Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hello, Retrieval!

How interesting to experience retrieval again, after two years of hiatus, and at a different clinic. I have the utmost respect for you ladies that travel significantly for your treatment--we drive an hour and fifteen minutes now, but that adds such an additional layer of complexity that I really wasn't expecting. What's an extra hour? No big deal... we originally thought, because it didn't seem like it was. But then add in that for each ultrasound we were saying adios to three hours plus of our days, where it used to be maybe 45 minutes or so, and that adds up. Especially since Bryce can't make it to all of them with me anymore.

But, our last ultrasound was Tuesday! I was almost ready, and instead of having me come back Wednesday, they just had me continue my regular dialed-down dose Tuesday night (100 follistim, the smidgen of low dose HCG, and my last Ganarelix) and then triggered me Wednesday night with Ovidrel, then a last-hurrah boost of 300 follistim to really pump me up. I have to say I'm proud of myself for not being so obsessive for this cycle. I did not frantically write down all my follicle sizes, I just wrote an approximate number and the range of sizes. As of Tuesday I had 24 or so, mostly at the 17-22 range but with the majority still 17-19. That ovidrel that's so carefully timed for retrieval (when they say take it at 7:00, they mean TAKE IT AT SEVEN O'CLOCK OR ELSE) also does some of that final "ripening" -- so needless to say on Thursday I was one stuffed chicken. I continued the taking it easy, although I added in the whole "getting school work done" so that if I felt crappy all weekend I didn't have to worry about it for Monday and Tuesday, when hopefully I can be in school.

[NOTE: I am going to share some specifics of our cycle here. If you are friends or family in my non-virtual world, please pretend you didn't see this. It is so hard to both want to share updates semi-anonymously and also have family and friends who read this thing. Understandably, it puts a lot of pressure on us when everyone knows when everything is going down. Soooo... pretend you know nothing and don't ask for news that I don't offer please -- when we are ready to offer up news publicly, we totally, totally will.]

Because our clinic is an hour and fifteen minutes away, on a thruway that seems to have a glut of freshly dead deer on the sides of the road, I did not want to take any chances. We booked a hotel 5 minutes away and decided to make a bit of a getaway out of the experience, given that our retrieval arrival time was 7:30 and I did NOT want to be a) leaving the house at 5:45 to account for deer/accidents/weather or b) awake for an hour or so before retrieval, since no food and no drink makes Jess a cranky cranky hangry girl... So, I packed up our things and Bryce left work a bit early and we went out for a nice dinner despite my feeling like a complete and total salmon chock full of roe and ready to burst. A girl deserves a delicious meal out before having a needle pierce her vaginal wall and retrieve a zillion eggs from swollen, fluid-filled follicles, right? We chose not to eat in Buffalo, because with Celiac it can be tough to find a place that is truly good about being gluten free and I wanted delicious AND to not be miserable on the toilet, worried that I was going to burst my eggs with my gastrointestinal fury. So we went to a place called Simply Crepes, that has buckwheat crepes and my ultimate favorite deliciousness, the Reuben Crepe (GOD I loved reubens, and it was so sad when I thought I might never have one again). And maybe a Nutella-and-sauteed-banana crepe for dessert. Because I needed to be full so I didn't feel awful the next morning, right?

The drive was uneventful, and we talked about our whole debacle with the sperm donor split. Originally we thought 50/50, but then we switched to 50/50 up until 10 eggs each, and then anything over 10 went to the donor. Plus, any immature eggs that they could mature in vivo (craziness) would go to the donor, because they'd mix the eggs in the dish with solution and about 25,000 free floating sperm doing a whole Darwin thing, and the donor was much better option for that. We talked it through with our doctor on the phone, especially since he was away for the weekend and wasn't going to be there for the retrieval. Initially something that caused me a bit of nervousness, but we were happy with the other doctor who'd be doing the procedure and ours was heavily involved via phone and our lovely doctor will DEFINITELY be doing the transfer. So we felt good. The drive was uneventful, minus a heavy downpour/thunderstorm about 2/3 of the way there.

The hotel was beautiful-- brand new, cozy, with a refrigerator for my 10:30 pm snack so I again hopefully could avoid being too hangry the next morning:
Snuggle chair!

Fancy schmancy King bed, look at those gooseneck reading lights!
We got settled in with our books and magazines and (gasp!) cable TV, a novelty for us as we don't have it at home. Bryce immediately found some North Country Game Warden reality TV show about game wardens in Maine, which was highly entertaining to him because it a) sounded and looked like home and b) they were walking around with radio he makes. I was bummed because I forgot the adorable critters memory game that I like to play when we go to camp or I'm laid up. Oh well. I have to say, staying in the hotel was a really great move. It lowered the stress quotient by quite a bit and made it feel like we were going on an adventure, because let's face it, we were totally embarking on a new adventure. A new old adventure. Hopefully with a happy ending this time. 

