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The FET Diaries

An injection needle for IVF

An injection needle for IVF

Welcome to the FET Diaries, a journal of what it’s like to go through a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycle during IVF treatment.

July 6th (CD1): Today is Cycle Day 1, or CD1 as it’s known in the infertility world. It’s the first day of my period, which is also the first day of my miscarriage of a chemical pregnancy from my last cycle. I am planning to transfer my last 3 embryos from my first 2 retrievals, and it’s a bittersweet moment. I never thought I would use all 10 of my remaining embryos in my quest to have a second baby. At the same time, I’m also glad to be able to give them all a chance to join our family.

I’m feeling a level of frustration I don’t think I’ve felt so far in this process. I keep having excess fluid in my uterus during the cycles, and I’m now wondering how many embryos I’ve wasted on transfers when my uterus and endometrium are sub-optimal for transfer. Through my own research, I’ve learned that this fluid is really mucus, and can come from a variety of sources. Mine I suppose is currently unknown, as I’ve already had a battery of tests and procedures to rule out possible causes. I will be doing a modified natural transfer with an immune protocol and some of my own adjustments, which include:

  • 600 mg mucinex 2x/day
  • 400 IU Vitamin E 2x/day

This is in addition to the regular baby aspirin, claritin, pepcid, benedryl, and later, lovenox that are part of my protocol. I am starting all of these on day 1 rather than waiting for my baseline appointment. Sometimes the most useful information comes from other women who have gone through IVF; I can’t recommend that anyone starts medication based on what a stranger wrote on the internet, but I am feeling such a lack of suggestions from doctors at this point. I decided to take the mucinex twice a day on my own, hopefully to prevent mucus from even having a chance to build up (usually I would start it later, after fluid was found). I’ve also seen that the Vitamin E may help with that as well.

I really feel like I’m grasping at straws when it comes to trying to fix this issue. I’m feeling a little sad and desperate since this is my last chance for a baby before I have to go through the retrieval process all over again (and at an older age, which only works against me). Last month, with the chemical pregnancy, I was allowing myself to start to feel hopeful – that my IVF experience would be coming to a close, that our next (and most likely last) baby would be joining us. Transferring the last embryos feels like I’m running out of options and may have to accept a re-imagining of what I dreamed our family could be.

At the same time, I look at my son, at the family we have created, and wonder how could anything be more perfect than what we already have? We’ve settled into an equilibrium so nicely and I worry that the outcome of these treatments could potentially send us into disarray. But I also need to remember that it could bring as much joy as our son has brought into our lives. And with that thought I head into this cycle, ready to bring our final 3 embryos home.

July 10th (CD 5): I went to acupuncture yesterday, and for the first time, had a back treatment. It definitely felt like more was happening than my front treatments; my muscles cramped around many of the needles. My acupuncturist then said to me, “Relax. Open channel.” I don’t know if open was a verb or an adjective, but I like to try to visualize movement during acupuncture since it’s supposed to help the energy flow of your body. Honestly I don’t know how much of that I believe, but at the same time don’t want to disregard an entire hemisphere’s medical and cultural beliefs. The back treatment is for the kidneys; strong kidneys are critical for infertility treatment in acupuncture, so I am told.

I generally enjoy my sessions, but after this one, I was definitely lightheaded. I’ve had a headache for an entire day now that is just starting to dissipate, though not completely just yet. Neither tylenol nor CBD touched it, nor did sleeping the night or naps. My son is going through a phase right now, after months of being an angel sleeper, where he fights going to sleep at night, including a lot of dramatic thrashing and crying when it comes to being put to bed. I’m sure an hour of that last night did not help matters.

I’m not sure why I am getting these headaches post-treatment, but I plan to ask about it during my next session. What it does tell me is that something is happening. I just don’t know what.

Tonight is also only the second night that I’ve been away from my son since he’s been born. He is staying at my mother-in-law’s house with my husband. It’s so quiet here now. The regular hustle and bustle of our nightly routine is replaced by silence, by time to sit down and write, which feels odd. And wonderful. And then I wonder if I should feel guilty for enjoying this solitude – the price of motherhood, I suppose.

Infertility treatment is a thief – of my mental, physical, and emotional energy; of finances; of time; of joy for myself and what I am able to feel for others. I am a little bit worse at everything during treatment – my relationships, my patience, my attention all suffer in their own ways. It is a daily task to summon the grit required to continue with the outcome such an unknown, whether the depletion of my resources will have been worth it or wasted.

In treatment news, I had my baseline appointment 2 days ago. We’re adding 10 days of doxycycline to my medications. I also read that vitamin C helps keep progesterone levels up, so I will be adding that on my own as well – with my successful cycle with my son, my levels were easily >40 for most of my early pregnancy; with these past cycles, it is a struggle to keep it that high and I’ve had to adjust the amount of medication in order to do so. I’m hoping this might help. My postpartum body is not the same body that (now, looking back, so easily in comparison) conceived my son.

