IVF & Our Story - Part 2



I am thankful for our struggle
because without it
we wouldn't have stumbled
 across our strengths.

Unknown author



On the 19th of August 2015, 2 weeks before we went on our holidays to Spain we had our first appointment with the fertility clinic in Dublin.  In the days that lead up to the appointment we had become so excited, not so much nervous just sheer excitement. As if we were about to receive the keys to the kingdom of parenthood, this was it,  this was the fix to everything that had held us back since we started trying. The day arrived and we met with our fertility doctor, it was a long detailed chat and full analysis of our medical history. The meeting ended after about an hour, the doctor delivered a wave of information on fertility options available to us based on our tests, we were so bombarded with the level of information it became so overwhelming. In essence you are led all your life to think you have sex without protection, hay presto you better get the pram and nappies ready, of course that mostly certainly can be the case, but this was a whole new ball game, we needed assistance to get us up the hill. Numerous tests for Joanne and 2 for me, bloods and a sperm test, all organised in a matter of minutes before we left the clinic. We came out feeling like we had just been in the washing machine, and spun on full speed for an hour, there was so much digest and think over.

The first test was for Joanne to have a scan a week after our appointment, just so they could get an idea on what everything was like ovary wise etc, it would be the first of many. The thing to remember is the IVF process was not going to be quick there was a good bit of prep work that needed to be done.  My test was next up, I arrived at the clinic and ushered to a small waiting room surrounded by other lads. My nerves were sky high at this stage, everything runs through your mind, what happens if this whole not getting pregnant is my fault. I was probably waiting a good 20 minutes when one lad walked in, he had just been released from a nearby hospital for the morning to come up and give a sample of sperm because his mot(Dublin slang for girlfriend) wanted a baby, his words not mine because he told everyone in the room his life story. Not to mention when he arrived in the room he exclaimed "Alrighhh lads we all here for a ****". I tell you though he lightened the mood of 6 other nervous guys that morning in the most funniest of ways. I gave my sample, it would be a week later before we got the results.

Four or five days before we go on holiday, I get a phone call from our fertility doctor about my results. It was not the best news you could want, my sperm count was low, 1.2 million in fact, with decent enough motility (motility is how fast the little guys swim toward the egg). The average count for men my age (31 at the time) was about 10 million. They couldn't tell me the morphology that day as my numbers were so low (her words, "so low" that was a killer). The morphology is basically the head on each sperm, they use this head to break through the egg. The doctor asked me a load more questions on the phone, she asked had I been sick recently as that may have contributed. I did have a dose of man flu earlier that month but Jesus I don't think that would have wiped out 9 million of my guys. The best thing the doc said was to reschedule another test for October. I got off the call and thought F@$K this is your fault, how the heck did this happen, my mind raced, was it because of my stroke, was it because I spend a good chunk of my life overweight or is it because I drank a good bit when I was younger. I called Joanne straight away, she as always was positive and supportive, she said "because you have a low count we still have plenty of options", more options than if I had no sperm at all.

The option we needed however was slightly dearer, we needed ICSI. Let me explain in lay mans terms the main fertility options you have,  IVF ( the most traditional form, they take sperm and place it beside the egg in a petri dish, and hope one of the sperm break through the egg, allowing it to fertilise before being transfer back to the woman) IUI ( they take sperm and inject it in to the woman around ovulation day and try to get it as close as possible to the egg for fertilisation). ICSI then is they take a sperm sample, select one solitary sperm and inject it straight in to the egg which will hopefully fertilise. We had plenty of chats and thinking to do, the next step was for when we came back from holidays for Joanne was to have her next test, I think it was called a HSG.

