IVF Round 1: Day 5 Embryo Update

The embryologist threw me off guard with an early morning phone call with our day 5 embryo update. I spent the rest of the day processing the news, googling definitions, and trying to make sense of this phase of IVF.

Cory: “If we don’t have children, can we move to England for a little bit?”
Kristen: “Sure.”
Cory: “I hope we don’t move to England.”

(an excerpt from our conversation as I was writing this blog post)

Before I started writing tonight, I spent at least 30 minutes looking up definitions, scrolling through pictures, and watching YouTube videos to help me understand this phase of IVF. Embryo development is fascinating, and there are so many terms to learn! Before I update you on the status of our embryos, I suggest you take a moment and read through my definitions (paraphrased from www.fertilitysmarts.com.) and watch this short YouTube video of an embryo developing from day 1 to day 5 in the IVF process (the doctor has an Australian accent, so it’s especially fascinating!):

Important Terms (to know during embryo development and for today’s update)

  1. Morula: a fertilized egg (aka: zygote) becomes a morula when it transforms into a mass of 10-30 cells. This normally occurs around day 4 of development during IVF.  This is the last stage before reaching blastocyst.

  2. Blastocyst: after the morula stage, the fertilized egg becomes a blastocyst at day 5 to 6. A blastocyst is different from a morula because it now has three distinct features: 1) a fluid-filled cavity, 2) cells around the periphery of the egg that will become the placenta, 3) a mass of cells that will become the baby.

  3. Fragmentation: embryo fragmentation is essentially when the embryo sheds unhelpful cells. These cells break off from the main zygote. The more fragmentation, the less likely the embryo will implant in the uterus. Fun fact: embryo fragmentation is also called “blebbing,” apparently!

Okay…on to the updates…

9/11/18: Day 3 Embryo Update

Erika, my nurse, called to let me know that all 12 embryos are still growing. But, she also said “anything is possible” in the next two days – all 12 could make it or none could make it. I guess we should be prepared for anything? Erika also mentioned that 50% of them look pretty good in terms of fragmentation. The less fragmentation the better. I’ll get another update on Thursday afternoon (day 5) and then again on Friday (day 6) in case the embryos need an extra day to grow. This is nerve racking!

9/13/18: Kristen’s Dream

I had a really vivid dream last night. I first remember being told the status of our day 5 embryos.  Emerging from the ether, I felt a God-like force above me. This force told me that two of the twelve embryos had made it to the blastocyst stage (this is the goal) and two were still growing and weren’t quite ready. This force told me that these two embryos were going to continue to grow through day 6. As soon as I heard the news, I turned away from the force and looked out into the distance. I was near the ocean, and all of a sudden I saw a dragon swimming along the coast. The presence of the dragon wasn’t scary – it just felt powerful. And then I woke up.

So what the heavens does this mean? 

First, the embryos. It’s obvious that I have embryos on the brain, and I was anticipating the news I would receive the next day. Through the dream, I felt a weird certainty that two embryos were good, and two embryos were close behind. The last update I had before this dream was from two days prior when I was told that all 12 were still growing, and that 6 of them had good fragmentation levels.

Secondly, the swimming dragon. It has been over a year since I watched Game of Thrones, so I’m certain I wasn’t influenced by Daenerys, Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion. I turned to the trusty Internet to better understand the meaning of this swimming beast. According to one site, “Dreaming of a dragon represents your capability to conquer your fears and protect yourself. You have the ability to fight anything that comes in your way. If you are trying to achieve something in your waking life and are demotivated with the kind of obstacles you are going through, it is time for you to stop worrying if you dream of a dragon because he enters your dream with a sign to protect you and help you kick off all the obstacles.”

Then another site says, “In dreams, the Dragon is often the protector of treasure…It (the treasure) could symbolize what it is you're searching for in your life e.g. what you've always wanted.”

Pretty interesting, huh? Three parts from my dragon dream research resonated the most with me: that I have “the ability to fight anything that comes my way,” that it is “time for me to stop worrying,” and that a dragon is a “protector” of that thing I’ve always wanted (i.e., a chubby little baby!).

Also, when talking to my sister Karli about the dream, she said, “Just like a unicorn, a dragon is a mythical creature. But a dragon feels stronger and more capable.” No offense to unicorns.

9/13/18, 8:45 AM: Day 5 Embryo Update

The embryologist called me early this morning. The timing of her call threw me off because I was expecting her to call mid-afternoon. It also threw me off because I was sitting in the middle of a crowded doctor’s office reception area. (Side note: I had to schedule a last minute doctor’s appointment this morning due to a hard fall at work yesterday. Thank goodness for work comp. Feel free to leave me pity comments below. Lol).

The embryologist cut right to the chase and said that four embryos were still growing and eight had stopped growing. She said none of the four had made it to the blastocyst phase yet, but that they were still going to let them grow for one more day. I then asked her about the quality of the four that were still growing. She said that two were pre-blastocysts, just right before the blastocyst phase (this is good) and two were just behind in the morula phase (not terrible, not great).

When we hung up, I felt stunned and disappointed. I immediately called Cory. He said he felt disappointed too. Tonight, when reflecting on hearing the news, Cory said, “I felt dulled by it. I feel numb. I feel like everyone has their brink, and we are circling the drain right now.”

I emailed the update to my nurse. I said: “Hey Erika. Got a call 20 minutes ago from embryology. 8 have stopped growing. 2 are in pre-blastocyst stage, and 2 are in morula (spelling?) stage. They're going to let the 4 that are still growing keep growing until tomorrow. Grateful 4 are still going. Disappointed none are ready today.”  She responded with, “Just even more stress…and waiting :/ BUT, we still have GREAT results with Day 6 embryos…sometimes those little guys just need a little more time!  Get out of the house tonight to keep your mind occupied!”

I felt in a daze the rest of my day, but somehow I made it through five hours of therapy and one meeting at work. I then treated myself to a haircut and a glass of wine (below you’ll see a picture of my delicious glass of wine and the outcome of my haircut…with eyes closed…I wanted to show you my hair, but I didn’t want to be bothered to open my eyes).

Now, as I write this, I feel worried. My stomach gurgles (maybe because I ate 3 day old salmon tonight for dinner…I know, risky). I feel foggy and directionless. I know we’ll make it through, and I know anything could happen by tomorrow. But for now, I’m going to allow the worry and the gurgles and the fog and the directionless-ness to pass through. Like the day’s weather patterns – clouds pass overhead, blocking the sun…but only for a short moment. Soon the warm rays will shine through again.


 * * *

Follow the Mission!