Frozen Embryo Transfer: the procedure and the two-week-wait!
I share the details of our FET and what the past two weeks have been like for us. This post contains sensitive, vulnerable information. Thank you for joining our story. Much love and grace to you all.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
The (very exciting) frozen embryo transfer (FET)!
There’s so much hype built up around the transfer, so I’m a little disappointed to report that our FET was relatively uneventful. We had been building to this moment since our first IVF consult in June 2018… so many shots…so many blog posts…two egg retrievals. Most recently, we had been prepping with loads of hormones (estrogen, Lupron, human growth hormone) for a month and freaky-ass progesterone injections (in my freaky-ass) for nearly a week. Everything was building to this!
We got to the clinic at 10:40 AM. I emptied my bladder one last time and then drank 32 ounces of water within a 15-minute time span. (They want your bladder to be full during the transfer to help with uterine positioning or something…or maybe because the full bladder feeling just adds to the overall excitement with extra anxiety! Yippee…I gotta pee!)
After drinking my water, I was starting to feel really anxious. My acupuncturist was running late and we were five (FIVE!) minutes behind schedule. Thankfully, at the peak of my clock-checking anxiety, it was time for me to pop my prescribed Valium (a benzo that treats anxiety), and I happily floated away to relaxed-dreamland-reality. The only time in my life that I’ve taken Valium has been during my practice FET in December and this FET. I’ve gotta say – Valium is fantastic! Like a glass of the finest wine laced with the tiniest bit of Ambien and just a dash of dark chocolate. I felt (mostly) freed of anxiety and ready for the next step.
Around 11:10 AM, I did a pre-transfer acupuncture treatment on-site. (My acupuncturist came to the clinic – so cool, huh? Well, cool except for her running a little behind schedule. Big picture, Kristen, big picture.) At 11:45, we met quickly with the embryologist to confirm that we were indeed there for an embryo transfer (to avoid a Jane the Virgin-esque debacle). He then gave us our first picture of our embryo (above).
At 11:55, the ultrasound tech told me to empty my bladder just a little because it was “overfilled.” I thought it was going to be impossible to pee “just a little” with a horrendously full bladder, but apparently my pee-pee muscles are rock solid, and I was able to stop my stream like a boss.
By 12 PM, I was in the procedure room, lying flat on my back, legs up in the air. (I’m quite accustomed to this position.) A large flat screen TV was mounted on the wall in front of me, and on the screen was a live stream from the Petri dish where our embryo was currently residing. I was able to see, in real time, the embryologist suck the embryo up into a very fancy looking medical straw (that’s most definitely the technical term for it) right after my doctor placed his very fancy looking medical straw into my uterus and shouted, “LOAD IT!” Then, the embryologist entered the procedure room and inserted his fancy straw into the doctor’s bigger fancy straw that was in my uterus. My doc guided the embryo to the uterus’s sweet spot and then dropped anchor. After tucking the embryo into bed with a cozy blanket, he removed the fancy straw from my uterus and just like that, knocked up! They had me lie flat for 5 minutes until I could get up, get dressed, and have my second, post-transfer acupuncture treatment. (I love acupuncture, btw.)
Later that afternoon, I ate pizza and then fell into a Valium-induced 3-hour nap. It was glorious.
* * *
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Day 11 of the dreaded Two Week Wait (TWW)!
I woke up Saturday morning, 11 days after my frozen embryo transfer (FET), with that weird feeling in my lower abdomen that only percolates right before you start your period. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. Not a pain or a cramp. An off, not-quite-normal sensation. (Does anyone else know what I’m talking about with this feeling?) Like a faint knowledge of what’s to come.
Like the crisp smell of snow before the clouds roll in.
Like the cloudy, downer feeling in your mind before you remember the reason why you’re stressed.
An abdominal premonition.
Waking up with this unwelcomed sensation left me feeling disappointed, pessimistic, and prepared to see blood on the toilet paper at any minute.
I knew it. I knew it wasn’t going to work.
Writing helps me expel negativity, so I descended to the basement to vent via a blog post.
At the computer, I opened Spotify and pressed play on John Mayer’s new single. I sipped my coffee. Opened up a blank Word document. Checked my Instagram. Clicked on Spotify to replay the song. Okay, now back to the blank document. More staring at the intimidating white nothingness. I watched the cursor flash at me, tauntingly. Sipped my cooling coffee. More staring and searching for words.
Mildly depressed, I sat there considering the looming menstrual cramps that would soon be bombing my innards. Apathy washed over me like a heavy comforter, making it difficult to move or think or care. By this point I had repeated my new favorite John Mayer song five times. My coffee cup was empty…and so was my brain. So I gave up, closed the document, and went back upstairs.
My mom texted me mid-morning.
“How are you doing, sweetie?”
