What’s Our Lucky Number?/How Many Eggs (Follicles) Did We Get?

There were only five mature eggs (follicles) in my ovaries. Only five?………

I was really hoping, with everything inside of me, that there were seven… What did all this mean? What were we supposed to learn? Why did this happen?

Bursts of anger snuck into my peaceful mind. We could have finished this whole thing with the FIRST cycle. I felt like the previous decisions made about stopping the cycles, had been put on me. So when this happened, I felt like I should have decided to go through with it on the first cycle. It would have saved everyone time, money, and energy. GURRR:(

Gordon reminded me that we had both made the decisions, and that we based it on the professionals’ opinions and our guidance from God. He encouraged me to put away the beating stick and focus on what I had created. He continued by telling me that we wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be this far in the process if it wasn’t for me and what I strived to accomplish.

What a guy! He helped me find the peace that I worked so hard to keep.

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The Egg Retrieval

The day had come! My little eggs (follicles) would be taken out of me.

The egg retrieval is typically done right in the office as a very simple procedure. A needle is passed through the top of the vagina under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles. The fluid in the follicles is aspirated (drawn-up) through the needle and the eggs detach from the follicle wall and are sucked out of the ovary. The fluid with the eggs is passed to the IVF lab where the eggs are identified, rinsed in culture media, and placed in small culture drops in plastic dishes. The dishes with the eggs are then kept in specialized IVF incubators under carefully controlled environmental conditions. Sperm is mixed with the eggs about 4 hours after the egg aspiration, and then it begins to fertilize.

Because of the concern with how my heart would do during the procedure and the risk of bleeding, I had it performed at the hospital in the operating room. Once again, there was cardiologist, cardiac anesthesiologist, several nurses, and my fertility doctor who was the one performing the retrieval. I was completely put out so they could monitor my heart and be able to control the pace-maker/defibrillator (ICD).
My biggest concern was the survival of my precious little eggs.

And once again, Gordon could not be there with me…….But of course, he was waiting for my return.

Previously Gordon had given sperm that they could freeze so they would have back-up, it was required. Obviously fresh is better, so off he went.. While I was in the OR, Gordon went over to the infertility center to give them fresh, healthy sperm.

I was sent home the same day to recover. Ouch!!! And so sick from the anesthesia and pain pills.

Here We Go, Ready Or Not…

“We only need ONE to survive, babe” were the sweet words of my husband. I repeated those few words through my head like a skipped CD. I continued to focus on God, faith, peace, and love. If these were the eggs that might create my baby/babies, I wanted them to know how much I loved and appreciated them…..I wanted it to be a beautiful environment for their (the embryos) inception.

The decision had been made. What a relief and yet so final….

The same day of the last ultrasound, I took a Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) injection at 9:00 that night. HCG induces/triggers ovulation.
The hCG trigger has several functions:

*Induce final maturation of the eggs
*Cause the resumption of meiosis
*Loosen the egg’s attachment from the follicle wall
*Allows for the timing of the egg retrieval

The goal is to perform the egg retrieval as close as possible to 36 hours after the hCG trigger is given. This meant for me that the egg retrieval would be two days later, 9:00 in the morning. Timing is everything, and so important.

Here we go, ready or not!!!

Please Let The Third Time Be The Charm?!?!?

Third week of injections, and again the dreaded vaginal ultrasound….

The first ultrasound showed no response..I was devastated.. The doctor reassured me that they had done the ultrasound earlier than normal to watch for signs of overstimulation with the new medication. I was relieved, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away…

The next ultrasound, I had three good eggs (follicles), and several with good potential…Because this was the final try, I didn’t seem to stress as much. I focused on putting it ALL in God’s hand. I tried to be okay with not getting pregnant at all. It took alot of effort, and wasn’t easy. It took a constant reminder, on my part, to stay peaceful………….

The next day, the ultrasound showed two more, and the biggest eggs had a little room to still be in the safe range. It started feeling like a repeated, bad dream. Very familiar……..I again focused on remaining calm and peaceful.

The anticipation was grualling…Breathe Jess, breathe……

The fourth day, the three biggest eggs were reaching the point of no return………Two more eggs barely made it within the acceptable range. I had seven large eggs…Today was the deciding day, because one more day would cause the three biggest eggs to become not viable (not usable)……………

It was now time to test my estrogen levels to see how many eggs were actually mature……….Labs again and we were sent home to wait for the word……………………………………………….

1,433 was my Estradiol (estrogen) count and the second important number of the day. This meant that if the minimum of 200 were in each egg, then there could be seven mature eggs! If any of the eggs had more in them, then as few as three egg could be mature……..Quite a wide range…How could we ever know?………

Every day felt like a decade…….

Last Cycle/Last Chance:(

So as I mentioned before, the doctors said this would be our last cycle, our last chance! They may have let us keep trying, but made it clear that in their opinion, the results would be very similar. They weren’t sure that the added medication would make much of a difference, but we were ALL willing to try just about anything. I felt like I was under alot of pressure.

