By: John Jericiau
I’ve been holding my breath for the past few weeks now, and it’s going to be at least a few more weeks before that changes. Every time my iPhone rings and the caller ID announces that our IVF physician is on the line, my heart stops. While I’m listening to the updates by the nurse or doctor, I start breaking into a cold sweat, and I always need to stop what I’m doing, sit down, and try to relax as I focus on the rest of the conversation. Basically if you’ve ever run a marathon or engaged in passionate lovemaking, you know how I feel. You know that if you can just make it through the process, the end will be incredible and awesome, but until then it’s a strange mix of agony and ecstasy, of pleasure and pain, of hurry up and wait.
I can barely take it. I’m so excited yet so worried. I’m optimistically pessimistic. And I’m living a contradictory existence. While I’m explaining to friends and family that I really just want one more baby, and preferably a girl, secretly I dream about how cool it would be to have triplets. While I’m dragging at the end of a normal day in our life with the boys and their preschool and then karate and then play dates at the park and then their meals and then their bath and then their books, I find enough energy to plan in my head where the crib should go and which stroller we should keep when our family finally expands. As I’m at the YMCA watching the boys enjoy their swim lessons, I’m already thinking about how it won’t be that difficult having a newborn in my arms as I watch them. And I can totally get in my three weekly hour-long run workouts with the little one(s) in the baby jogger (I did it with our two boys), and since the boys are now on big boy bikes they could even join us for part of it. It’s going to be great!
Our anonymous egg donor seems to have made it to this point with flying colors. Twenty-four adequately sized follicles showed up on the ultrasound two days ago (all of the follicles were between 10 and 12 millimeters). The egg within a follicle is usually mature – and ready for harvest – when the follicle measures between 16 and 20 millimeters, so after tweaking her medication so that she doesn’t hyperstimulate (that’s not a good scenario in IVF), another ultrasound will be done tomorrow morning, and most likely the date of the egg retrieval will be revealed. A count of 24 follicles doesn’t necessarily mean we will have 24 eggs to fertilize with our (mixed) DNA, as some eggs may be immature (very possible) or may just not like our sperm (that seems unlikely, as we’ve had no complaints in the past). Since we are signed up for a maximum of three attempts (cycles), it would be nice to have three or four highly graded embryos to implant each time, but again just because you have a big egg and a healthy rambunctious sperm, it doesn’t mean that they will hook up and divide into a nice 6- or 8-cell embryo three or five days later. We have improved our odds somewhat with the addition of a procedure known as ICSI, which stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. In normal IVF, many sperm are placed together with an egg, in hopes that one of the sperm will enter and fertilize the egg. With ICSI, the embryologist takes a single sperm and injects it directly into an egg. The ICSI procedure fertilizes 50% to 80% of eggs. It’s not 100% since injecting a sperm into an egg does not guarantee fertilization will happen. Even if fertilization takes place, the embryo may stop growing before the transfer into our friend’s ready, willing, and able uterus. And even if the embryo keeps growing beautifully and survives the transfer, once inside the uterus it may do nothing more than be reabsorbed and disappear, never having attached to the uterus. And even if it attaches to the uterus as hoped, it may not make it to Day 7 (give or take) after embryo transfer, where implantation is complete and cells that will eventually become the placenta and fetus have begun to develop.
I know, I know. I’m getting way ahead of myself. I need to breathe and relax. Baby steps. I’m just going to think baby steps. And that reminds me. We have a beautiful pair of baby shoes that I cannot wait to slip on her feet. Or their feet.