It just occurred to me that I didn’t do any blog posts from September 16 (when I got the test results of my egg retrieval #1) and October 26 (when I had my initial suppression check for egg retrieval #2). That was a really dark time for me, and I think because I’m feeling hopeful now I can write about it.
I felt pretty darn positive leading up to the retrieval, because I was young enough and had no known fertility issues. From the initial suppression check to my egg retrieval (#1), the doctors I saw always told me how great things were going, even better than expected. “You have so many follicles!” “You’re responding so well to the medicine!” I started to feel like I was some kind of star patient, how the doctors must like me the best because they didn’t have to give me bad news. I kept telling people, “I’m so glad I’ll never have to do this again!” My hope was to have 15-16 eggs to test. On the day of my retrieval I had 46 eggs, and 17 made it to the blastocyst testing stage. Everything was going swimmingly!
Then I got that call from my doctor, which I thought was strange, because only nurses at the clinic had called me in the past. I was excited to hear the news! Then she told me that only 1 egg passed both PGD & PGS testing, I didn’t know what to say. The doctor was saying more stuff, but her voice sounded far away. I just said “Oh, okay” and I hung up and sat alone in my office bawling. My husband came to pick me up. Just thinking about how I felt then makes me feel kind of sick to my stomach. It was really hard — even harder than when I got the news that I tested positive for the ALS gene.
It was fortunate that I got this news on a Friday evening, when everyone from work had already gone home. I spent all weekend crying in bed. Why did I only get 1?! My husband said I should just do another retrieval — he didn’t even have to think about it. He said that I could put the one embryo in if I wanted to, but I knew that eventually my husband I wanted to have 2 kids and that I had the best chance of getting the most good eggs at a younger age.
So I had 2 options:
- Put the 1 embryo in and do another egg retrieval later in life.
- Do another egg retrieval.
The thought of putting off pregnancy by another 2 months seemed so unfair. The thought of having to go through all the pain and bloating and OHSS seemed so unfair. But the worst part by far was the thought of spending another $30k. I had finally come to terms with paying $30k for this process and now I was faced with spending $60k. We didn’t have another $30k. We would have to take out a loan. That’s what bothered me the most. That’s what kept me up night after night laying in bed.
For a while I thought that I should just put the one embryo in. That wouldn’t put us in debt. But then I imagined having a miscarriage with my only embryo and that seemed like the worst thing of all. It’s really good that my husband felt strongly about me doing another egg retrieval, because I didn’t feel like either option was good.
In times like this, it’s good to have family, right? Uh, no. I called my dad crying and told him what had happened. His reply was, “That’s what happens when you roll the dice and play with Mother Nature.” He tried to talk me out of doing another retrieval. He’s never asked me how the second retrieval went and I’m not even planning to tell him about the results. Basically, my dad is the worst, but I’ll save a full rant about him for another time.
Other people tried to cheer me up by saying, “You only need 1, right?” This is my least favorite IVF comment so far. It’s like people think there’s 100% chance that an embryo will stick upon implantation. Anyways, after I told people the bad news, I stopped talking about the process with all but my closest friends. I avoided friends and co-workers. I didn’t want to have to talk about how hopeless I felt about the second retrieval even going well.
I wanted to know if I just produced bad eggs or if the first retrieval was just a fluke, but no one had an answer for that. Maybe the eggs with ALS were the strongest eggs also. Maybe somehow it was more than 50% chance of me passing ALS along. Maybe I did have infertility issues. Maybe I had PCOS. Maybe I was not meant to have kids, because my genes were too fucked up. These are all things I thought and it made it so hard to have any faith in a second retrieval.
Oddly, with these lowered expectations – will I get 1 egg or 0 eggs? – the second retrieval cycle was a breeze for me. I knew the drill. I shut my brain off and moved through the motions on auto-pilot. I drank my protein shakes and electrolyte water dutifully. I took my shots and crossed off the days on the calendar one by one and then it was done. I knew I wouldn’t be doing another egg retrieval anytime soon, but waiting for the results was so so so so nerve-wracking. The second time, my results were exactly as predicted (50% of the embryos had the ALS gene, and 60% of the remaining embryos passed PGS testing.)
Now, looking back, of course I am glad I did it, which is easy to say since it went well. And I don’t care about the money quite as much anymore. Supposedly, it will all be worth it.