We took some pictures of us in the room for posterity--one nice, and one with Bryce being a complete weirdo that I can't help but share: 

Lovebirds and hopeful parents-to-be on Retrieval Eve
Oh how I love you, goofy, goofy Bryce.

I had straightened my hair earlier in the day, because I find it so much easier to blow it out before procedures. If I'm going to be in bed for days, and I'm going to need to get going quickly in the morning, blowing it out is so much easier than ending up like Roseanne Rosannadanna. Also, before retrievals, transfers, and even just ultrasounds I feel the need to take The Boyfriend Shower. A term coined by a girl I lived with my senior year in college, whose boyfriend went somewhere else and when he arrived for visits she liked to be all done up. The Boyfriend Shower involves lots of shaving, and moisturizing, and generally making yourself super presentable in the nether area. I know that docs don't care, but I feel better if it's not like a 70s jungle down there and my legs are shaved, because if someone's got to be down there with a searchlight for 20 minutes, I can at least make it so that I don't feel self-conscious and maybe that's appreciated. Such an awkward situation, so so so awkward, but The Boyfriend Shower makes me feel a little better about being on display. Ugh. 

The morning of retrieval I got up to shower and felt SO RESTED. The bed was on the firmer side, which is apparently my body's friend. Best night of sleep in a long time. Sadly, Bryce needs a soft and cushy bed, and so he was miserable. Which sucked because he was obviously the one driving home. We decided to leave our stuff in the hotel since checkout was noon (!) and we could maybe rest a bit before getting on the road home. 

At the clinic, they moved FAST! I am used to an hour before retrieval or so of preparation, and they were done in 30 minutes. I finally got to meet the IVF nurse I talk to on the phone so much, and I LOVE HER. She was kind and funny and a little rough, which is how I enjoy people best! She did a killer IV insertion, too--my veins suck and I am always nervous that after not drinking beforehand it's going to take a while. Probably because I have had experiences where it took THREE TRIES to get the IV in pre-retrieval, once involving needing to redo it while I was on the table receiving anesthesia and it was leaking out all over my hand. NOT PLEASANT. So, the nurse was awesome and got it on the first try, very little pain, super secure, and awesome. The anesthesiologist came in briefly and asked me a few questions, mostly about my asthma, and then POOF! I was being instructed to empty my bladder and walk through the door to the procedure room. Kiss Bryce goodbye for now and off I went. 

Here's where the differences really showed. When I came out of anesthesia, I was almost completely lucid. Which was weird, because usually I'm loopy for quite some time. It's twilight sedation and not the heavier general, but still -- I think at my previous clinic they put pain meds right in the IV at the end, and I don't think that happened here. I was in A LOT of pain. The most I've ever had after a retrieval, if memory serves. I mean, I'm two years older than I was the last time and I think that maybe my body is not-so-subtly trying to tell me that I'm no spring chicken anymore, but it was REALLY painful. More on my right side than my left. A lot of writhing and crying. I wished for that demerol that I got post-hysteroscopy in my IV, because THAT was amazing stuff. The percoset didn't even help that much, which was really sad. It also hurt to pee, so my final bladder emptying was like a torture exercise. Not the actual peeing, but the moments before the urine is released. I don't know if it was irritating my already swollen and angry ovaries or what, but OW. The nice thing though was that they actually had gluten free snacks for after! GF pretzels and a GF rice crispy treat. A FIRST for me! I had brought crackers just in case but how thoughtful to think of the poor food allergy people. I wolfed them both down.

The doctor came in and gave us our egg numbers -- 20 retrieved! Not our best retrieval, but not our worst either, and 20 is a BEAUTIFUL number! Then he said only 12 were mature. Yikes. That meant 6 for Bryce and 6 for the donor, and then the attempt to fertilize the immature ones in vivo at a typical rate of 30-40%. Scary. It started sinking in that we may not have any blasts to transfer from Bryce, depending on how many fertilized and how they developed. But, we were still really happy with the results, just a bit sobered at the thought that our choice may be made up for us. 

