The title of this post – my IVF journey – gives you a little hint of what I am writing about today. It is incredibly personal – and has, of course, had a great impact on our lives.
We have been trying to conceive Baby O since 2010 and after not stressing too much in the first years, it took us 4 years to take the next step and understand what was going on with both of us. All medical issues aside, we chose to try IUI (code name for intrauterine insemination), a less invasive method than IVF – but after 6 unsuccessful rounds, there was no other option. IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) was the way to go.
I have been very open about this adventure to all my friends, family, clients, business colleagues and acquaintances (some people almost choked over lunch!) – but it is a part of my life (and has been definitely for the last year) and it has made all the difference for me. The reason why I am writing this post is absolutely not to offer any medical advice – but to create a bit of discussion about the topic.
Why? Because almost everyone I mentioned this to, knew someone who was going or had gone through it. And it can be a lonely journey – some feel ashamed, others are naturally private but many feel lonely.
I have not felt lonely – in fact, I am amazed with how 40-50 people in my life really are part of this journey and how interested everyone was and is in all the details and not afraid to ask questions. Or offer help. Or send wine. Or a big hug when things don’t go according to plan – I am sure that you have gathered by the title of this topic that they haven’t gone to plan. Far from it.
I have been contacted by friends of friends who are going through the process (either alone or with a partner) and of course I gave them my time. It was important to – so if you get anything from this post, and if you think someone you know is going through this, give them yours. There is nothing to be ashamed about – some can choose to go on this journey alone or just with their partners (and I am absolutely not judging or criticising) but others feel that they do not have the choice, and that is the bit that breaks my heart. So if I can be of help during someone else’s IVF journey – you know where I am.
Choosing a clinic
My first two rounds of IVF were done at IVI in Madrid. Known to be one of the most cutting edge fertility clinics in Europe and they seemed absolutely very competent. I have been to Madrid a few more times than normal this year – and it worked for us because it was the city where we fell in love (I kid you not) and it was quite easy.
I took my advice from my gynaecologist in Lisbon, who has delivered many IVI babies, but it was not meant to be. I have not been reading anything online on purpose (I did one day and wasn’t pretty) so when she told me that her stepdaughter had 2 rounds at IVI and it also didn’t work for her – and then she went to Create Fertility in London’s St. Paul, just had a baby, so there is where we are now.
I don’t know how other people have chosen theirs – but I feel confident about our choice, namely as both clinics suggested the exact same sort of treatment for this third round (slightly different from rounds 1 and 2), so at least they agree.
What I am doing differently this time
I travelled for all the medical procedures (which means going in for the egg retrieval and then for the embryo transfer after 5 days) – and just to be specific, I only had 1 egg collection which then gave us enough embryos for round 1 and 2. I had most of my injections and scans when I was in Alicante (for real!), and after the transfer, I did not leave my house for 10 days and then went to Greece for 5 days. All very quiet.
On the second round, after recovering from the shock of the bad bout of bad news, but almost immediately (2 weeks later) having the second transfer, I did go to Portugal and spent 10 days there. But not making any efforts, staying away from the sun and all.
This time, I will get a taxi from the clinic in London both times and will seriously not go anywhere for the drugs cycle and then for the transfer, which will not happen after 5 days as per normal, but instead, the embryos will be ‘cooking’ for over a month.
I do have a ‘trip card’ around Christmas and New Year – but we haven’t decided what we will do with that, but come January (end of, I believe), things will change dramatically and I honestly just pray that everything will work.
The drug effects
Going through the drugs – some of which were pills, pessaries (yuck) and, of course, the injections – was not great. But we did it – my husband is the man to give the shots. No fear, no nothing. They aren’t painful at all – it is just the act of doing so. If anyone needs shots given to them, I can lend you Mr. O.
I am not looking forward to those, but will do everything I am told to – the drugs are almost the same that I took before so I can kind of anticipate what will happen. They came with some interesting side-effects – I slept better (purely psychological, I think) but my famous ‘southern European mood swings’ went on to another level. In my husband’s words he said (you are) ‘usually very direct and that is lovely, but it was like as if you had no filter’. And he wasn’t exaggerating – all our friends got to experience the ‘no filter Ana’ and we all tried to bring some humour to the various situations that presented to us. Some were funny, some were not.
The drugs also make you bloated and fat and feeling horrible – there may be a reason why there is a lot less photos of me online. Or why I didn’t react so well when some random people left lovely comments on posts along the lines of ‘you surely have been feeding yourself well, Mrs. O’. Oh the heart ache.
Thank you for everything
But again, I had everyone’s support. And I really want to thank every single person (I am not naming names for one reason: if I forgot one person, it would break their hearts and mine). We are starting another journey again next week, and all I ask is that you say a little prayer for me.
