Egg Retrieval

This update was hard to write and is hard for me to read (I reread it once, so please excuse any structure and grammatical errors, I don’t care to spend too much time with this update. I’m soooo friggin’ ready to move on).

The egg retrieval was really hard for me. OHSS was really hard for me.

I have never felt as broken or hurt as I did this last month and it is hard to pull out positives or encourage myself, let alone others. I did not feel hopeful, I felt hurt.

So, here is my update. It’s not very happy, but I am hopeful the next update will be.

Egg Retrieval Reflection

I woke up the morning after the trigger shot and had to take a pregnancy test. K typically gets out of bed before me and makes coffee and reads or works downstairs until I get up. As soon as I heard him shut the bedroom door, I went to take the pregnancy test. I was told to take a test to confirm that the trigger shot had worked – and that meant the test would show positive if the shot was successful. I wanted to take the test quickly, alone, and move on. The test showed positive and I was happy the trigger shot worked, but I couldn’t look away from the positive test. The positive pregnancy test sat on the bathroom counter for the next 2 weeks.

That felt like a cruel joke. I was clearly not pregnant. I was hurting from over a week of injections.

Another cruel joke from IVF – calling the pharmacy for medications. The drugs can harm a fetus, so the pharmacist must ask, “Are you pregnant?” “Nope.”

Egg Retrieval

K and I slept until the last minute, then headed to the doctor for the egg retrieval procedure. Once we were there, we learned the name of the doctor who would be completing the procedure. This was a surprise, because the nurse on the phone the previous day had told us the doctor would be C (our main doctor). I was giddy at the stroke of luck we had that she would be the doctor on rotation that day. Looking back, the nurse must have thought I was crazy. I was asking who the surgeon would be, she must have heard me asking who my doctor was.

This surprise doctor was young, soft spoken, and very kind. He made me feel comfortable, and our nurse was the absolute best. She obliged my idle, nervous chatter and spent quite a bit of time talking about cheesy Christmas movies, one Hallmark soul to another. I shared with her that the last time I had surgery I was really sick afterwards – lots of puking. We both laughed because an aortic aneurysm surgery is not comparable to an egg retrieval procedure. She left my mind feeing at ease that after this procedure I would feel just fine.

When the doctor was ready, the nurse directed K where to go to provide a (semen) sample and guided me to the operating room. I laid on the strangest half of a table with my legs hoisted up and spread wide. I’m thankful it was all women in the room at the time, because I felt so exposed. The anesthesiologist told me she was going to give me some medicine to relax and I replied, “wow, that went straight to my face.”

When I woke up K was with me and I felt ok, at first. Then the nausea hit. The nurse gave me dose after dose of anti-nausea medication. She gave me a patch behind my ear and more anti-nausea meds. Nothing was working. I tried very hard to lay still and wait for the doctor to tell us the number of eggs retrieved.

The nurse told us she thought she saw the number 13 and we were so excited. Our goal was 5-10, so 13 would be great (and 13 is my lucky number)! The doctor had warned us if we had more than 20 eggs retrieved, we would have to skip the fresh transfer (egg implantation) so my body could rest and heal. 13 sounded like a lovely number. When the doctor came in, he told us that he had retrieved 31 eggs. 31 eggs. He told us we most likely would not be having a fresh transfer. He told us to go home and rest. 31 eggs.

At the time, I felt so nauseous the only thought I could process was “don’t throw up.” The nurse came and gave another dose of anti-nausea meds and prepared to help us leave. I was bleeding a lot, but she told me that was normal. Being in a drugged up, bad mood, I proceeded to spread my legs and show her. Yup, that much blood is normal. She told me if I bled hard for over two days, to call the doctor. She then proceeded to give me a handful of pads and barf bags for our car ride home.

K drove us home and as soon as we got inside, I immediately curled up on my side on the floor. K covered me with a blanket, and I tried to sleep off the horrible nausea. Our wonderful cats took turns sitting next to me, but not on me; they are so stinkin’ smart. I woke up a couple hours later with a sticky note on a water bottle telling me K loved me and was upstairs taking a work call. He had left crackers and every beverage I might want. He’s so great.

It is now a month later, and I am just now feeling ready to write about what happened next. I got sick. I was so sick. We had been told about OHSS symptoms (Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome), but was also told it was rare, occurring in only 1-3% of patients. We were told to monitor symptoms, but to not worry about it. Thursday through Sunday I hardly moved. When I did move, I would uncontrollably groan. I started feeling more scared when I would lie in bed at night and struggle through shallow breaths. I was so swollen that I couldn’t take a deep breath. Each morning I stepped on the scale and watched it tick up several pounds (an indicator of OHSS). I thought my weight might start going down after a couple days, but on Sunday I was up 8 pounds and really hurting. Sunday night, in a moment when I was feeling slightly better, I went to turn over in bed to look at K and a wave of such sharp pain pushed me onto my back. I timed it. 8 minutes of stabbing pain whenever I tried to take a breath. K sat by my side and held my hand as I tried to breath. Finally, after 8 minutes, I took a strong, shallow breath. I laid still as tears streamed down my face.

I called the doctor Monday morning and was seen right away.

The nurse to do my ultrasound was T (my absolute favorite nurse). During the check in and blood draw I tried to breath slowly and stay calm, but when I saw T, I didn’t feel calm. She held my knees and told me everything I needed to hear. I needed to hear someone confirm my fears, “you have moderate to severe OHSS.” I needed someone to tell me what to do, “only drink electrolyte beverages, only eat proteins and foods high in sodium.” I needed someone to give me options, “continue resting, or we can drain the fluid.” I knew I didn’t want another surgery, so draining the fluid was not my first choice, but I felt a bit more secure and safe knowing there where options. This time she did not print off the ultrasound pictures and I looked away for most of it. Everything was swollen and huge and surrounded by fluid. I was then sent home to rest and again told, do not drink water, only electrolyte drinks.

I went to the store and loaded up on coconut waters and Propel. I returned to the couch. Thank goodness for “Friday Night Lights.” I drank as much Propel and ate as many crackers and peperoni sticks as I could manage. I wasn’t hungry or very thirsty since everything was so swollen. The week was a long week of very few, little movements.

I like to consider myself a positive person. I went into the trigger shot feeling strong and confident. But I left the egg retrieval procedure feeling so hurt and broken. I spent over a week feeling hurt and sad. Its pretty challenging to think of many positive from that time. Netflix was a positive. I suppose kiwi watermelon Propel could be considered a positive, but that is a real stretch.

K and I had the idea that we would confirm a pregnancy or miscarry before Christmas. This situation was so unexpected.

HUGE POSITIVE – Here are the egg and fertilization stats from our first round of IVF:

31 eggs collected

27 eggs were measured as mature

9 eggs were successful fertilized

6 embryos frozen

12 days after our retrieval, our eggs had been genetically tested, and we learned 5 of the 6 embryos have normal chromosomes. We have 5 embryos ready to go.

We will meet with our doctor soon to discuss a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).

Just over a month ago, we had our egg retrieval procedure. That month was filled with support from friends and family. The month had holiday events and lots of family time. A lot of great things happened. And yet when I look back on the month, I am drawn to the hard times and hurting.

IVF is a wonderful gift that K and I can use to start a family. But IVF is emotionally and physically exhausting. IVF is painful and hard. I thought of IVF in such a romantic way, but the truth is, it is not romantic at all.

I gave myself permission to dislike this last month and it has nothing to do with the good times and everything to do with acknowledging the hurt and hard times.

I’m ready to have a FET plan and to embrace hope, again, in the upcoming months.