When I grew up, I never imagined this. Laying in a bed with a paper hat on my head and my mom at my side. My feet are up in stirrups and doctors and nurses are bustling around a little room. I’ve got a tv screen to my left, ultrasound machine on my right; I am about to be impregnated. Hopefully. I’ve got 2 little embryos showing on the tv screen that are in a petri dish and the doctor has her little turkey baster getting ready to suck up the embryos and transfer them into me. This was not how I’d thought this would happen when I was a kid. I was going to fall in love, get married, and then have the baby. Instead, I am 35, single, and laying in this room with embryos fertilized by a man I’ve never met. And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited. It’s been 6 months leading up to this day.
How I Decided IVF Was Right for Me
I was 34 when I went through my first procedure to become pregnant. Before this, I’d never even thought about fertility issues. But I discovered an entire community of woman and men who were having fertility issues. It was very sobering and extremely eye-opening to what I’d always thought. People got pregnant every day without even trying. If I didn’t take birth control, I’d get pregnant a day later. I was so woefully wrong.
During all my extensive research of fertility issues as well as different procedures for a single woman, I’d decided to start with an IUI which is an Intrauterine Insemination. (Please read my post of becoming a single mom here, where I explain the procedures.) IUI’s are SO much cheaper than IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization), and as ICI(Intracervical Insemination) procedures are done in a woman’s home and I wanted a doctor, this was an easy option for me to dismiss. I decided to go for through the IUI route!
Starting With The Cheaper IUI Option
Initially, I had 4 different IUI procedures in hopes of becoming pregnant. None of them worked. 2 of the IUI’s were completely natural. No medication, just tracking with an OPK. What is an OPK you ask? It’s an Ovulation Predictor Kit. I’ve never had a cycle that was regular, and I would have no idea when I’d ovulate. When you are trying to get pregnant, especially with a doctor, this is important. They kind of want to know when your egg is scheduled to start its trek. So, I purchased one of those smiley face OPK’s. At least it smiled at me, nicely mocking that it was day 17 of my cycle and no closer to ovulating. I got really good at peeing on sticks. This is a link to Amazon for the one I used: Clearblue OPK.
The last two IUI procedures I had were medicated with the use of Clomid. My cycles still were not normalizing, and the days that I would ovulate would be around 18-22. And with the little extra dose of emotions, I got with the Clomid I was also a real joy to be around. All 4 of these cycles ended negatively. I realize that this is only 4 months and many many women go through so many more cycles. Even when someone is with a partner it can take quite a few months for a pregnancy to happen. There were costs associated with each cycle, though. Mental, physical, and monetarily.
Cost for IUI
I was extremely lucky in that the company I worked for while going through these treatments covered fertility treatments. Not many companies have this coverage, unfortunately. Due to this, I didn’t have to pay nearly as much as what other women or couples must pay, but it still really adds up. There are costs to so many different aspects of fertility:
- Consultation with the fertility doctor
- Follow-up appointments to meet with the doctor to go over treatment plans
- Ultrasound scans to check follicle sizes and estimate dates of insemination
- Donor sperm
- IUI procedures
Each IUI procedure was around $400 if I remember correctly, before insurance. Then there was the co-pay of the doctor appointments and ultrasounds. The donor sperm was about $500 per vial with the first sperm bank I’d gone with. Last, but not least, the cost of the pregnancy tests. I had an early false positive using a very cheap pregnancy test I purchased in bulk online, so I chose not to buy the cheap ones after that heartbreak. Getting pregnant was so much more expensive than I’d ever imagined!
Moving on to IVF
I had 4 failed IUI procedures behind me, a bruised enthusiasm, and started thinking that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant.
This is where my story changes. I made a few calls starting with my insurance company to investigate other fertility clinics and then setting up appointments with a different clinic. One problem with the new clinic. It was a 3-hour drive from my home. No worries. I’ll set up a playlist and just jam all the way there.
Meeting my new doctor was wonderful. I had a great first impression with him, and he listened while I explained my situation and past experiences. Through our conversation, we decided that it would be best if I moved on to IVF. Within a month, I’d received the approvals from my insurance stating that I would be covered for IVF treatments!
