With the delivery of a large Styrofoam cooler stuffed with various tablets, pens, vials, and an endless supply of injection paraphernalia, I started my egg stimulation and retrieval cycle. As time consuming and uncomfortable as the medication regimen was, it was actually the ban of all bike rides, almond milk lattes, and cookie dough ice cream that was the kicker for me. After 15 caffeine-less days, the day had finally come to retrieve and fertilize. Beaming with kindness and unwaveringly positivity, Dr. Salem reported that a good number of follicles had been successfully retrieved. To celebrate the end of my stimulation-retrieval journey, I had Ed drive me straight from the surgery suite to Caribou Coffee for an extra-large java bliss!
Unfortunately, only 2 follicles were successfully fertilized and growing, and after 5 days of anxiously waiting, we got the dreaded phone call that neither embryo had made it to the biopsy stage. Little did I know, embryos need to grow enough hardy cells to survive a biopsy, and mine just sort of “fell apart”. Absolutely devastated, I came to the realization that I might not be able to have my own biological children.
During our follow up phone call with Dr. Salem though, I was reassured that there was still a very good chance of a successful retrieval and fertilization, and to not get discouraged. My fertility nurse Dana was also strongly optimistic, and her constant support (and always appreciated humor!) helped push me through a second round of stimulation and retrieval. And I was so thankful for all the encouragement, because this time we were blessed with a medium grade eukaryotic (chromosomally normal) male embryo!
Substantially improved from the success rate of roughly 25% just 10 years ago, my estimated success rate of a single eukaryotic embryo resulting in a live birth was greater than 50%. Still, this by no means guaranteed a baby to take home. As such, we decided to go for a third (and due to finances, final) round of stimulation and retrieval.
Knowing this was likely Ed and I’s last opportunity to create embryos together, I submerged myself in research on integrative medicine treatments for fertility and IVF, determined to do everything I could to help bring us success.
I started practicing gentle fertility yoga, daily meditation and prayer. I also added vitamin D, vitamin C, and CoQ 10 to my prenatal vitamin. I also had Ed start taking a multivitamin and vitamin D. Intrigued by some research on acupuncture and fertility, a friend of mine referred me to Dr. Brian Gosam. With a PhD in acupuncture, educated in China, and a focus on women’s health, I knew I was in good hands (literally!) and started weekly sessions of napping under a heat lap with needles strategically placed on my body. Although my fertility program felt like a part-time job, I truly believed I was making progress and I knew this round would be different. About three weeks after our final retrieval, Dr. Salem called with the most amazing news. Of the three embryos that made it to the biopsy stage, all three were top grade eukaryotic embryos! Dr. Salem admitted even he was wonderfully surprised by how successful this round was. I told him, in addition to faith and good fortune, it was the integrative medicine.