“Doing okay! Just finished at the gym, but no lightheadedness this time. :/”
(One of the only possible pregnancy symptoms I had experienced at this point was mild lightheadedness after walking over a mile on the treadmill. This had happened two times in the past 11 days, and I was clinging onto this symptom as hope that maybe the transfer had worked. Other possible symptoms included: fatigue-induced 7:30 PM bedtimes and cravings for salt, especially refried beans. But let’s face it, I always want refried beans in my face.)
Being the good counselor my mom is, she texted back, “How are you doing emotionally?” Quickly followed up by, “And don’t forget…just because you’re not lightheaded doesn’t mean anything!”
I responded to her question, “Emotionally, I’m vacillating between Kadosh thoughts (the idea that we are walking on holy ground; that life is holy, sacred) and hyper-focused anxious thoughts. Apathetic. Disinterested in TV. Depressed feeling. Hard to focus.”
Being the good mom my mom is, she continued, “That’s why I was wondering what you were doing later…maybe we could do something to get your mind off of things.”
Later that afternoon, my mom, Cory, and I went out for an early dinner to help distract my mind from every possible pregnancy symptom (or lack thereof). Momma time + warm cinnamon apple tea + sweet potato fries + talk of death and dying (we really get into some good stuff!) sufficiently filled my belly and mind for a couple healing hours.
During dinner, we also weighed the pros and cons of doing an at home pregnancy test. I had vowed to not test at home and to just wait for the blood test at my fertility clinic, only two days away at that point. On one hand, testing at home might open us up to receiving negative test results, possibly a false negative if we tested too early. This would leave me anxious and uncertain. On the other hand, testing at home would relieve some pressure from the test results I would soon receive via phone call from my clinic on Monday afternoon, most likely while at work.
After thoroughly examining my ambivalence, Cory and I decided we were ready to test at home! We were already 11 days post FET, and, according to my fertility-expert-friend in Seattle, we would most likely get an accurate reading this far out.
So after dinner, we eagerly drove to Walgreens and bought a pregnancy test! Bringing that pregnancy test back home felt surreal. Pouring over the instructions together in our bathroom, setting timers, waiting nervously…all of this felt special. Sacred. Bonding. Togetherness.
Throughout this past year, Cory and I have been together throughout it all.
We received my infertility diagnoses…together. We healed from my ovarian torsion surgery…together. We navigated the unpredictable rapids of the IVF river...together.
That night, we waited nervously on our bed for the test results to be ready…together. And then, cautiously…carefully…we looked at the test…together.
In this process, we have rejoiced.
In this process, we have cried.
And that night, we did both.
Two pink lines.
Shock. Disbelief. Joy.
Who knew two pink lines could change your life?
I was pregnant. In that moment, I had a life growing inside of me. A life that may continue to grow, or a life that may leave me soon. But right then, I had life inside of me. And that…that was everything.
* * *
Monday, February 25, 2019
Baseline Pregnancy Blood Test
I went into the clinic earlier in the morning for my “beta” baseline pregnancy blood test, a test that looks at the baseline beta-hCG hormone levels in my body. I learned this past week that hCG is the hormone produced by the embryo and passed to the mother via the placenta (holy awesome!). At 11:30 AM, I received a call from my FET nurse. She happily told me that our test was positive at 308 mIU/ml. She said she wanted to see it at least at 100, and mine was at 308…so good news! She then explained that they’re going to be looking for a 66% increase (from 308 to approximately 500) by my next blood test on Wednesday.
Now we just have to wait two more days to see if my hCG levels continue to rise.
So how am I feeling?
Excited! Nervous. Vulnerable. Anxious. Grateful. Overjoyed! Scared.
One of my friends described me as “cautiously optimistic.” A coworker urged me to not be a “Negative Nancy.”
I am four weeks pregnant and shouting it from the rooftops! And this feels risky…real…vulnerable….honest…empowered.
Most women wait until 12 weeks to share their news when a pregnancy is more certain…to avoid the possible heartbreak of miscarriage. I have decided that I want to share my story from start to finish. The positive-pregnancy-test-highs and the (hopefully-not-many) lows. Why? Because that’s life. That’s real. Miscarriages happen, and if that happens to me, I want a community to grieve with. I want to be honest with my pain and struggle. I want people to see that Facebook feeds aren’t all pregnancy announcements and pictures of baby's first birthday. Sometimes life is tumultuous rainstorms.
But then there’s always the fresh smell of rain-soaked earth after the downpour. The smell of hope and life and next steps.
Whatever happens in this next chapter of our story, I accept it with an open heart. I have Cory. Cory has me. We have our families. We have you. We are loved and grounded and so, so fortunate.
And for now, I will soak in the sun on my face. I will cherish this growing baby. I will absorb the joy of now-ness.
“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” -Mary Oliver