I go back to the clinic on Monday for more bloodwork and a lining check. My hope is that there is no fluid in my lining with the mucinex, vitamin E, and antibiotic treatment.

July 12th (CD 7): My transfer is scheduled for Saturday and I’m feeling much more emotional about this process than I ever really imagined. The thought of transferring my final embryos and what this means – either a pregnancy that hopefully leads to a baby for our family or else regrouping and starting treatment from the beginning. So much weighs upon these 3 little fair-graded, 3-day embryos.

I trigger tonight (a shot), which I am slightly apprehensive about since I had a reaction to the last trigger shot I took (despite being on 2 kinds of allergy medications). I also had a newer nurse today at the clinic and while I know my info is correct, it doesn’t inspire confidence to hear a discussion outside your door where a more experienced nurse is walking the nurse you just saw through the correct timing of transfer for a 3-day embryo (in my head I kept saying 5 days! 5 days from trigger! – and I was right).

There for some reason is still fluid in my lining despite doing everything anyone can think of in terms of medication – mucinex, vitamin E, claritin, benedryl, doxycycline. It’s like my body is producing its own natural birth control despite all my efforts to the contrary.

I go back for more acupuncture on Wednesday, then a clinic visit on Friday for bloodwork & a lining check. This also means I likely have to reschedule things like car maintenance on Friday and isn’t super convenient for Saturday either, since I am having my car detailed (the first and only time in the 4 years I’ve owned it) out of town. These things aren’t huge deals and can be worked around but all the little things are piling on top of the nagging anxiety I have about this transfer working or failing.

Having those 10 embryos after I had my son was like an insurance policy for expanding my family. I felt secure that I would be able to fairly easily have another baby – after all, it took only took 1 transfer of 2 embryos for my son, so surely there was another baby for us in the 10 remaining. They represented a hope for our family to be a certain way. And now I am reaching the very end of that hope, at least, for now. There is a sadness to it – the culmination of so much time, money, effort, wear and tear on my body – coming down to what happens this Saturday and the 2 weeks following.

There’s something particularly difficult about seeing other women’s pregnancy announcements when you’re trying to conceive. If you’re not in that headspace, your reaction is probably happiness and then soon forgotten unless it’s a close friend or family member. But when you’re trying to conceive, every announcement, both of those close to you and those you don’t even know, stings like alcohol in an already open wound. And when you are trying to conceive and therefore are naturally hyper-vigilant about anything involving pregnancy, the announcements are suddenly everywhere. You might think that since I already have a child, the effect is softer, more muted, but sadly it’s not.

July 22 (5DP3DT): My transfer was Saturday (it’s now Thursday, or 5 days past my transfer of day-3 embryos). It really went as well as could be expected; I had the same doctor who did my transfer when I became pregnant with my son. Waiting to test has been more nerve-wracking than all of my previous transfers in that I don’t have any embryos left at the moment, so it feels like more is at stake. I decided to rip off the proverbial band-aid this afternoon and tested. It’s positive.

You might think this is cause for joy, for celebration – and perhaps it is. But I’ve had many positive tests that did not lead to babies in my arms. And coming off a chemical pregnancy last month, I am especially wary, though hopeful. My beta (blood pregnancy test at the clinic) is next Wednesday. Which means I have 6 more days of testing at home, analyzing in the bathroom light whether I think the tests are growing appropriately darker every day.

A positive pregnancy test, while a step in the right direction, for me is one tiny step toward what will eventually become the end of my fertility journey, and there have been many false starts along the way. Cautiously optimistic is the best I can allow myself for now.

July 23 (6dt3dt): I had my midway labs bloodwork this morning. Now just waiting on the results. I also took another pregnancy test this morning. This is basically the stretch of time where I torture myself trying to interpret the tests. The test is positive – but is it positive enough? Will there be a baby or just another month of disappointment – and now, having to start all over again making embryos? I am scared of another chemical pregnancy, of what that means, of starting over, of the costs – mental, physical, emotional, financial.

Realistically there should be at least a 66% rise in hcg in a 48 hour period. So testing not even 12 hours apart doesn’t tell much, especially at the beginning. My problem is that with my son, I had a very clear positive by day 7, and my tests grew darker and I had a high beta. So of course I am comparing everything to that since it’s my one measure of success. It’s still so early to test – some women don’t even get their positives this early. The rational, logical side of me knows all of these things. But it doesn’t matter. These days are fueled by pure emotion.

