I have been meaning to write this post for a while and now seeing as we have one year of infertility, one surgery, several procedures and two IVF cycles under our belt, I would like to think we have learned a thing or two. There are many websites and blogs out there with people journaling their experiences and giving advice. Over the past year I have read enough information to fill several books. What I read has been invaluable and I definitely learned a lot. I felt we were as prepared as we could be going into IVF for the first time. With all of that said, I feel like a few things could have been mentioned more, because I either didn’t know anything about it or I didn’t fully grasp what the advice was telling me. This post is hopefully going to give some insight into some of the less glamorous happenings that occur while trying to conceive…in a Petri dish. These are the things we wish we had known. While most of these will be from my perspective, Chris did have some insights he wanted to add as well. These may not happen to everyone, but if they do you are not alone! I am going to go ahead and let you know, this is going to be a long post.
Disclaimer: This post is intended to help out our IVF and TTC sisters and community. If you know us in real life and prefer not to know too much about…well…too much, I suggest you stop reading now. This is about to get real…like REALLY freakin’ real. Consider yourself warned.
Let’s get to it! What I wish I had known…
- After the HCG trigger shot, you will not poop for four whole days. Yes, for me, BOTH times…I did not poop for four entire days. When I was finally able to, it was very painful because I was sore from egg retrieval and my ovaries were still incredibly large. When I was finally able to poop, I couldn’t be far from the bathroom because I pooped so much. So many times. I am literally not exaggerating.
- You will get hemorrhoids. Due to the whole not pooping thing as well as all the hormones being pumped on your body, you may experience hemorrhoids. If you have never had one before, it might take you off guard. During both cycles, I had hemorrhoids that actually ruptured, which makes for an even lovelier mess. We will get to that later.
- IVF medications can give you gray hair. This is one I found out recently. Yesterday I found my first gray hair. Actually, it was white. Chris pulled it out and then proceeded to find a whole slew of them all clustered together all while laughing at me. I was NOT amused. I immediately went to Dr. Google and found out that, indeed, IVF medications can cause gray hair.
- The places where PIO shots were given will be numb and itch for weeks after. I knew the PIO shots would suck. Literally every blog or article I read told me they would suck. The first few days were not picnic in the park, but the longer I had to have them the worse they got. What no one told me, is that it would still suck WEEKS after stopping the injections. My last PIO was on June 15th. I just got feeling back in the areas where they were injected. It is normal, just unexpected.
- Your period after egg retrieval/failed cycle will not be like a normal period. This one kind of seems like a no-brainer, but I wasn’t fully informed as to the extent of how heavy it would be. I have had heavy periods ever since I started, but they don’t compare to this. After IVF#1 failed, I started my period and I passed a clot the size of my palm! That is not an exaggeration! I continued to pass huge clots and pad changing was frequent because (surprise!) tampons are a no-no. I ruined several pairs of underwear…and pants…and sheets…
- You will feel an unexpected primal instinct to be reunited with your embryos. This one caught me off guard. I thought I would feel anxious to do the transfer so we would be one step closer. In reality, I felt a primal urge to have my embryos back inside me where they would be safe and sound. In IVF#2, I felt the same way until I knew they were safely frozen and secure. This feeling took me over for those few days. I can only imagine this feeling is akin to how a mother feels when separated from her baby for the first time.
- You will have many, many people see your lady bits. Again, this one seems like a no-brainer. Of course people are going to be down there poking around. I am talking about the amount of people. During my HSG, I was exposed to my doctor, two nurses, four students and two radiology techs. During my SIS, I was exposed to my doctor, different nurse and ultrasound tech. During my mock transfer, I was exposed to my doctor’s fellow and two different nurses. If you are counting we are at 14 different sets of eyes on my hooha and we haven’t even started the cycle yet! Each monitoring appointment was with either one of two ultra sound techs. But wait! They were training two new techs and a new fellow joined the practice. We are now up to 19 sets of eyes. Egg retrieval day arrives and now we have my fellow, the head doctor, two nurses, the anesthesiology nurse and the embryologist. The second egg retrieval I had a different fellow there but luckily everyone else was the same. The transfer at least had the same doctor, embryologist and nurse. All in all, in the past 4 months I believe 22 different people have seen my lady bits. Honestly, there could have been more…
- You will no longer care who sees your vagina. Remember when you were younger and were afraid of the gynecologist and swore you were never giving birth because you didn’t want anyone to see your vagina? Yeah, you won’t care about that anymore. You will wear a dress to every appointment so all you have to do is take off your undies. You will be in those stirrups so fast, hooha to the sky. You will let anyone and everyone down there if it means it will get you a baby.
- If you only have a few good veins, save the best one for your IV. This one I learned the hard way. I only have two good veins and due to all the blood work, by the time I got to egg retrieval both of my veins were shot. The nurse blew my best vein while trying to insert the IV. If you are a needlephobe like me (or hate IVs), do yourself a favor and save that vein. I did that for the second IVF cycle and it went a lot smoother.
- You will say crazy things under anesthesia and the doctors will laugh at you. Apparently I was a comedian while under anesthesia. The whole room was laughing so hard that Chris, who was sitting on the other side of the door, was quite confused. I remember nothing. I still don’t know what I was saying, but am kind of glad that I don’t.
