Struggling with Infertility: After 3 Rounds of IVF

The meds, the feelings, the aftermath…

I struggled for 2 months about writing this post. I didn’t want to and I didn’t think I was going to.

But I shared most of my journey with you, from the egg retrieval process to my first IVF transfer, to my feelings of mourning.

And I think it’s only fair to share the rest of my experience. If not for you, then for me. Writing is how I process my emotions, how I stay (mostly) sane, and how I share my life and my business with the world.

As all of my infertility posts have been so far, this is extremely personal. As anyone struggling with infertility knows, it is a very isolating and lonely process, scary, frustrating, and heartbreaking.

In the post about my first IVF transfer cycle, I shared that it didn’t work and how I felt.

Now, many months later, it’s time for the rest of my story.

First IVF Transfer

The first one happened in January and it didn’t work. We were so sad and I was also angry and emotional.

What made it even harder was that I had shared about undergoing IVF with basically everyone I knew. I was excited and nervous and I have an incredibly supportive network of friends and family who were excited for us and wanted to know about it. I am a chronic oversharer and was happy to tell them all about it and the meds, the process, the science, and how it all worked.

Then, of course, people followed up and I had the distinctly un-fun task of explaining to each one that it didn’t work. They all told me they were sorry and they loved us and it’ll work next time; all the things people say when you’ve experienced a loss — or in this case, a never-was.

Second IVF Transfer

We did the second IVF transfer right away, in the next cycle starting in February. This second one, like the first, was a boy embryo. Same meds, with progesterone shots every night at the exact same time, doctor’s visits for monitoring, and ending with a 10-minute transfer procedure in their OR suite in midtown Manhattan.

We discussed names and imagined all the fun things we could do with a son.

Then, it didn’t work again.

We didn’t tell anyone when or if we were doing a second cycle. I learned that lesson the hard way! But I was in the car driving to my brother’s house 4 hours away for my nephew’s birthday when I got the call that it didn’t work and I had to hide it and my feelings the entire weekend. How sad and broken and angry I was. At one point, I left the room suddenly and burst into tears in my room there. My sister (in-law, but dude, she is my sister and she’s amazing) came to check on me and found me sobbing into her son’s twin-size bed covered in Batman sheets.

I told her. And she just hugged me and loved me and told me she was there for me if I ever needed anything.

Third IVF Transfer

After the second failed attempt, my doctor wanted me to undergo some more testing, which they weren’t able to do, so they referred me to a doctor out on Long Island. They put me on a round of birth control pills to control my cycle until we were ready to go for round 3.

I had a minor surgery, a D&C, where I was knocked out for about 20 minutes while they scraped my uterus to test the tissue and lining. They were testing for uterine polyps (which I had once before, about 5 years ago) and endometritis (inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus, different from the more commonly known endometriosis, which is a disorder where the inner uterine tissue grows outside the uterus). I woke up in the recovery room and Husband got a video of me being loopy and talking about why waffles are amazing and better than pancakes (it’s the crevasses!).

The test results came almost 3 weeks later and showed some tiny pieces of polyps and nothing else, no inflammation, no reason IVF wasn’t working.

So, in May 2019, we went for round 3 of IVF with our final embryo, a girl this time. The doctor felt extremely positive that “this will be the one!” I laughed because my husband has wanted a girl and I joked that this would be the one that worked so he’d get what he wants.

While we waited the 10 days with Schrodinger’s baby, I tried really hard to be realistic and not get too excited, but it didn’t really work. We discussed names and fun nicknames and what it would be like having a girl. After all, I was a holy terror, what would my own daughter be like?

Then, the call came on 5/31/2019. The third transfer, our last embryo, didn’t take.

The Aftermath

We were both devastated. All the money (over $32k out of pocket!), the time, the medications and emotions and hormones, it all led to nothing.

I stopped all medications.

I felt like this was it. It’s over. I’m just not going to have a child with this man whom I love so much. He would be an amazing father.

With all the money spent, I’d originally agreed with Husband that if the 3 embryos didn’t work that we would be done and move on with our lives.

The doctor wanted us to come in on Monday to sit down and discuss “next steps.” I said no, because there are no next steps. It’s either do it all again or don’t.

Husband insisted we go and listen to her and he had questions, anyway.

We went and the doctor discussed doing more IVF, trying some IUI rounds, told us anecdotes of patients who took 6+ rounds for it to work.

By the end of the appointment, my husband seemed to want to keep trying. So, we probably will. I mean, I do still want a child. But for now, we are taking a break.

We have personal reasons why we are not planning to do adoption or surrogacy, which I am not going to get into here. We are blessed with amazing people in our lives, 2 of whom have separately done research and offered to be a surrogate for us. We’ve also done some general research into newborn adoption in our state. Right now, suffice it to say that we are not ready to more deeply explore those options.

And Now We’re on a Break

We are taking the summer off. I’ve been off all meds and hormones for right at 2 months now and only in the last 2–4 weeks have I actually really felt like myself again.

My body and mind and emotions had been held hostage for 8 months and being off the meds has come as a great relief.

Because of the process, the meds, and the doctor appointments, we have not traveled or gone on vacation at all this year, turning down family trips and not planning anything “just in case.” Now that we’re on a break from it all, we’re traveling to Alaska soon.

Over the months of being on all the meds, I gained about 20 pounds, rode a daily emotional rollercoaster, and became a hermit. I am starting to emerge from my life as a recluse and join the world again. See people, leave the house more, be less isolated. (Knowing that I work from home probably makes it easier to see how I could become a reclusive troll and isolate myself.)

It still hurts, but we are moving on.

We’re still figuring out what we’re going to do next and when. But we don’t have to decide right now.

On the one hand, I hated the way I felt, the constant tears and side effects and weight gain. On the other hand, we want a kid.

And we both know and agree that we can and will have a wonderful, fulfilling life with or without kids, so whatever comes next, we’ll be ready.

The biggest thing I have gotten out of this whole terrible and crazy experience so far has been the further strengthening of my relationship with my husband. We have always been a team, a unit, “us against the world.” But in this highly-charged emotional process, when I had erratic emotions, stress was high, and we could have easily gotten frustrated or drifted apart, my husband was supportive, sweet, gave me leeway, and did my shots every night. He is 100% my penguin and I can’t imagine enduring all of this with anyone else.

And that is exactly how it felt — like something to endure.

People just don’t talk enough about infertility and the struggle of dealing with treatments, testing, meds, IVF, and everything that goes with it. We need to talk about it. We have to, to make it less “taboo,” less scary for everyone else.

I didn’t want to write this, but I felt it was necessary.

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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