IVF Round 2: Day 5/6 Embryo Update
Today, I start by sharing what happened on Thanksgiving Eve. The story is a perfect metaphor for what IVF feels like to me. And then I share our Day 5 and Day 6 embryo updates!
I’ve always been a klutz.
My historic klutzness stems from my ADHDness. I don’t know if many of you know this, but I think I’m at touch on the ADHD side of the spectrum (undiagnosed). I move too fast. My mind is one step ahead of my body. I have multiple thoughts and tasks spinning through my head at once. And all of this causes me to drop things. And trip. And run into bedposts. And spill entire cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli on the light tan carpet of our family room at age 14. #truestory (PS: Which is better: Chef Boyardee ravioli or spaghettios with meatballs? Really important life questions are asked right here on this blog.)
It’s no surprise to my family when any of these klutz manifestations occur. Most of the time they don’t even bat an eye when I knock over three glasses of water at dinner. Sometimes I get a loving eye roll or a, “There goes Kristen again.” They know this to just be a part of who I am.
Well, I had a “typical Kristen” moment this past Thanksgiving Eve. I was in the final stages of baking a gluten free (GF) pumpkin pie. After many years of experimenting with GF pie crust recipes that ultimately were too dry and crumbly, we decided to make it easy on ourselves (and more delicious) by using a pre-made GF pie crust from Whole Foods. It’s important to know that this pie crust came in its own (flimsy) tin. I didn’t trust this tin from the get go. (Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and I now realize how any tragedy could have been avoided by simply placing the tin on a cookie sheet. Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.)
The Mission Impossible theme song played in my head as I prepped myself to insert the pie into the oven. I picked up the tin, hesitated before taking a step. I visualized impending doom and started making my way to the oven (probably not the right thing to visualize at that moment, right?). One timid step. Two timid steps. Neck strained downward, eyes fixed on the pie. Three timid steps. I lost balance and tilted the tin ever-so-slightly to the left. The runny pumpkin pie filling rushed to the crust’s edge, nearly cascading over and onto the dark wood-floor-abyss below. My younger sister, Brooke, had been watching the play from the sidelines. An engrossed spectator at a bull fight or boxing match, ready for disaster to strike. Brooke saw that I was struggling with the pie and rushed to my rescue. With her support and four hands gripping the thin tin, the pumpkin pie was successfully inserted into the oven. Sighs of relief. Sister-high-fives. The timer set by Siri. Time passes. A mild family feud (because holidays, of course). The timer goes off.
It was time to face the timid tin yet again. By this point, it was 8:30 PM and fatigue had set in. A culinary soldier should never go into battle with dwindling provisions or dipping energy, but this is how I set off to remove the pie from the oven. I placed claw-like oven mitts on my hands and walked towards my enemy. (I also realize now that these were not the right oven mitts for this particular task. My mom had other mitts, but my impulsive self grabbed the first ones I could find because of that exhilarating rush one feels when the timer sounds. I must hurry!)
I’m sure you can already imagine what happened next. I opened the oven, pinched the edges of the tin with my useless oven mitts, took one step back, rotated my body towards the counter behind me, and then it was all over. The tin caved in and the pie fell through my crab-like-claws. A slow-motion descent. A squishy contact with the floor. All of our Thanksgiving hopes and dreams splattered across the kitchen.
My mom, twin sisters, Brooke and Bailey, and I started laughing immediately. Bailey quickly opened Snapchat to document the loss. I initiated “project rescue,” scooping the pie that wasn’t in direct contact with the floor into an empty pie pan. “How clean is your floor?” I asked my mom. “Not clean enough,” she responded.
Despite motherly warning, Brooke, Bailey, and I ate handful after handful of floor-pie, ala Rachel and Chandler with the cheesecake in the hallway. Warm pumpkin goo filled our mouths as we giggled frenetically about what had just happened. That crazy-hyper-hilarious-tired that is only felt after family fights and late pie nights. My mom, tired with her children, went upstairs to bed. Brooke, Bailey, and I hung out in the kitchen a little longer, huddled around the pie carcass with sticky hands and full bellies.
“I dropped it on purpose,” I whispered to the twins.
“Yeah, right,” Bailey quickly retorted.
“Sure you did,” said Brooke with an eye roll.
“I did!” I insisted with a smile. “You know, to ease the tension of the night.”
Needless to say, the twins didn’t believe me. Maybe I didn’t drop the pie on purpose, but it surely helped to deflate building stress from the evening and from the looming Day 5 embryo results we would be receiving the next day.
