Monday, July 15, 2013

Understanding IVF & What's Next...

First, I apologize for random parts in this post that are appearing white and blotchy... not sure why that's happened or how to fix it, so just carry on when you get there. The OCD in me is bothered that it's not visually neat and organized, and I think it's because I copied some quotes from other sites, throwing off the format. But I'm not retyping those sections, so oh well. No biggie really. 

It's common not to know what IVF is, or to even fully understand it at all. I admit I didn't really have a clue either until it affected us 6 months ago. I knew that couples could have difficulty conceiving and that often medical assistance was required. I knew the "test tube baby" idea, generally, but that was about it. If it doesn't affect you or someone you know (well, sadly, it WILL affect someone you know, but you just may not be aware of it), then you wouldn't really have reason to be completely up on your IVF research and know way more acronyms than you cared to know (TTC, IF, AF, IUI, IVF, FSH, HCG, OPK, BFP, BFN, SA, ICSI, etc... look at me go! I didn't know about any of these 2 years ago. Show-off right here, haha :p). 

So, I often forget that just because I've had to become an expert on all things related to IVF, it doesn't mean everyone knows what it is. My very close friend who's currently in the middle of IVF treatments (who shall remain nameless unless until I have permission) & I will have convos that probably sound like secret code because of all the crazy terms and acronyms thrown out. Then when I go to talk to fam & other friends, I quickly forget that they would have NO idea what the heck I am talking about~ haha, sorry! 

People often ask what's next for us, so I decided to update everyone on where are currently and what's to come (as of now... things could change at any time). So here's our status. We are currently in limbo, or "The Waiting Place" as it's called in Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!.

The Waiting Place... just waiting around for things to happen & move along.

Waiting, waiting, waiting... Why? What for? How long? Bear with me... Well, we can't make a baby with just my eggs. You can't win a swim meet with no swim team. No home runs without any hitters. We currently have no sperm to work with, which is why Scott had surgery back in May (can't believe 2 months have passed since then~ yay!). The surgery needed to happen anyway (Varicocelectomy), but it also was a major step in our baby-making journey. It will hopefully (fingers crossed!!) get sperm production going. All it takes is 1, although we'd ideally like there to be significant numbers, that's not very likely. Along with azoospermia, Scott also has a chromosomal disorder against him, strike 2, which produces low testosterone (essential for being that Swim Team coach~ haha)and makes him tired too (so now I can't nag on him when he's tired after work and doesn't want to do things... it's really out of his control to an extent and just makes me love him more because it's more physical than mental). Ok, I'm going on tangents, sorry. So the surgery is step 1 to *POSSIBLY* (no promises) help with sperm production. The Dr. said we need to wait 4-6 months after surgery to retest for swimmers because it takes that long for them to show up in a semen analysis. I found this on a medical site today "Development of immature sperm to mature sperm takes 72 days." That's over 2 months alone. Crazy, huh? 

So, sure, it's totally possible to conceive on our own within this 4-6 month waiting window. Likely to happen? Absolutely not. But possible? Sure; miracles do happen and crazier things HAVE happened before. Am I getting my hopes up? No way. I'm enjoying summer while we are on a forced break, or hiatus, from active baby making. Trying to have a baby is hard work, folks. It's no walk in the park (or bedroom). It's not all fun and games. It's extremely stressful. You can't just hop in bed whenever you want and be done (although, to the unfairness of the world, this is unfortunately how it happens for MANY people... then those are the people who say "Relax and just have more sex." HA... yea, ok). In case you didn't know, there is a scientific formula to conceiving a baby. Sperm and egg do not just meet up and click at any time you want, although wouldn't that be nice? There is a very small window (36-48 hours?) in which it is possible each month. That's like a 15-25% chance of a couple getting pregnant if you do everything right and are in perfect reproductive health. With those odds, isn't it amazing how many people just happen to fall pregnant accidentally? Timing is everything, along with health factors and a little bit of luck. So our odds are like maybe 0-1% chance on our own with no medical assistance. I'm not being negative here, just realistic. We can't likely have a baby on our own without medical intervention. Enter the help of the wonderful reproductive urologist and reproductive endocrinologist, or RE, or fertility doctor. 

Sorry I am getting off track. So again, Scott's surgery was in May and we are currently 2 months into the 4-6 month waiting window. He has a followup appointment at the urologist in September (4 month mark) with semen analysis number 1 to see if anything shows up. If not, I honestly am not sure if we wait until November to test again (6 month mark) -OR- if we would just go ahead with what Dr. Werner called a "needle biopsy". So not sure if this will happen in Sept or Nov, but assuming this will happen at some point. If they don't see any sperm in "the cup test", they have to do the needle biopsy, or testicular mapping, to poke around (yea, sorry guys, it's not a pleasant procedure from what we understand) and try to determine if there are any sperm to be located and retrieved for use with IVF. Again, it only takes 1 (although it'd be nice if there were more to work with but I won't be greedy!). 

