive) service we were offered what is called an ’embryoscope’ which basically takes photos of our embryos every hour and produces a sort of time lapse video of their development (see photo below). As we were on the road and away from internet access I tried to avoid checking this too often…obviously I failed and ended up racking up huge mobile data roaming costs in the process.

embryo

One of embryos looking a bit messy

We continued the mini road trip and tried to remain positive for our two remaining embryos, which were biopsied on the 3rd day. We returned on the 4th day ready to prepare ourselves for possible transfer and waited for what seems years on the 5th for our results…we were finally called to the hospital in the early afternoon…we had been told that the results would be very last minute and that I should be ready with a full bladder in case we do transfer…so we waited with our hearts in our throats…

The lovely doctor we had seen on egg retrieval called us in with a sombre face and we knew at that point it was over. Both embryos had chromosomal issues. Our cycle was a bust.

We flew home to Milan the following day after the most expensive and least enjoyable holiday we’ve ever experienced…