So why did I choose to share the pumpkin pie story to start my Day 5/6 embryo update post? Maybe I shared the story to absorb myself in the creative art of story-telling for just an hour. To take my mind off of all things embryos and fertility. Or maybe I shared the story because it felt like it was an appropriate metaphor for this IVF experience. One moment, we think everything is going to end poorly, but then we get good results. Pie successfully inserted into oven. Anxiety’s grip temporarily lets go of our hearts and we’re filled with a sense of calm. The next minute, when we think we have emerged from the worst of it, disaster strikes. PIE DOWN. Batter splatter for days. Failure.
Is the process our ally or enemy? Can we trust that everything will turn out fine? Will there be pie on the table or just in the trash can? We can choose to be the victim and get angry at Whole Food’s inept pie tin design, or we can let go and choose to be grateful that we even had a Whole Food’s pie crust at all. The fallen pie metaphor perfectly leads me into our Day 5/6 embryo update.
As you remember, my doc retrieved 7 mature eggs last Saturday (Day 1). On Sunday, we learned that all 7 fertilized. On Tuesday (Day 3), we learned that all 7 were still growing but 4 were growing at an A+ rate. On Thanksgiving day, after excitedly waiting all morning for the results, after carrying my cell phone with me on a 3-mile walk with my mom just in case they called, after anxiously checking to make sure my ringer was still on, after postponing my shower so I didn’t miss the call due to the loud water stream and then deciding that I should just take a shower and trust I’d be able to hear the call, after taking off all my clothes and turning on the water, I RECEIVED THE CALL AT 11:30 AM!
A nice woman from the embryology lab told me that 2 embryos were perfect “blastocysts” and were ready to be biopsied and frozen that day at Day 5! (Great news! We should be giving each other a virtual high five right now! Or maybe even a hug? I’m definitely a hugger!) At this point during the first cycle back in September, there were ZERO embryos ready to be biopsied and frozen. All embryos last time still needed an extra day to “cook.” She then said that 3 more were still growing, and 2 of those 3 looked really good, in the “early-blastocyst” stage. These 2 were likely to make it to the blastocyst stage by Day 6. The third was a “compact morula” and was less like to mature to a blastocyst.
Day 5 Embryo Update Summary: 2 embryos made it to blastocysts and are now frozen and are awaiting genetic testing. 2 embryos will *hopefully* make it to blastocysts today and will be biopsied and sent out for genetic testing. 1 embryo is trying its best to keep up but will most likely not make it. Cory and I are elated! We are grateful for these 2 that made it to blasts.
Then yesterday (Day 6), the embryology lab didn’t call me until 3 PM (talk about nerve-racking all day). When I answered the phone, the woman got right to it, “None of the other embryos made it. The two that were early blastocysts yesterday did develop today, but their quality was so poor that we were unable to biopsy and free them.”
I felt stunned. I had been expecting good news. For some reason, I felt really hopeful all day. “Can you tell me more about their quality?” I asked.
“They were rated as CC. Are you familiar with how we grade embryos?”
“Yes, I am. I remember from last time.”
I remembered that they are graded on an A-B-C scale. The first letter is the grade for the inner cell mass (IM) quality. These are the cells that will turn into the baby. The second letter grade is for the Trophectoderm quality, the cells that will turn into the placenta. Embryos in the A or B category are viable. Embryos in the C category are not. So these additional two that were growing into Day 6 were graded as CC. Fail. She then told me that the embryos from Day 5 were graded as AB and BB. Much better.
Day 6 Embryo Update Summary: none of the other embryos made it. This means that we are left with the two embryos they froze on Day 5 (graded AB and BB). They’ll be sending the biopsies off for genetic testing on Monday. We should get the results back in 10-14 days form Monday (last time it only took 5 days).
As Alyssa Edwards from Netflix’s hilarious Dancing Queen once said, “Sometimes the juice is worth the squeeze.”
Hopefully IVF is worth the outcome. Maybe we’ll make it to the end with a baby in our arms. Maybe multiple unsuccessful attempts will lead us to adoption. Either way, we have to keep our hearts and minds open to whatever may come our way next.
All I know today is that the fallen pumpkin pie of 2018 was definitely worth the memory it created. And that floor pie tastes good.
Thank you for walking alongside us on our IVF journey! Peace and love and unicorn farts to all! (Unicorn farts have got to be good, right?)
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