For a little dose of inspiration, Dr. Werner told us about a couple he had recently treated. They are around our age and went through the same surgery and steps as Scott. They didn't find any sperm in the followup analysis and moved to sperm mapping, and located TWO (2) sperm. That's it. Just 2 had produced, but that's all they needed! They froze them and proceeded with IVF, and on their first round, it took and they are now pregnant. How amazing is that?! Talk about *HOPE*!! Now, this is not common and also not likely to happen to us as well (keep those hopes in check, Stace), BUT it still shows that miracles do happen and are indeed possible. 

At some point before proceeding with IVF, I will need to have one, very minor, procedure to ensure that all is okay on my side. With probably my September cycle, I'll need to have day 3 blood work, followed by a saline sonogram. Basically, it's a quick and easy test to see how my uterus looks and make sure it's a happy environment for embryos to stick and grow in. I was going to have it done in August since I'm off from school, but realized the timing that it needs to be done in conflicts with our vacation. Since we are in limbo with Scott's results anyway, there's really no point in doing it too early because the results are only good for a few months or they'd need to retest. So looks like September we will try for that and get that out of the way. Even if it was pushed to October, we still have some time to play with I think, and that would be fine.

Once we go all those routes and try to recruit some swimmers for Team Ricci's swim team (hehe), that will determine what our next step is and when it would take place. In the best case scenario that all goes well, I'm thinking we would maybe be cleared to proceed with IVF before the holidays. If we run into glitches or there is still no sperm after all those checkups, then I fear we might have to move to looking into sperm donors. When I say "fear", I don't mean that this would be a bad thing, it's our 2nd option, but it would just devastate me (and Scott) inside because it would mean we couldn't create a baby with a combination of our biological genes. That's not the most important thing in the world, having him by my side is, but I'm not going to lie, it would sadden me to not have a little Scooter running around. Using a donor would not make him any less of a dad though, I don't doubt that for 1 second. Making the choice to move there next was ultimately Scott's decision and I give him so much respect for that difficult choice. I am all for it but I wanted him to be 100% comfortable with it before voicing my opinion. If it were reversed and it was my egg quality in question instead, I know the same choice would be on me. I think I would still go for it, but I do think it would tear me apart inside for a bit to know that it was his sperm mixed with someone else's eggs... however, at this point in our lives, I'm really not looking at in that light. Our goal is to be parents. HOW we get to that doesn't really matter and I know without a doubt in my heart that if we had to use a sperm donor, it wouldn't affect Scott's relationship with our child one bit. Part of me regrets telling everyone that this might be our next step because I suppose I would want that part kept secret, in fear of people outcasting us (or our child) because of how he/she is conceived. Or making Scott feel like less of a dad because of it. So I battled with that for a while but we've become so open about everything, and the point is not how it happens. If anyone would stoop so low to judge us on any of this, then I'm sorry but keep those thoughts to yourself and keep our names off of your tongue. That would just be downright cruel and although sadly I know people out there like this do exist, I really hope they have the decency to keep it to themselves. Unless you have walked in these shoes, do not cast stones. And even if you have walked this path, there is no possible way you would have ill feelings toward anyone on this journey. So I do worry sometimes, but need to not worry because what matters is that this is our choice. This is our only way to have a child, and we will stop at nothing to get it... unless we go bankrupt, that may be one way! (eek!) 
I need to find myself a real one of these.

We went to see our RE back in March for initial consultation. That's when we found out that with Scott's factors, IVF was our best shot at conceiving. Many couples try IUI first (intrauterine insemination, or what's sometimes referred to as the turkey baster method by some, just to familiarize with an image you may have in mind), but that won't work for us. When sperm count is low or not of great quality, they don't want to waste your time with that. So on we move to the big league of IVF (in vetro fertilization, or otherwise thought of as a petri dish/test tube procedure by some). IVF is a complicated (but also SO intriguing and interesting) process. It's very expensive (about $12,000 per cycle) and also NOT covered by most medical insurances (ours included... gee, thanks Aetna and New York State... I'm not asking for plastic surgery, I'm just asking for the chance to be a mom). Oh yea, and nothing is guaranteed either. I think the RE said that with our age (which is luckily on our side) and me being healthy (as far as we know for now), our chances will be around 65% when we have the green light to go ahead. 

In a nutshell... here's IVF explained in very simple terms. Thanks for the link, Gemma, I first saw this on your blog a few months back I think. It's not boring and is easy to follow. 

