The blog has been barren as I have been preoccupied with laboratory busines since our egg retrieval in Denver last month. For those of you who are interested in our trials and tribulations on the IVF front, I thought I would set out the nitty gritty details of where we are at now and where we are heading.
I had been prepping for the "fresh" retrieval in December with drugs for 2 months, and with antioxidant supplements 3 months before that. At my baseline ultrasound, they found an abysmal antral follicle count of 2. The AFC is your body's supply of eggs for the next 60 days, and represents the potential number of eggs for harvest in an IVF cycle. An AFC of 2 correlates to a live birth rate of pretty much zero. On the old go/no go gauge, an AFC of 2 registers a no go, no question. But we went ahead, AMA, mind you, as we wanted to know that we tried everything possible before moving on, and because we are people of faith.
I think a lifetime of being a Razorback fan has Shane comfortable with being on the wrong side of the odds. For me, it is harder. I am an inveterate gambler, and have been playing cards for money since I was 7 years old. I don't draw to an inside straight, ever. So I found it very challenging to try and get through another round of IVF drugs and tests and rigamarole when we have known from the outset that the odds are lonnnnng against us. Dr. Schoolcraft gave us a 10% chance of success which is not too bad until you flip the script and call it a 90% chance of failure. And the cost. Oh the cost. It would be totally crass for me to talk about the cost, when I should really just be grateful that we have this opportunity, but gosh it's hard not to worry about the cost. Dr. Schoolcraft is the best around, and he takes the hopeless cases like me, but ay caramba, the cost. I know you want to know, but are too polite to ask, and I'm too polite to say, so let's just leave it at, it rhymes with flirty mousand collars. Flirty mousand collars. Heaven help me.
When we got to Denver, things took a surprising turn. From a possible supply of 2 antral follicles, I had somehow managed to develop 7 follicles. This is kind of... inexplicable. I tried to keep my hopes in check as follicles can sometimes be empty. I had my egg retrieval under general anasthetic on 12-11-10. Unfortunately were unable to retrieve the eggs in my right ovary as it is too garbled up with scar tissue from my myomectomy last year, but they were able to get 4 mature eggs from my left ovary. From a possible supply of 2 antral follicles. I don't know what happened there, but I am grateful for it. Our embryologist called us the next morning to let us know that 3 of the 4 eggs fertilized, and would be grown for 3 days in the lab. Those were an agonizing 3 days to wait for news to hear if each embryo would grow or arrest. When we finally got the phone call we got our report card: all three embies had managed to grow - 2 to 8 cells and one to 10 cells. They were all frozen on Day 3 to await their biggest hurdle. We had agreed to be part of a study where frozen embryos are screened to figure out which ones are too chromosomally damaged to make it to live birth. This allows you to avoid implanting embryos that will miscarry down the road, which saves a lot of heartache, as well as time. Our doctor has found tremendous success with this process for women over 38. At this "advanced" age, 75% to 90% of the women's eggs are too damaged to make it to live birth. With only 3 embryos in the mix, again the odds were again long against us, and we expected that all three of our embryos would be found to be abnormal. The screening process takes 4 to 6 weeks, another agonizing wait.
But getting ready for Christmas, and then an impromptu trip to Mexico made the time fly by. On our way home from Mexico, we changed planes in Houston. Shane had just boarded the plane to Little Rock to install Declan's carseat while I was on the jetway gatechecking the stroller when I unexpectedly got the call from the lab with our results. One of our embryos is normal. Against the odds again. I immediately burst into tears- heaving sobs actually- because I was just so relieved, and happily surprised. I don't think I realized how anxious I was about the results until I got that call. Well there's nothing quite like someone boarding a plane in the middle of a crying fit to get everyone's attention- I just couldn't manage to compose myself coming down the aisle of that plane, and I had the flight crew crowding me trying to ascertain what the problem was. Shane was completely flummoxed as we had only been apart for about 45 seconds. He couldn't imagine what could possibly have happened on that jetway, and I was crying so hard I couldn't explain. I finally was able to choke out the words that one of our embryos tested as normal, and it was a moment of true joy for us. I don't think I've ever had one of those flying economy before. I was actually worried that I was going to be thrown off the flight, but I managed to assure the crew that I was okay and ready to fly. I sniffled all the way home.
Back in the cold light of day, we had a telephone regroup with Dr. Schoolcraft, who told us that with one normal 3 day embryo, we were now up to a 20% chance of getting pregnant. Now we are getting somewhere. So what do you do when you're up and playing with house money? You press your bet. So we are going ahead and trying to do another fresh cycle, to try and get one more normal embryo, and get up to a 40% chance. We are letting it ride: back to Denver in February we go.