A very special thank you goes to my husband Simon, who really has been there for me 24/7 – and this journey is his as much as mine. We laughed together, we cried together – and our marriage is stronger than ever. Yes, we do want a baby together more than anything in life – but we love each other even more now (if that is possible). And if it is not for us, at least we know we have done our absolute best. And another special thank you goes to my mother and sister Renata, who has even come to Madrid just to meet me and take me shopping after (yet) another general anaesthetic. And put me on a plane back home.
I will update this page and keep you posted on what happens – they won’t be long updates but hopefully will give an idea of a timeline that could be useful for those who will need to go through IVF. I may post the odd Instagram Story (but nothing too graphic) too, but I don’t know yet.
Here’s to Baby O in 2018. I am keeping everything crossed.
Written 17.11.17 – updates will follow below
23.11.17 – had my first ‘fertility’ acupuncture session. I am not sleeping well (too much going on) and my cycle is late.
25.11.17 – meds started today with a daily injection in the evening. What we are trying here is to ‘create’ more eggs, which will be collected at the end of the treatment.
28.11.17 – Day 5 of the cycle and injections continue. These aren’t painful per say, and Mr. O is very good with the needles. These ones we have been having are the ‘good ones’ – it is like a pen and quite straightforward. Side effects: I am having quite horrible headaches (and have come off caffeine as well) and not sleeping well. Super bloated too – quite a difference since day 1, but I suppose we are making the ovaries work overtime. Had my second acupuncture session today.
29.11.17 – Day 6 and a big day: the first scan. I am having what is called ‘Mild or moderate IVF’ whereby we are trying to do the best we can, with the least amount of drugs. By seeing how the 4 shots have worked, the doctors can now adjust the upcoming days’ treatment. Apparently, I am being textbook and have over 12 follicles growing which is great news.
I am now starting another shot (in conjunction with the current one which makes the ‘eggs’ grow), to then stop ovulation – so we can go and get the eggs early next week.
All in all, good news. No headaches today, but feeling very bloated and a tad nauseous. But no complaints.
01.12.17 – had my Day 8 scan and things are looking good – all the eggs are growing at the same rate. I am given the all clear to go to Lisbon for the weekend. Dual shots every day, one of them being horrible, but that is life.
03.12.17 – I continue my dual shots and for some reason, I had a real reaction to Cetrotide – half my belly doubled in size and there is quite an allergic reaction. A quick google search brings some peace of mind, and I almost did not sleep checking how the rash develops every other hour. The following morning, it all but disappears, but leaves an hematoma.
04.12.17 – Day 11 scan and we are at the final stage. Eggs are looking good and we are projected to have between 10-12. On this evening, I take the final antagonist shot (which goes without a glitch unlike the day before) and the trigger injection, which needs to be taken 36 hours exactly before the egg collection. This signals to the brain that we are ready to go and get them.
05.12.17 – No meds and no nothing today. Quite different.
06.12.17 – I make my way to London at 6.30am in order to be at the clinic in St. Paul’s just before 8am. The procedure is simple and I will be asleep for around 30 minutes. I am the first and it does get done quickly. The weird thing? They bombard you with a lot of information after waking up – which I seriously objected to. Also slightly annoyed that they kept asking how many cycles we were doing and what type of treatment – check my file… and I do hope this is the last one.
07.12.17 – We collected 13 eggs and I am now being updated over the phone by the embryologists. 12 eggs were mature (which is what we wanted), of which 10 have fertilised overnight. Instead of IVF (where the eggs and sperm are mixed together in a dish), we have done something called ICSI – Intracytoplasmic sperm injection – which is an in vitro fertilization procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
We are now going to wait til Day 5, and then there a different process will begin. There will be biopsies and then something called NGS (next-generation sequencing), which provides comprehensive information concerning embryo’s DNA for diseases or genetic mutations. All a bit much to take in, but that is what we are going to do. So the idea is that I take a break in December (whilst the testing occurs) and then end of January, when my cycle comes, we can do the embryo transfer.
But this isn’t as straightforward as it looks. This week, my husband got diagnosed with prostate cancer. A regular check up flagged a tiny change in his PSA number and the doctors almost didn’t feel it was necessary to do any further checks – but they did, and over the past 2 weeks, we have been going through biopsies and MRI scans and the lot. The IVF shots were almost a distraction.
We are looking for a full cure (that is the prognosis) and after a few more exams, we are deciding on the final course of treatment, which will be either a surgery and/or radiotherapy. I have done the hard part of the IVF process, so I can delay the next step for as long as we want – because the embryos will be frozen. Our focus is to get through Simon’s treatment and overcome this huge hurdle. When it rains, it pours, doesn’t it?
But we are fighters and we will get through this. Together.
I can’t wait to see 2017 come to an end – and keeping everything crossed that 2018 really is our year.
Say a little prayer for us if you can – as I want for Christmas is our health.