IVF Bootcamp should be renamed to IVF Day Where You Hear The Same Things From Five Different People. After reading through the multiple packets they gave us on “what we’re going to make your ovaries do, then what we’re gonna do, and then you’re suddenly pregnant” I wondered what else could there be to this? Turns out: nothing really. IVF is…pretty basic? The infertile part of my brain is too far developed for me to even be able to remember what I thought IVF entailed before I discovered my uterus was pretty useless, but I know I always thought it was way more intense than it is. Don’t get me wrong, multiple injections on a daily basis and a fifteen minute nap where they use a mini vacuum to suck out your eggs is no small feat, but it’s not the big scary process that everyone makes it out to be (check back with me when I’m a week in and my ovaries are the size of oranges to see if I feel the same way). With the exception of the cost (yes I know it’s going-back-to-college expensive, without the added fun of jungle juice), IVF is pretty much just an amped up version of an IUI. Have you done IUI with injectables? You’re basically one step away from IVF – and you could be getting an extra bonus of someone fertilizing your eggs for you. It’s about damn time that someone else did the hard work around here! But first: “BOOTCAMP”. Most fertility clinics require a (half) day’s worth of IVF For Dummies, and our office is no exception. Within four hours we met with the following infertility experts:
- A financial consultant, who explained that everything is covered by insurance (yippee!) with the exception of PGS/PGD (which we aren’t doing anyway) and egg freezing ($500 a year is manageable when you think about the fact that they’re giving your embabies a nice frozen home – that’s cheaper than rent)!
- My RE, whose sole purpose for the day was to review everything that could go wrong while also saying how unlikely all of those outcomes were. To which I responded, “Well, I like to beat the odds, so let’s go back to the part where you tell me that my ovaries could explode and what the warning signs are.”
- My main nurse, who went over everything I cannot do (no working out, no alcohol, no sex – like the methotrexate drill all over again) and who provided an unhelpful calendar that stopped after Day 3 because they have no clue what exactly my protocol will look like until I start being monitored. She did say that the longest it should take, from day 1 of stims to beta, is 28 days which is more than bearable.
- Their pharmacist showed us what all the shots look like (the Follistim comes in a cool pen that my husband got to play with) and I felt free to zone out during much of the explanations because my husband has been promoted from cup masterbator to shot administrator, so it’s one less thing for me to worry about. (Side note: everyone seemed so shocked every time I said that my husband was going to be getting all the shots ready and doing my injections. How is this not normal? Men literally have one job, might as well put them to work! I even made him pick that shit up when my shots were delivered. Pic of the whole gang together below!)
- And then after hours of reviewing that this process (still) involves injections, antibiotics, an egg retrieval, ICSI, a transfer, and lots of waiting…Psychologist Angela came along and changed my damn life.
I wasn’t thrilled about having to meet with a psychologist before we were cleared for IVF. I figured she’d be able to smell the crazy on me and would send us off with a big red ‘denied’ stamp on our infertility folder: Too Anxious To Procreate. Neither of us were surprised when we walked through her door and were transported from fertility clinic to comforting oasis – complete with dim lighting, ocean sounds, and the cliche couch. I shot my husband a wtf-are-you-doing look when he sat a little too far away from me, because of course Angela was going to read the shit out of that decision. “Maybe you should wait to have babies until you love each other enough to sit together.”
As I’m waiting for her to hit us with the news that we failed her first test, she instead went ahead and read my mind when she started with, “Just so you know, I’m not here to determine who can have babies and who’s crazy, because I think we’re all a little crazy.” I leaned forward on the couch. Go on…And then she continued to provide me with some of the best insight and empathy that I’ve received in my entire infertile career. Some of her comments made me laugh, others brought tears to my eyes, and some completely changed that way I look at IVF and infertility. It’d be cruel of me to deny you Dr. Angela’s thoughts on infertility, so here’s ten takeaways that I think everyone should hear:
- We’re lied to about our fertility our whole lives. We’re told that there’s a 100% chance that we’ll get pregnant if we’re not safe when truthfully it’s only about a 25% chance. And even then we always hear the stories where someone wasn’t careful and they ended up getting pregnant; you don’t hear about all the nights that they were drunk and got away with it.
- Stress does nothing to affect our fertility. If that was the case, our species would die.
- Lots of couples try to find something they can do to control the situation because otherwise, you’re just looking at the fact that infertility is incredibly unfair.
- IVF side effects are no worse than your typical PMS symptoms. Most women have a stronger reaction to Clomid and Femara than they do to injectables.
- Usually during a typical ovulation cycle, there’s only one egg that beats out all the rest of the contenders. With IVF, we’re giving all of the follicles a chance to compete, so everyone gets participation trophies.
- Nothing is too small to cry over.
- Once your family is complete, if you have frozen embryos leftover and you choose to donate them, keep in mind that those embryo-children could end up finding you eventually (due to things like 23 & Me) and come knocking on your door one day, asking why you “didn’t pick them”.
- If there was anything that increased your odds by even 1% we would make you do it; I’d call you down to my office and force you to swallow aspirin or chew pineapple core in front of me. Fertility clinics all want the best odds, so trust that if we’re not telling you to try something – that’s because it’s not proven to work.
- A perfect embryo could implant on shiplap; if it’s the best of the bunch – it’ll stick.
- If the first transfer isn’t successful, and usually it takes 1-2 tries, that means we picked wrong. It has nothing to do with you, what you did or didn’t do. It’s that we selected the wrong embryo and that’s our fault.
Dr. Angela was a breath of fresh air after a day filled with medical-jargon and feeling like just another Infertile in the office. I wonder how many me’s have walked through her door with broken hearts and empty wombs and left thinking: maybe I can do this. Maybe none of this is my fault. I hope that I’m able to channel her humor and realism and her it’s-not-my-fault-ness as I continue through this process, and frankly…I hope they don’t fuck this up. Because, apparently, they’re to blame if embaby #1 doesn’t stick, and I think I’m okay with finally being able to point the finger at someone else.