Steps Prior to Starting IVF
After receiving all my approvals, I drove back to the clinic and had an appointment to learn how to give myself injections. Oh, that was fun. They gave me a needle to test with, using saline, a fake piece of skin and showed me how to do the injection. They also gave me a few ideas on YouTube videos to view as well. Seeing as I didn’t like needles, this whole experience was going to be something to remember, I just knew it!
The next step on my journey was a bit strange I thought. As I was going to be going through IVF using donor sperm there was a requirement that I get a sign-off from a therapist saying I was in my right mind and would be able to handle having a child from donor sperm. The only thing I can figure is that this is a requirement due to the mental anguish some couples may go through who have fertility issues that would dictate the use of donor sperm to assist in a positive pregnancy. Regardless of that, I still had to go to a therapist, explain that I wanted to have a child on my own, and get them to sign-off that I was ok to proceed. Luckily, I got the ok to move forward.
Choosing a New Donor
Finally, I had to choose a new donor. I’d gone through 4 failed IUI cycles using the same donor. In talking with the doctor as well as the nurses at my new clinic they led me to find a new donor. Apparently, my chosen donor hadn’t yet shown a pregnancy result when I’d chosen him and this can, at times, be a red flag for some doctors that they may not be an ideal donor.
I lost count of how many profiles I viewed, voice samples I listened to, and different sperm banks I looked at. I finally arrived at Northwest Cryobank. They provided testing on the donors that I was looking for, they had a great catalog of donors and their price was the most reasonable I’d seen! I was able to find my new donor and bought the vial specifically ready for IVF procedures and placed my order. Do you know how strange it is to track a shipment of sperm to a doctor’s office? Not quite on the same level as waiting for something to arrive from Amazon, that’s for sure.
IVF Cycle Begins
I’d finally managed to check off all the requirements on my list and gotten the ok from my clinic to begin my IVF procedure. I’d started to take a low dose of birth control in order to get my cycle to match up a bit more with what the clinic needed in terms of scheduling. About 2 weeks before my period was due to start, I had to start taking my first injection. It was called Lupron. It’s to ensure your body does not ovulate once you do start to produce follicles. I’ve read stories from women stating that a day before their egg collection was scheduled, they ended up ovulating. This, of course, ruined their entire cycle. I was very faithful in the use of that Lupron!
Now, I just had to wait for my period to start. I never thought I’d look forward to that time of the month so much!
Starting Medications for IVF
Then it happened. I was now officially starting my stimulation shots. Every night I would take an injection of Lupron and an injection of Follistim; this is for follicle stimulation. Basically, this stimulates the growth of follicles in ovaries. The doctors are trying to grow as many follicles with mature eggs as possible for collection and fertilization.
Think of going to a chicken farm and seeing row upon row of chickens laying their eggs. The doctors would like your ovaries to act as if they are 12 chickens at one time shooting out the eggs for harvesting.
At the same time, they are trying to avoid overstimulating the ovaries which could cause a possibly serious issue called OHSS: Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. This is caused by an overabundance of hormones in your body. It’s definitely a fine balance that is going on during an IVF Cycle. Grow all the eggs! But, don’t grow too many!
Monitoring During IVF
There were two different monitoring tools my fertility clinic used in order to see how well my stimulation medication was working as well as to determine when I’d be ready for egg collection.
- Blood test: this blood test would be to track my hormone levels to make sure they were rising adequately in response to the drugs. This also told them if I would be in danger of the above-mentioned OHSS.
- Ultrasound: Transvaginal ultrasounds became my new norm. I would go into a local clinic, and they would perform my ultrasound just as the name implies. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a “fun for her” feature, but it had everything else. They’d cover the wand with a condom, apply a layer of lubricant to try to minimize discomfort, and then begin the internal scan. This would be used to count how many follicles I was growing as well as their size.
These 2 tests would occur every few days. The levels of hormones in my blood as well as the size of the follicles would determine the amount of my Follistim dosage. I’d get a call in the afternoon following these tests from my nurse telling me the dose for the next few days to optimize my follicle growth.
Stop, Drop, and Trigger!