Good video, right? Really explains it well I think. One thing they didn't really dwell on, just briefly mentioned, is the injection process. Lots and lots and lots and lots of needles. Blood work. Injections. Needles, needles, needles. What's one of my biggest fears, aside from spiders, snakes, death, and being alone? NEEDLES!!! AGHH!!! Facing one of my biggest fears head on here. I don't like hearing people TALK about needles/shots/injections, I can't watch it on TV, or really think about it. So wow, talk about irony. Haha. But when thinking of the prize at hand, what's on the other side of it all, it's ALL worth it. Without a doubt. So because of that, I will suck it up and take on injection after injection, vial after vial of blood, needle after needle, just to have the chance to get pregnant and have a baby of our own. IVF involves lots of bloodwork and also daily injections. I'll need to become a pro at giving myself nightly shots of hormones and crazy meds that will likely give me killer headaches and turn me into a super cranky monster (There goes my chance at being Kindergarten teacher of the year at school. Oops. Sorry in advance to anyone in my class. Definitely worried about that. The stress of being a teacher is unfortunately already so high.).

I. Will. Not. Give. Up.

Because of all that's around the corner, I am happy to say that we are on a forced break. I'm glad we've been sent to The Waiting Place. Honestly, the timing is perfect. Summertime is a teacher's relaxation, a time to regain your inner peace, balance, patience, and more. Last summer we were actively trying because we didn't know we were infertile yet, and it was not exactly relaxing. I was stressed out each cycle and that stressed Scott out each month as well. This summer I have no  conception-related expectations. At all. My only expectations are to relax, rest, read, enjoy time off, work out, vacation, watch TV, listen to music, take pictures, be crafty, work on Kindergarten stuff for the upcoming year, and spend time with family/friends. Pure fun and enjoyment. No work, all play. No stressing over ovulation and taking my temperature each morning to chart my cycle. Nope. Those days are gone. Would it be nice to start IVF while home on break? Absolutely. But is that possible now, no. So therefore, given our specific situation, I'm okay with how the timing has worked out. Will it probably be added stress to start IVF mid-school year, YES. But will I let that stop me or slow me down, NO NOT EVER. I'm stronger and more determined than ever. Watch out, infertility. Team Ricci is ready to take you on and defeat you. Not saying it will happen in our first attempt, and not saying we are done with unexpected hurdles. But you better believe that we will not give up for anything. I'm ready.



  1. Excellent description! I may just have to borrow that same video to explain to some people! Can you believe it is the middle of July already? Summer is half over.. gasp!

    1. Thanks!! Go right ahead! It's my fav video, I like the animations, haha.

      Ughhh.... I'm already wishing it would slow down and stop speeding by!! The first week I spent moving rooms, 2nd on vaca, and 3rd sick. Grrr. Trying to bottle and savor all the fun moments of summer but it's hard! <3

  2. Love this post! I am so excited for you guys to have things start moving later this year! I'm sending lots of luck and pixie dust ;) that you get the desired results from the surgery! Your patience and positivity will definitely reward you, I love how calm and collected you are about it all, it is amazing!
    Can I add, that if you went the donor route and anyone commented, they don't deserve to be in your lives! I feel that way about the fact that hubby had MFI too. If anyone ever tries to make him feel 'less of a man', I'll drop them from our lives so fast, they won't know what hit 'em!
    I looove that video. IVF for dummies hehe. Not that people who don't know what it is are dumb, but it's just in layman's terms. And I like the noises of him drawing, is that weird? I find it relaxing haha!
    Anyone sending you a massive hug, I love reading your posts! I hope to get back in to blogging later this week.

  3. Love your post, Stace. I give you SO much credit for everything you and Scott are going through. Having never had an opportunity to have a child myself, I can imagine the strength it takes to accomplish something that most people take for granted. On the surface it appears to be such an easy thing. But it's not.

    I would not worry about any issues pertaining to having to go with a sperm donor. Yes, it is a possibility that it may have to happen, but it has not happened yet. I have true faith that you and Scott will have a baby conceived with both of your DNA. And if it does come to that, it is no ones business, really. It is still YOUR child. Yours and Scotts. Anyone that does not approve or thinks any less of you for such a hard decision is not worth your time or energy. Just keep that in mind. Peoples true nature comes out when faced with something that is not in the 'normal' sphere of things, or is not 'perfect' as far as how they perceive normality and perfection to be. As Faith says above, they do not deserve to be part of your lives. CUT THEM OUT. You do not need the negativity. Surround yourself with love, acceptance, faith, support, and most of all happiness.

    The most important people in the equation; You, Scott, and both sets of parents (or grandparents at that point in the game) will think of your child as YOURS. (Yours being you and Scott.) A child's molecular makeup wont matter to them.

    I have faith that God will not put something in front of you that you cannot overcome. You will both be fabulous parents. You GOT this girl. Keep the faith. You will have a baby.

    <3 &