- You will say things that don’t make sense and you will feel irrational emotions. Another given, but I didn’t realize the extent. Let’s just say that I cried hysterically for an hour because I was convinced my husband was angry with me for not wearing pants…he was not angry, nor did he care if I was wearing pants. I also took one look at my boss and burst into tears at work because I thought I would let the team down because I might not be able to get 10,000 steps a day with my FitBit. She immediately took me off the floor to a storage closet to make sure I was okay. I simultaneously laughed and cried while trying to explain my emotions. She finally told me, in the nicest way possible, to go home.
- Do not pee on a stick. They are like Pringles, once you start you just can’t stop. For real. Do. Not. Pee. On. A. Stick. Just wait for the beta. I know, it’s WAY easier said than done, but I bought out the Dollar Store of all their tests and peed on sticks like 4 times a day. All it did was make me crazy. I was so much calmer and more at peace before I peed on a stick. Take my word for it. Don’t do it.
- You will get acne. I unfortunately have had acne most of my life. I was able to get it under control over the past several years using Proactiv. Well, no face wash is going to save you from the acne that will occur during your cycle. Invest in some old school Clean and Clear face wash and makeup concealer.
- You may get a yeast infection. I didn’t get one on cycle one but I did on cycle two. Amidst all the other side effects going on, a yeast infection is like icing on top of the proverbial cake. To add insult to injury, you can’t use any OTC products for relief. No Monistat for you! Coconut oil helps the itching and a call to doc for Diflucan should get it under control. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t completely go away until your cycle is over.
- You have to be your own advocate. A lot of stuff happens all at once and a ton of information will be thrown your way. Take it upon yourself to get organized. Get a planner. Write everything down so you can reference later if more cycles are needed. Save all receipts, paperwork and injection instructions. Educate yourself. Ask questions. You are in charge of the process and can say how fast or how slow you want to move ahead with procedures. Nurses have a lot of patients and you help them to help you by having any information needed at your fingertips.
- You will become closer to your significant other. Infertility is truly one of the things that can make or break a marriage. If you have gotten as far as IVF, hopefully you and your significant other are on the same page with fertility treatments and options. Every day of our journey I fall more and more in love with my husband. The support and patience that he has shown me, the grace in the face of adversity and the humor that he brings to every situation have kept me positive and helped me stay strong. We have learned to communicate more effectively and express our emotions. We have learned to compromise and be more compassionate towards each other. We have always jokingly called ourselves a Team. (We have a team name but I am keeping that between us). We clean as a team, we run errands as a team, we are on this IVF marathon as a team and we will cross the finish line as a team.
- You will have to learn an entirely new language. So this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are so many new medical terms to learn as well as their abbreviations. For example, ICSI (inta-cytoplasmic sperm injection), AMH (anti-Mullerian hormone), E2 (estradial blood test), P4 (progesterone blood test) and many, many more. Not to mention in the TTC (trying to conceive) community online there is lingo there as well: BFP/BFN (big fat positive/big fat negative), POAS (pee on a stick) and 2WW (two week wait). In order to help understand this new language, I created a cheat sheet for reference, see here.
- If the doctor says, “you will experience a little cramping” that means you are going to hurt something fierce. For whatever reason, the doctors think that if they say you are only going to hurt a little bit, that will reassure you. This is a lie. I don’t know if its just that they have never experienced the procedures themselves, or they are just naive, but they hurt. Be prepared. If the doctor advises you to take Ibuprofen before a procedure…DO IT! You will feel mildly less pain, but it will still suck. With that being said, just remember why you are doing this. The end goal is your sweet baby.
- If you are a needlephobe (like me), it truly isn’t as bad as you think. For real. Yes, it is scary. And yes some of those needles are huge (ahem…PIO)…but you will get through it. If you find what works for you, it makes the process so much easier. For me, a combination of lidocaine cream and ice helped me not feel the needles and I would listen to IVF meditation in order to distract myself and focus on my breathing. By doing this, the nightly shots because quick and easy. Pleasant? No. Doable? Absolutely.
- Expect the Unexpected. (Anyone catch the Big Brother reference?) I am dead serious though. Just when you think ahead and are planning and predicting things…BAM!!…a curve ball is thrown your way. I am not a patient person and I also do not like surprises. This process has been very trying for me. From the whole sperm/no sperm fiasco, to the plummeting estrogen level, we have experienced our fair share of unexpected happenings. We have had to trust in the process and trust in God. We have learned to take each day in stride. I knew going into this, that everything is a delicate balance and is unpredictable, however I didn’t realize that it would be like that literally every day.
- At some point before egg retrieval you may not be able to walk. Your ovaries will be huge. And I mean HUGE, like the size of two bunches of grapes. This will make it difficult to use the restroom without feeling like your ovaries are going to fall out of your vagina (don’t worry, they won’t). It can be difficult and painful to stand up from a seated position. Laying down can be uncomfortable. By the end of my first retrieval, the only way I could walk was a bit hunched over and on my tip toes. Every movement made my ovaries bounce and it was incredibly uncomfortable. Going into my second retrieval, I could hardly walk. After my second retrieval, I was basically immobile, however that was thanks to my ovary deciding to hide behind my retrograded uterus and giving everyone a scare, for that story click here, here and here.
I think that is enough food for thought for now. I am sure as soon as I post this, I will think of more things. If there is anything that you wished you had known before IVF or any fertility treatment, please comment below and let me know!