Finally, I got the call I’d been waiting for. Stop all medication and take your trigger shot. The trigger shot is what tells your body it’s time to ovulate. It tells all of those little follicles that you’ve been growing that it’s time to finish cooking and release their mature eggs for fertilization. 36 hours after my trigger I was scheduled for my egg collection!
In the end, I took Follistim shots for 11 days! As I’d started taking Lupron about 14 days before THAT, I was REALLY good at giving myself injections at this point.
IVF Gets Serious: Egg Collection and Embryo Transfer
There are 2 days that are the most important in the IVF process. That is Egg Collection and then the Embryo Transfer. There is the anticipation while taking stimulation shots for these 2 very monumental days.
- Egg Collection: this procedure is when the doctors go into a woman’s ovaries and drain the follicles of their eggs. The eggs are then introduced to the donor sperm. If they have a successful first date, fertilization occurs, and the egg begins to grow into an embryo.
- Embryo Transfer: this procedure is when the embryo or embryos are transferred back into a woman’s uterus.
The day of my egg collection was nerve-wracking and exciting. I made the 3-hour drive with my mom. During this drive, so many thoughts were going through my head. What if there are no mature eggs? What happens if none of them fertilize? IVF is already my Plan B after IUI’s. Do I have a Plan C if this doesn’t work?
No matter the anxiety-inducing thoughts, I got to the clinic and got checked in. The nurses brought be back to a room where I got to wear a lovely gown, open in the back. An IV was inserted into the back of my hand, and then…
Egg Collection Results
When I woke up, I was informed that they’d been able to collect 26 eggs in total! This number made me extremely ecstatic! I felt like a very successful chicken. During my preliminary research as to OHSS and post-egg collection, I learned to eat salty foods and drink Gatorade to minimize chances of OHSS. Also, to watch or listen to comedy. The comedy helps you relax and is very therapeutic. Salty foods and a comedy fest? Alright!! Finally, a diet I can follow!
On the way home, I stopped and got some fries, ‘cause you know…salt. And then I had some Powerade to drink. It was a pretty good drive even if I was a little sore. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought it would be though. I just relaxed the rest of the day when I got home, laying down.
The next day I got the call. 21 of the eggs had fertilized! Now I had to wait until day 5 to discover how many made it to an official embryo. I would also find out if I would even be able to freeze some for a later procedure!
The day of the transfer has arrived. I was informed to wear no makeup, deodorant, or perfumes into the transfer room as the chemicals in any of those may harm the embryos. Yes, multiple. I’ve chosen to have 2 embryos put back in to increase my chance.
So, on my way into the clinic I go, my au natural self, and a bladder full of water. I was told that this is to help the bladder press down on the uterus and make it easy to see on the ultrasound as well as easy to reach with the long turkey baster the doctor is going to put the embryos in.
This is where we came in at the beginning of this post. I am now ready to be inseminated. I have my feet up in the stirrups, and I am watching my little babies on the tv screen. The embryologist then sucks them up and hands the baster to the doctor.
My doctor comes over to me and asks if I’m ready. YES!! This is go time!
A nurse places the ultrasound wand on top of my belly to show the doctor where my uterus is. Luckily my bladder is full enough for them to get a clear view of everything. The bad news is, my bladder is full enough for all of this. They are pressing down on my very full bladder to get a clear view. Not exactly the most comfortable feeling in the world, but it’s for a good cause. “Just don’t pee on them, just don’t pee on them” was my mantra for the next few minutes.
This part WILL be TMI. Scroll down a way if you don’t want the nitty gritty….
The speculum is now inserted, unfortunately, with no lubricant. Apparently, It could harm the embryo. Yeoch. Not a good feeling. But then, I get to watch the screen of the ultrasound machine. I can see as the doctor is inserting the long wand thing. I constantly call this the turkey baster. Sorry folks, I’m not sure the official name. Feeling it as it’s inserted and then watching it on the screen is an experience. It was really pretty cool. Then I see a bright little flash on the screen and the doctor says, “and there are your babies!”
Oh. My. Gosh. I may not be pregnant yet, but I have babies! It really hit then. These 2 little gobs of cells were already so loved. I wanted them to stick around so badly. I even named them. Eeny and Meeny.
