It’s been a bit too long since we posted here. In the meantime an awful lot has happened, and most of it we’ve been sharing via cryptic posts on Facebook.
And over the last several weeks, we’ve been sharing our story in person with a great many people, but now it’s time to catch everyone up. So here we go.
Part 1: In which we decide to do IVF again
This happened a while back. We’re still fighting the good fight, but with some key differences as you’ll see below.
We started round 2 in February, and we’re well into it now. It’s been a roller coaster, as you’ll see, and for the sake of clarity I’m going to try to explain each step.
And Doris gets her oats.
Part 2: In which we retrieve 13 eggs
Holy shit! 13 eggs! That’s waaaayyy more than we were expecting. Last time around we only retrieved 6 eggs. Of course we pretty much maxed out Courtney on medication, stimulating her ovaries as much as possible. Much crying was had that day in the fertility clinic, and it was the good kind.
Part 3: In which 4 eggs are fertilized
And this is where the roller coaster begins. Is mild devastation a thing? Because that’s how I felt when I heard this news. I mean, it’s still 4 fertilized eggs, but that number is not what we expected.
For comparison: in our last round, all 6 eggs fertilized. One fertilized abnormally (i.e. more than one sperm got in), leaving 5 fertilized eggs to work with. To have only 4 fertilized in this round seems like a big step backwards.
But then we remembered: the first go-round was not normal. This round was normal. It’s not unusual to have fertilization rates like this, and the past was an anomaly.
Here’s where things got a little different from the last time too. This round, we’re doing genetic testing (more on that in a second), and when you do genetic testing, it’s required to do a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. This is just a fancy way of saying that they pull out one teensy weensy sperm and use a very fine needle to inject it directly into the egg.
The last time around, we didn’t do ICSI, as it’s quite expensive, and not really necessary for a typical IVF cycle. ICSI is required for genetic analysis, as it helps prevent contamination of the genetic material by extra sperm in and around the egg. In a normal fertilization procedure, they pretty much just drop a blob of semen on the egg and see what happens.
Strangely, ICSI tends to have higher fertilization rates than non-ICSI procedures, but again… we were not the norm the first time around.
Part 4: In which we biopsy 2 blastocysts for genetic analysis
Two of our embryos grew for 5 days. This is the cutoff at which it’s clear these are growing well, and stand a good chance of implantation on transfer back to the uterus. At this point, they biopsy a small number of cells from each embryo, and send them off for analysis. Both embryos are frozen until we know whether they are viable.
Again, a sort of mild devastation. We started with 13. Now we’re down to 2.
So why do all this genetic testing? Well, the last round of IVF, we really didn’t have any clear understanding of why it didn’t work. Often the answer is that the embryos are simply not genetically compatible with life. In natural conception, these embryos simply don’t implant. This happens in an IVF scenario too, but when you’re spending thousands of dollars per transfer, the last thing you want to do is use embryos that never stood a chance to begin with.
Going into the next step, we know it’s typical for half of the embryos sent for genetic testing are found to be viable. That would put us with exactly one shot at success.
Part 5: In which both embryos are genetically viable
And there’s one boy and one girl 🙂
To say this is a relief is a bit of an understatement. Right now we’re at the top of the roller coaster’s final hill, waiting to see what happens around the last turn.
We’re going to transfer one embryo at a time, and we’re not going to ask them which one (gotta have some good surprises, right?).
I’ll let you guess what my next Facebook post is gonna be.