Update: It’s almost 1pm and I tested again. The line on the pregnancy test is barely visible; my lines are getting lighter. It’s possible that yesterday’s positive (and this morning’s) were due to my trigger shot. At any rate, it seems to be leaving my system. I will test again tonight and I expect that to be pretty much negative. It’s really kind of depressing to think that even a transfer of 3 embryos can’t work. I feel like there’s just something going on with my body that is making getting pregnant impossible.

And again, while it’s still early, it was so clear by 7 days past transfer with my son that I was pregnant. Even last month with the chemical pregnancy, the tests were still getting a little darker day by day at this stage. The thought of accepting this transfer as a failure isn’t something I want to do. Every month I go through a mini cycle of grief; every month I am mourning what I want my family to be, these early losses, losses of more embryos, the chance for my son to have a sibling. And as soon as the losses are “official” it’s time to start again. But the thought of going through more cycles that fail is so unpleasant. Not to say that I couldn’t do it but sometimes it’s difficult to summon the grit to want to do it. Everything has a cost, and the costs of this process are just weighing heavily on me at this moment.

July 24 (7dp3dt):  I tested again this morning to see if the test would be a true negative. But it’s not. It’s darker than the last 2 tests I took yesterday afternoon but it’s still lighter than the first test I took at 5dpt. The reality is that it is very, very light and likely just residual…what I’m not sure…trigger, chemical pregnancy? It’s lighter than my tests last month at 7dpt. The problem with these super light tests is that they still allow for hope. You’d think hope would be a good thing – and usually it is – but this just feels like it’s postponing another heartbreak.

July 29th: Yesterday was my beta, and it was negative. I knew it was going to be since I had been testing and the tests had been growing lighter. While there are always stories you hear of people testing negative ahead of time and getting positive beta results, I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough and know my body well enough to know that it hadn’t worked. Honestly it was very hard for me at the end to stay compliant with my meds after 5 failed cycles and I stopped my progesterone in oil shots a couple of days early. I’m not suggesting anyone do this. But for me and my mental health at that point, I just had to listen to my body. Doing those shots on and off every 2 weeks is a LOT and the last couple I had really hurt. I just didn’t have it in me anymore.

In good news (I guess), my insurance now covers fertility meds and so I purchased most of what I will need for my next retrieval cycle. Since I do have coverage, the total cost is about 10 times less than when I had to pay out of pocket – and that was with me ordering my meds for previous retrievals from overseas because the cost is substantially cheaper than paying out of pocket domestically. What cost me under $300 now previously cost me thousands of dollars. Insurance fertility coverage is so important. I’m lucky that NYS has a mandate for fertility coverage, but even that could be more comprehensive.

It feels hard to believe that I’ve come to an end with the embryos from my first round of retrievals. From the embryos that gave me my son! I’m trying to make peace with the idea of having to start over and the idea that it’s possible nothing I do will lead to another baby.

I’m feeling the hormone crash hard today. I know another cycle will be starting very soon, but I’m taking a month off. The first month this year with no medications, no shots, no doctor’s appointments. I’ve also muted/unfollowed all the fertility-related groups and accounts on social media. I’m trying to give myself a break from constantly thinking about infertility and my journey and next steps. I know it’s hormone-related (mostly), but I am very sad at the moment. Really I’m just writing this entry now to try to ease the sadness. It’s not really working but I know it will pass.

I’m feeling very stuck in my life at the moment. I hadn’t felt uncomfortable in my identity after becoming a mother, but for some reason it’s all just hitting me now – I’m suddenly feeling the uncertainties of my matrescence now, so many months after the fact. I feel, for the first time in decades perhaps, uncertain of who I am, though I am forming an idea of who I want to be. It’s strange the ways it manifests; I’m calling so many components into question – my career, my likes and goals, even my clothing – where can I simplify, who do I want to be, who do I want to present to the world? Motherhood has been the most incredible gift, but it has been all-consuming to the point where I find it difficult to do the simplest things for myself – down to brushing my teeth and taking a shower. Things get put off because I’m putting the baby to sleep, then because I’m tired, or simply because I need 10 minutes to sit and do nothing for a moment if I find myself alone and not having to be at work.

I’ve been unfollowing accounts on social media as another way to attempt to simplify what I am consuming. The idea of slow living has been appealing lately; I’m unsure if it’s because of motherhood or the pandemic but suspect it’s just a combination everything right now – what does it mean to slow down, to live and consume with purpose? To make room in life by having fewer, but meaningful, things. I’ve often been an aesthetic maximalist – give me all the colors! all the patterns! – and sometimes think that more muted aesthetics are for those who are easily overwhelmed. But now when I am starting to find refuge in those ideas – I wonder, am I now myself overwhelmed?

And if I remove things like infertility accounts from my social media, and remove infertility more from my life – what do I do with that space that has been so fully occupied for years now?

I suppose we’ll start small. Peaches and blackberries are in season. Tomorrow I’ll make a cobbler.

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