The doctors all got together and agreed on one professional opinion. They encouraged us to continue with the egg retrieval and transfer, regardless of if I could produce enough eggs. (Enough meaning 8-12 mature eggs.) They had hopes that the new, added medication would help a little, and figured this would be our best shot.

We obviously wanted to see what the results were before we sealed the deal, but we had mostly made up our minds that this was IT!!! Gordon and I once again, put our complete trust and faith in God.

The decision felt so scary, like we had come to the end of our rope, like the clock would stopped ticking………….And yet, at the same time, I felt a sigh of relief…Like it was almost over…We could get on with our lives…….

Floods of thoughts and emotions swept over me….I wasn’t sure which thought or feeling was the strongest or which ones I should feel guilty about. It changed every second, as I was completely overwhelmed, and yet at times, peaceful about where we were at.

Experienced Professionals Make Decisions

The doctors remained cautious. They had run into this dilemma before, but were very hesitant to increase the medication because of the risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and my heart history….

Gordon & I asked God to influence the doctors in which ever way the decision needed to go. We knew that we didn’t have enough experience in this area to make a safe decision.

The infertility doctors wanted to gather together to discuss it before making a decision….

They did not feel confident that I had enough eggs (follicles) to succeed, and they were willing to try another cycle with increased medication.

I had a lot of fears come up about how complicated it all seemed. I didn’t know if my body could produce the perfect results. It was so scary!

Will there be Enough Eggs (Follicles)?

After two weeks of shots, we were ready for our ultrasounds. Alice’s uterus looked amazingly beautiful, as the doctors put it.
My first ultrasound showed only a few eggs (follicles). I didn’t know what to expect, and immediately started stressing. They reassured me, that it looked very normal for the first ultrasound. I went home and tried to imagine more eggs developing in my healthy ovaries.

The next day, I went back hoping for some miraculous change. There was only one more egg:( The doctors seemed a little confused as to why my ovaries were not responding to the medication like they had hoped…..They wanted to give it two more days.

The third ultrasound was about the same, only now the few eggs that were healthy and big, started getting too big. They were nervous that the eggs would die, and there wasn’t enough middle-sized eggs. I had five good eggs, and they didn’t want to wait another day, for fear of losing the ones I had….

It was time to make a decision…..We could either go ahead with the process and risk losing all of the eggs. If none of our embryos survived, we would be completely out of money, and have to come up with about $25,000 again, which meant that the $25,000 that we had to pay up front, would be gone. OR we could stop the process and try again in a few months….

I was devastated! Why weren’t my ovaries producing what the doctors thought they should? I had heard from several sources, that after a partial hysterectomy, I would lose my ovaries within 3 years. It had been almost 3 years!!! Were my ovaries dying? Did that mean I could never have a baby through surrogacy? All this hard work, time, money & engergy spent, for nothing!!!? I knew it! I knew something would be able to stop us from achieving our dreams…..I felt like a failure…It was my fault once again, that we couldn’t have anymore children.

My mind began to find that familiar dark hole. I immediately confronted the doctors with the many questions running through my mind….They reassured me that my ovaries appeared to be very healthy and that having a partial hysterectomy, didn’t necessarily mean that my ovaries would die in 3 years.

I was slightly comforted, but I was still not convinced that there wasn’t something wrong with my ovaries.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

Another very important reason that the doctors wanted to monitor my ovaries so closely, was because of the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. They were exceptionally concerned because of my heart. They knew that my heart would not be able to handle any additional fluid.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) usually occurs as a result of taking gonadotropins — hormonal medications that stimulate the production of eggs in a woman’s ovaries.

Sometimes, too many follicles begin to develop in the ovaries, causing them to become swollen and enlarged. OHSS can cause severe pain and trigger the release of fluid into the abdomen and lungs.

If left untreated, OHSS can result in serious health complications. Severe cases of OHSS are rare, but they have been known to lead to permanent injury and even death.

Possible complications include:

Twisting of the swollen ovaries (which may require their removal and loss of fertility)
Collection of fluid in the stomach and lungs (which interferes with bodily processes, including breathing)
Loss of kidney and liver function
Blood clots (which may lead to stroke)
Frequent monitoring of your ovaries and follicular (egg) development using ultrasound
Frequent testing of your blood estrogen levels

Needles, Needles, & More Needles

We both had several shots to take every day. Although the medication did burn and itch the site, the shots didn’t seem to bother me.
Alice on the other hand, had been on this rodeo of invitrofertalization with her twin girls, so she was a little more hesitant. She had kinda build up a slight phobia of needles. Can’t blame her….She managed, with the help of her awesome husband, to receive the poke of the dreaded needles several times a day. You go girl!!!

We were on fertility shots for 2-3 weeks. At the beginning of the third week, Alice would have an ultrasound to see how thick her uterus was getting. I had an ultrasound scheduled each day the third week to see how many and how mature my eggs (follicles) were getting. They had to monitor the eggs very closely, because if any of the eggs were out of range (meaning, not mature enough or too mature/too big,) they could not be used. If the eggs got too big or too mature, they would die off.