I even forgot for a moment how very badly I needed to go to the bathroom. I had 2 little babies on board, and if I had anything at all to say about it, I was going to be their mom.
A few minutes after I had my new occupants on board, I was given the all clear to get up and go to the bathroom.
Phht. Yeah right. I just got those suckers up there. I’m not going to the bathroom now and pee them out. Yes, I know it doesn’t really work that way, but my brain does.
I laid there for another 5 minutes with my bladder near to bursting before I felt that my cervix and uterus were in agreement that we were keeping the new additions. I was given additional news; there were 6 embryos to be frozen. Such a good day! Yep, need to go to the bathroom now.
Off to the bathroom I waddled.
The Two Week Wait after IVF
Or in my case, the 6 days wait. There was absolutely no way I was going to wait until my blood test with my doctor. I got many different packs of pregnancy tests and started using them on day 4 after the transfer. Of course, it was negative.
Then on day 6, the magic happened. I had TWO LINES. Just to confirm, I took the expensive digital test. It said “Pregnant”! Holy crap, this was really happening! 4 failed IUI’s and now IVF worked! I was overjoyed, elated, ecstatic, jumping with glee. I was going to be a mom!
Now the big question. How many implanted? Was I going to have 1 baby or twins? Or, *gulp* triplets? Eh, no matter. I’d love them all and figure it out as I went.
The First Ultrasound to Confirm Pregnancy
I was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant when I drove to my clinic and had my first ultrasound. I was still elated, but now I had a side of terrified going on. What if there was no heartbeat? The worst outcome was, of course, the only thing clanging around in my head.
Seeing The Heartbeat
Being called back to the ultrasound room was invigorating and I was shaking the whole way. They chose to do the scan as a transvaginal to ensure that they could get as clear a picture as possible.
On to the bed I went. The technologist didn’t make me wait long. There it was. That absolutely beautiful site. A flutter. We had a heartbeat!
The only cloud to the appointment was seeing an empty sac right above my little flutter. I had a blighted ovum. My second little guy didn’t make it. I’ve named that baby in my heart, and will always remember it, but I also had to tell myself, I was blessed with the one little baby I did still have. I concentrated on that little heartbeat and my heart began to pound with happiness and love.
There are no words to describe how I felt when the ultrasound technologist put my very first ultrasound picture in my hand. I had a baby; I was really officially pregnant. Now the new journey would begin.
Cost for IVF
Since I was able to share the costs I incurred with the IUI procedures, I wanted to make sure I did the same with IVF. Below are the different items during my IVF Cycle.
- Consultation with the new fertility doctor
- Follow-up appointments to meet with the nurse to learn how to give myself injections
- Ultrasound scans to check follicle sizes – 3 scans total
- Blood work to check my hormone levels – 3 draws total
- Donor sperm
- Egg Collection
- Embryo Transfer
- Ultrasound to verify pregnancy
- An ongoing annual embryo storage fee
As you can see, the above list is a bit more extensive. The costs were quite different from the IUI’s though as I was accepted through insurance and the procedures were covered at 90%. I was extremely blessed in this. It is a hard enough road to go without having to worry about being able to afford to even just get pregnant. I’m so very grateful that I was able to have the coverage I did and most of all for the cycle to have worked!
Looking Back on The IVF Journey
When I reminisce on the highs and lows I went through to get pregnant with my first son, I wouldn’t change anything. All the failures I experienced only brought me to my new family. And remember the six little embryos that had been frozen? One of them is now a very precocious 2 years old boy. I am a mom of 2 boys!
IVF changed my life in a way I can never repay the doctors, nurses, and embryologists for. There are no words for the impact they’d had in my life.
Every day is not perfect. I am not perfect. But I am always learning. For more on that, please read my post for How a Single Mom Stays Sane. I wanted to share the story of my successful IVF journey to show that it’s not a scary thing. It’s not a fun process, that’s for sure, but if you are in the same situation I was, or if you are having fertility issues and are able to go forth with IVF, my suggestion is to do it! I realize that not everyone has the same outcome, and all journeys are different, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t at least tried.
Have you gone through IVF or are thinking of going through it? Send me an email or comment below and share your story! I’d love to share your experiences.