We left to go home, and I was so bloated and painful and writhy that Bryce ran up and grabbed the rest of our stuff and checked us out of the hotel so that I could get home and in bed. I hurt all the way up to my ribcage. It was a rough, rough day for pain-- I couldn't lie on my side, I couldn't lie any way but on my back, slightly elevated, with my legs curled a bit. Movement hurt. Getting up to pee hurt. Breathing hurt. I cried and moaned a lot and the percoset really just seemed to take things from a 9 to a 6. So sad. But I drifted in and out of consciousness and read my People magazine cover to cover and messed around on my phone. I woke up in the evening and my shoulder hurt, hurt a lot. Which was concerning, because two things can cause shoulder pain other than awkward sleeping positions -- gas, or internal bleeding. My seeming gas pains hurt my entire abdomen, largely on the right side, and all the way under my ribcage. I felt better if I burped, but only slightly, and I was a little concerned. Plus I was really nauseous and couldn't eat much without feeling like I was going to yark all over the place. Thankfully I didn't, but it was a very unpleasant day and evening. 
Despite the unpleasantness, I had fun with my school
library mustache bookmark. This is me, wild and crazy
on narcotics. 
This morning I felt a bit better -- I slept in 2 hour increments, getting up to pee and trying not to cry my way through it so Bryce could get some sleep. Then, at 8:30, we got our fertilization report call. 

HOLY SMOKES! GREAT news. GREAT, like the best fertilization report I think we've ever had. Here's how it laid out: 
Bryce: 4/6 fertilized (yay!)
Donor: 5/6 fertilized (yay!)
Immature: 6/8 fertilized with donor sperm (HOLY CRAP! WAYYYY over 40% best case scenario!)

So overall we have 15/20 eggs that were fertilized. A beautiful, beautiful number! Now we just hope that at least one of Bryce's makes it to blast so that we can have our last shot go all the way to the end. But 15! 15 possibilities hanging out in the lab is better than we could have hoped for. 

The doctor asked how I was feeling, and I mentioned the horrible pain and that it was mostly on the right side, plus the gas pain weirdness. He said that I had blood floating about from the retrieval, not a lot, but if I laid flat or only at a slight incline then it could have traveled to my diaphragm, which caused the shoulder and ribcage pain. He said to lie at an incline from here on out and apologized for not mentioning that yesterday. No worries, nobody ever mentioned that to me in any of my previous 4 retrievals, so that was fine. He also said that I could be feeling shitty through Wednesday's transfer, because as he put it, "You turned into quite the Easter Bunny!" As long as I can make it into school Monday and Tuesday, I'm fine. Even if I can't make it Monday I MUST make it Tuesday. (Within reason, because of course health comes first, but I figure taking it easy today and tomorrow and managing pain with meds should make things manageable for Monday). I can always go home if needed. 

There it is! My retrieval rituals, the hotel fabulousness, the incredible haul and fertilization report, and the surprising level of pain this time. I am so excited for what the next few days bring. I am hopeful. I have shifted from 80-20 terrified-excited to 60-40. At least. Two hurdles crossed -- retrieving those suckers and then having them fertilize. Now for the blast hurdle and the implantation hurdle. Bring it on, Universe. I just know that it's possible for us to have a happy ending. 


  1. Not so fun sounding but oh so promising sounding :) Sorry for the uncomfortable part. Crossing my fingers and toes for you both though. Best wishes and checking in. Rest up and hope you feel better soon.

    1. Thanks Michelle! I appreciate the check in and the crossings. I am resting up for sure, this is definitely a rough retrieval for recovery. I'm just hoping for another good update before Wednesday... grow, embryos, grow!!! :)

  2. 15 fertilized eggs--that's awesome! Way to go. And that's great news about Bryce's batch. I'm so thrilled for you.

    I'm sorry that you were so uncomfortable--interestingly I'm never uncomfortable after my procedures and I think it's because I always have so few eggs. Yesterday I didn't even take a Tylenol and ended up going on a 3 mile walk.

    I'm so excited for you! All of my digits are crossed for you!

    1. Thank you! We are increasingly nervous that we won't get any blasts from Bryce's batch, but we won't know until maybe even Wednesday morning. yikes. It's so weird--I hear a wide range of levels of pain/discomfort after retrievals. Sometimes I feel like a total wuss because some ladies go right back to work. Maybe my ovaries are sensitive. I do know that they get huge with all the eggs and I had more follicles than eggs retrieved from the counts on the ultrasounds, so maybe that does have something to do with it. I just hope we get good embryos from this cohort and even A BABY! That would be so nice. Thanks for the crossings, I'm crossing for you, too! Exciting times...

  3. Crossing my fingers for you guys!

  4. The pain sounds awful but I am hoping so hard that it is all beyond worth it!!! P.S. The "boyfriend shower" part had me laughing:)

    1. Ha, glad to be of service! I am so worried now that my doc will somehow see this and it will be creepy in some way. :) I am feeling much better today and feeling hopeful! Let's hope this all does the trick! :)