Life is strange. This journey is stranger. We keep thinking that we've figured out our bugaboo, that we finally have the answer to our issue with conceiving, and then things get turned around. Let's start with the IVF part of our journey, which is the last 3 years or so.
IVF is determined to be the best option for us as we have significant male factor in terms of counts, motility, morphology, etc. and I have proven to be less than stellar at IUI-appropriate follicle production. Our first two IVF cycles focus on my PCOS since we are doing ICSI and we have apparently compensated for the sperm issues thusly. Our first two IVF cycles are horrible failures, with low mature egg retrieval rates, low fertilization rates, and poor embryo development. No frozens.
We switch things up and move to a different doctor in the clinic. He takes the approach that maybe PCOS isn't so much the issue as egg quality. Changes the protocol to reflect this, and our mature egg retrieval rates improve significantly, fertilization rates are still low but we have more to work with, and we have frozens for the first time. ICSI continues to be the fix for the sperm, and we have our first pregnancy (ectopic freakshow, surgery, lost tube) and then a frozen, fresh, and frozen later our first uterine pregnancy (results in miscarriage). At this point 16 embryos have come and gone and we need to take a long hard look at where we are.
We switch back to our first doctor when our doctor leaves the practice for another one in a different area of the state. We decide we will do donor eggs, because obviously we have an embryo issue with 14 embryos not implanting at all and an early miscarriage, and not the best embryo development. Must be chromosomal abnormalities. We prepare for a year for a donor cycle and are devastated when it does not work. 30 eggs retrieved, 21 fertilized, 6 frozen at the 2PN stage (Day One), the remaining 15 left to culture, only 4 make it to blastocysts and 2 are frozen. Disappointing and disconcerting, but no one seems to think this is a big fat red flag. (By the way, the donor was a massively proven one, with a large number of first-cycle successes with EVERYONE ELSE. Which makes me feel just STELLAR.)
Try a new protocol for the DE FET, add Medrol and extra PIO, decide to do single embryo transfer. Find out days before thaw that this is not possible as the two blasts were frozen together. Blasts thaw, one is great quality and the other is deemed, "You can choose not to transfer that one." We transfer both because who knows, but get a negative anyway. Twice a day PIO shots after 7 previous cycles of PIO shots results in a weird nerve damage issue that plagues me still today (that was September). We are beyond frustrated.
Seek second opinions. All second opinions so far point to the failed Donor Egg cycles as evidence that the chromosomal abnormality is likely not having anything to do with the eggs. Which leaves us with the sperm. Which leaves us contemplating Donor Sperm as an option.
So now, four years into our journey with three years of IVF under our belt, different protocols and different genetic materials, we find ourselves pursuing an IVF cycle with MY EGGS again and DONOR SPERM. WHAAA? Beyond strange. We have spent time mourning my genetic contribution, soothing ourselves with the research in epigenetics. I have done a LOT of rationalizing about why it's not a terrible thing to not use my eggs. And now... we are back to my eggs. It is a lot to process. But, not nearly as much as it is to process the loss of B's sperm. There IS NO epigenetics with sperm. Biologically, that cupful is the only contribution. I should say genetically, as biologically I think can encompass the nurture aspect. The father-sticking-around aspect. The reason we're not like other mammals where the male takes off after the perfunctory penetration and the lady mammals are left to do all the raising themselves, if they even stick around too long after the cubs/pups/kittens/whatever are born. But it is a huge loss, and not one that we take lightly. We are sad. It is a lot to take in. And to add to it the weirdness of thinking I would never stim again to facing the daily shot monster and the sore ovaries and the egg retrieval (yay anesthesia I guess) and the hard toll on my body, and we are dealing with a lot right now. I am not complaining, because I know that I am getting my eggs back and that is something not a lot of people experience. Plus it seems somehow rude to talk about my difficulty wrapping my brain around the return of my genetic material when my husband is losing his outright.
It makes trying to classify this blog a little awkward, too. I used to be an IVF blog. Then I was a donor egg IVF blog. Now I'm a donor sperm blog with a history of donor egg, still IVF. It is more than a little strange (although the least of our worries). I have found it a little difficult to find other donor sperm blogs out there, particularly people who are not yet successful to commiserate with. Or to assuage B with, as he is feeling pretty low on this whole subject (but not low enough not to look under this rock and see if this is our root cause of no babies). I used to post this blog on Facebook, which had its pluses and minuses, but that ship has sailed. If I want to write about my infertility, OUR infertility (as I too often forget to include), I have to keep it semi-anonymous because of this sperm donor piece. I completely respect this wish, as I know how hard it is to grapple with the loss of genetic material. But I don't know what it's like to do that WITHOUT the epigenetics piece. And while I know what it's like to go through the emotions of loss and feelings of failure and questions of worth and worries of bonding, I now have turned around and received all that back. So while I can say "I know how this feels" to some extent, really, I don't. It's different for guys. I think it's harder both because of the contribution thing and because of how, typically, guys process things (or don't). It's tricky business.
Consider this my foray into now chronicling our Donor Sperm IVF journey... a completely new leg of what I never ever thought would be this complicated. EVER. I will share the feelings, I will share the realities, I will share the worries. I will share the process, because it is a little daunting. And not a little bit different from our Donor Egg process. Selecting a male donor versus a female donor is worlds apart, at least for us. I will share my new approach to using my eggs and what it's like to stim after you thought all that was behind you. I will do my best to be sensitive to B's needs for privacy while processing this the best way I know how, by writing. If you are a Facebook person who found this, I ask you to be just as sensitive. We are in new and tenuous waters that we haven't figured out how to tread yet. We have added another layer of complexity and strangeness to our already pretty strange and complex path so far.
Thank you for your continued support, thank you for your information, thank you for your patience as we figure this new thing out.