As I sit in the waiting room of the fertility clinic for my refresher orientation, I think back to last September.
Sitting here all bright eyed and bushy tailed with the world on my side. Thinking how easy this was going to be, take some needles, they retrieve your eggs, and tickety boo you have all sorts of magical embryos to transfer. I was practically planning my cute little Facebook pregnancy announcement last time.
Obviously things did not go as planned. Not even close.
We ended up with only 3 viable embryos to go to screening and then 1 to eventually transfer. That transfer did take, but at week 3 we ceased to be pregnant. As I wait to see the nurse to go over my new schedule and new medications, I am glad that I am going in knowing what to expect. Well, as much as you can expect when you are pumping hormones into your body.
These are the 5 things that I wish that I had of known going into round one.
1. Don’t make plans and think that your life will just adjust to your fertility calendar.
I did my first night Puregon pen injection with the front seat of my jeep reclined in the parking lot of Rogers Arena after a Canucks’ game. I sat there during the hockey game half paying attention, half hoping that the medication was at the proper temperature in the cooler in my backseat.
At social gatherings I had to sneak into people’s spare rooms to do injections – like a closet junkie. We didn’t keep our fertility treatments a secret, but somehow I didn’t feel like announcing to a room of people that I needed to go stick a needle in myself.
We had travel plans so we stressed about the timing of our retrieval.
Shut your life down.
You don’t need the added stress during this time of trying to get your body to adhere to a calendar.
2. Fertility medications make you bat-shit crazy.
Imagine the craziest PMS roller coaster you’ve ever had. Now amplify that by 100.
Even reading this blog cannot prepare you for the stampede of feelings and emotions you’ll have. I know that everyone reacts differently to medication, but I would die of shock to find anyone who went through IVF and came out feeling sane.
The most random things will trigger tears and sobbing.
I lost 90% of my patience and the smallest obstacles would set me off. I had days I couldn’t get out of bed. Facing the big, bad world was hard because I just couldn’t do it anymore. I felt the like most useless person – why did I have to go through this?!
I worried about the effects all of the hormones would have on my body long term. I spent way too much time Googling all of the potential diseases that I might end up with (don’t do this). I read about egg retrievals that went horrifically wrong and people who ended up with terrible infections (again, spare yourself this horror).
I got depressed.
Not like a little sad, but body aching, loss of appetite, thinking of how better off Ryan would be without me depressed. Fertility clinics offer counsellors that help you deal with the feelings and emotions you are experiencing. Please take advantage of this. Even after you stop your treatments your hormones take a while to reset.
3. Your body is going to change and there is nothing you can do about it.
Going into IVF, I was doing barre fitness, hiking, and jogging. I was getting into the best shape that I had been in 9 years and I was feeling great. I was eating really healthy and I had the world by the tail. Once I started my injections, I was told I’d have to stop all exercise.
The nurses told me that I wouldn’t feel like exercising so it wouldn’t matter. They were wrong. I was going insane not being able to workout. I was doing seated bicep curls in the dark hoping that my ovaries wouldn’t twist. It was so dire that we ended up buying a treadmill so that I could walk at night. Our dog definitely benefited from my first round of IVF, although going through our cycle in November, in rainy BC, limited how much walking I wanted to do.
Even during the great abdomen bloat of 2016, I still wanted to do my barre fitness. I was obsessed and started counting down the days until I would get the clearance to start up again after my egg retrieval.
My eating also went completely off the rails. I wanted comfort food and cake. I just wanted to eat my feelings and live on the couch under a blanket. I obsessed over how many calories I was ingesting and how much walking I would need to offset them. I became like Regina George – track pants were the only thing I could wear that fit over the abdominal bloating and bruising. Any sort of pressure on my abdomen was torture.
This round, I am prepared to battle the cake and comfort food cravings, but I am not going to lose my mind over it. I am also lucky to be doing a summer cycle which means I have the weather on my side for walks, and sundresses can hide a lot of bloating.
4. Don’t rush your recovery after egg retrieval.
Don’t plan and host a Halloween poker party two days post retrieval.
Halloween is my version of Christmas. I am obsessed. I started crafting weeks in advance, dying jars to put candles in and cutting out eyes of printed photographs to glue on the outside (Google this and do it next Halloween). Cutting out 100 bats and anchoring them with fishing line. Hanging cobwebs on everything and affixing spiders. Setting our fireplace up with plastic bones inside, decorating the mantle with skulls, candles, and old scary books. Setting up my fog machine and making a snake wreath for the front door.
I have gotten completely off topic here because that is how much I love Halloween. I had trophies and prizes for Best Costume. We planned this party a few months before we knew our IVF schedule and our egg retrieval date.
Should I have been sitting on the couch relaxing and not making a charcuterie platter to rival Martha Stewart? Of course I should have.
I ended up getting OHSS after the egg retrieval. They took 27 eggs out of my ovaries. I gained 5lbs in one day. One might think that you should rest after that, but not me. I needed to show everyone the magic that is Halloween. I spent the entire party sitting on the couch in my toad costume, in immense pain, with a heating pad on my abdomen.
A week after the party, I started to feel better (yes, one whole week after egg retrieval). I was able to walk more than 5 minutes without pain. So, I tried to push it again. I went for a speed walk on the treadmill. That ended with me lying on the floor with cramping – promising never to do that again (flash backs to my early drinking days when I’d swear to never drink like that again). After two weeks of recovery, I went back to barre fitness. Mid-class I got the cramping again and had to stop.
Take the time to recover and get your body ready for your embryo transfer. It’s a short period of time. Take care of yourself.
IVF cycles are not the time to start training to star on Mantracker.
5. Focus on your Fertility Treatments.
You may feel like you are losing control over your life and your body. Your life will become full of timed injections, blood tests, ultrasounds, acupuncture (you should really try this if you are not already doing it), and medication adjustments. Your body will become used to ill-fitting clothing, mood swings, cramps, abdominal bruising, and bloating.
During our IVF cycle I was sitting on a gala planning committee for charity. The stress of the gala planning on top of the fertility treatments were just too much. I ended up not being able to attend the gala. I worked so hard on this event and then couldn’t even attend. Looking back, I never should have taken on such a grand task.
I tried to make our lives run on the same schedule, with the same energy as if we weren’t in the middle of fertility treatment.
During our cycle I was a no show at three family suppers and a few other social events. I was just too spent and emotional to attend. Everyone understood. They empathized with what we were going through and never made me feel guilty for just needing some alone time.
Maybe if I had been more focused on our cycle, and not everything else going on in my life, we wouldn’t have run into the same issues. I encourage you to take the time to focus on your fertility treatment. Cut the “extras” out of your life if you must. It’s a big undertaking, it deserves your attention.
I don’t like thinking of it as a learning experience.
I am not aiming to be perfect at fertility treatments. However, I am glad that I have a game plan going into this round and I hope that if you are starting your first round you can take a few ideas from my experience.