A few things had changed since my last visit to the IVF clinic.
Instead of a sheet of paper with my patient info, they placed a barcoded bracelet on my wrist. The front desk staff had changed. And the doctor I was seeing for my consult was new since my last go-round.
I was there — for the first time in nearly two years — to discuss Baby Number Two. The goal was to formulate a plan for our next frozen embryo transfer. It was late August, and my husband and I had decided on a December transfer at the earliest. (Technically, I guess the decider was me… I told him my thoughts on baby timing, and he told me to go ahead with whatever I wanted. His lack of enthusiasm was a little disheartening, but not unexpected. But that’s another blog entirely.)
The nurse took my weight, blood pressure, and temp, then walked me into a consult room. “Have you seen Dr. Friendly* before?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No, I think he’s new since I was here last.”
The nurse gracefully corrected me as she entered my vitals into the computer. “She’s very nice. You’ll like her.”
The nurse finished up and left, and while I waited, I flipped through a packet of IVF info sheets I found sitting on the table. The pages contained tables of data describing pregnancy rates for my clinic’s IVF patients, both fresh cycles and frozen transfers. I found the line that included my little Peanut: June 2010 to December 2012, frozen transfers, single embryo. I can’t remember the percentage, but it was less than 50%. I smiled, realizing that we’d beaten the odds for our group. Peanut is awesome.
(My IVF clinic will transfer no more than 2 embryos, though they prefer to do just one. A large study conducted at the very same hospital where the clinic is located proved that the best chance for a pregnancy and healthy baby is to transfer just one embryo at a time. I’m a science nerd and data is a pretty big deal in my book, so it’s one embryo for us, no matter what.)
When the door opened a moment later, I learned that the nurse was right. I liked Dr. Friendly the moment she entered the room. She had kind eyes and a big, genuine smile. The kind of demeanor that immediately sets you at ease.
We talked through my embryo stores; I’ve got two pronuclear and two blastocyst — to the uninitiated, that means 2 embryos that were frozen almost immediately after fertilization (pronuclear) and 2 that were frozen after 5 days of culture (blastocysts, aka ‘blasts’). This was the exact combo we ended up using to get Peanut, so it’s good odds.
About 70-85% of pronuclear embryos survive the thawing process, but they are, by nature, an unknown entity. They may have made it through thawing, but they still have to survive the culturing process and make it to transfer on Day 5. A smaller percentage of blasts survive the thawing — about 60-75% — but we know they’re viable, because they’re already 5 days old. If they survive the thaw, they’re good to go. Grow, baby, grow.
I had a few questions for Dr. Friendly though:
- Is my weight okay? I’m 14 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight, all thanks to breastfeeding for 14 months. I’m not dieting (I’m pounding extra cupcakes whenever I can actually), but I’m the thinnest I’ve been since junior high (in a small way, it’s kind of awesome). But now I need to start cycling again. Low body fat often equals no period, which means no cushy uterine lining for my frozen baby to snuggle into. Rut ro. But it turns out that it doesn’t matter. See #3 below.
- Speaking of breastfeeding… Because of the possible disruptions caused by breastfeeding, my clinic requires that patients be done breastfeeding before starting IVF. This breaks my heart. Peanut and I are rockstar nursing partners, and we love our snuggle time together so much. On the other hand, she’s starting to lose interest in nursing, especially in the evenings, so weaning probably won’t be too hard on her. I’m the one who will be a nutcase about it, just certain she’ll never forgive me. Yes, I’m overreacting. I know. Shut up.
- What if I don’t start cycling on my own? This problem is what got us to the clinic back in 2010. I went off the pill and nothing happened. For five months. What if this happens again? I have been on the mini-pill since giving birth, and because I have endometriosis, I skip the off-weeks and don’t have a period at all. I stopped my BCP a few weeks ago, so we will see if things start kicking in. If I cycle by mid-October on my own, super — we can do the transfer in November or December. If I don’t, they’ll use birth control pills plus some other hormones to simulate a cycle, and build up my uterine lining that way (which also means I don’t have to worry about being too thin to ovulate). Ah, the wonders of modern medicine!
Just before I got up to leave, Dr. Friendly stopped me.
“I have to tell you,” she said with a grin. “One of the other doctors noticed your name on the schedule, and when she saw that I was going to be your doctor, she told me you’re a blogger.”
I sat up a little straighter, eyes wide. “Really?”
Dr. Friendly nodded. “I must admit to spending probably a little too much time over my lunch hour reading your blog,” she said sheepishly. “But I really enjoyed it. I wish more people would talk about this process. Because I can say from personal experience that infertility is really, really hard… but it’s even harder if you go through it feeling completely alone.”
She turned to leave. “We’ll see you soon,” Dr. Friendly said, closing the door behind her.
I sat there a moment with a goofy grin on my face. I felt like a mini-celebrity (though unlike most celebrities, I was renowned for something that involved intelligence, not idiotic behavior).
I walked out with a plan in hand, equal parts excited and scared for what would come next. Though these next few months are familiar territory, in essence, it’s still a new beginning.
Here goes nothin’.
*Name changed for privacy reasons. Duh. Though she really was super friendly!