Our holidays had arrived, it was the worst holiday I have ever been on. The entire time I was there I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, I could not shift the thought that this infertility was possibly down to me and something I might have done. I kept reprocessing it over and over, the stress just got to me like never before, and I may sound like a drama queen I probably do, but as a man to get these results it knocks you clean out. I would tell Joanne snippets of how I felt but it was so hard to verbalise, I kept bottling it up. Joanne being the happy person she is, Christ I don't think I could have ever met someone as nice as her, she tried her best to make the best of the holiday. The week after we came back from holidays Joanne had her first big test, the HSG. Joanne's big test arrived.. however the moment she got up on to the bed they actually had to cancel, I can't fully remember why but I think it was because of a miscalculation in her cycle timing wise. These little setbacks were just part of the course, we realised we just had to get through them and persevere.

We were now in to October, I had been having some weird stomach issue thing going on so because of that I had to wait a few weeks to retake my sperm test, I rescheduled for November, same with Joanne her HSG was going to be mid November. 3 months in to this journey and it was playing out the same way as the past few months trying naturally, we needed to be patient because the reward would be amazing, although anyone that knows me personally will tell you I am the most inpatient person in the world. In October we may not have got any further with the medical side of things however we did have some other ground work to do, the financial side of IVF loomed. We had a little bit of money left over from our wedding I think, but no where near enough for this whole process. We had to get a loan, this would give us the money needed for this round of IVF and enough to cover us for another round  if we needed it. IVF is crazy dear I will detail the full costs in my final part of this story.



Spain 2015


November arrived, I did my retest, it was marginally better, 1.2->1.8 million but still low, by now I was resigned to the fact we needed ICSI, there was not much more I can do, this was even after taking male fertility vitamins since my first test, and getting my diet right. Joanne had her HSG, everything seemed to be ok but one doctor wanted to review her scans and tests which took another few weeks. They had found a fibroid(a little cyst in the wall of the upper uterus), but had decided it would be of no consequence to her fertility or ability to have a baby. We were now coming in to December, we finally had our next steps meeting with our fertility doctor. She was very positive and hopeful that ICSI would be great for us, naturally we were bought in to this as we knew it was our only option left. The doctor did the calculations about cycle timeframes and we received our plan for our first IVF treatment, it would all kick off in January 2016. Finally we were on the first rung of the ladder, after the appointment we got Joanne's lengthy prescription for all the IVF drugs. I must say this, the HSE are often criticised with good reason of course but without the Drug Payment Scheme we would have been screwed. We went to our local chemist, and he was a gent, he sourced all the drugs that were needed as they can be hard to get. They call IVF drugs "High Tech" and without the Drug Payment Scheme of €144 for a month the medication would have cost thousands. When we came back from the chemist, we had one massive bag of drugs, it was incredible, all of these had to go in to my wife, the excitement for me at least was tinged with so much fear. It felt like I got to sit back and chill out while she polluted her body with these drugs and hormones, it felt so wrong to me.

January started with Joanne doing something called "Down Regulation", this is basically turning off her ovaries until she takes the next drug, explained below. For like 20 days I think ( I might get timings wrong so I apologise ) she took a special nasal inhaler to turn off her reproductive system, this is all for the fertility clinic to be able to control her egg production. Then came the Gonal F (follitropin alfa, which is synthetic version of a natural sex hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). It is used in the treatment of infertility.) drugs, these are for kicking the ovaries right back in to action again but on full power, the goal here is to produce loads of eggs.

Before we started the injections I made sure to get Joanne a small present to mark something as momentous as this, I genuinely didn't know what else I could do. The injections came in the form of a pen, it was like an epi pen, like diabetic patients use. I knew I had to help in some way, every night I helped Joanne by prepping the dose and she would  then inject it. As the guy, you have no part to play anymore bar another sperm sample, but there is so much more you can do, even if it is your partner going through all the hard work of taking the drugs. I made sure at every step I was there supporting Joanne, helping her with medication, going to scans and making sure we kept positive. We were a team through this whole thing, I also injected the pen a few times into to her belly, but that stopped when it pinched one night and I was moved back to prepping duties. The thing is however at this point from my own point of view even though I had to remain positive and happy, this was such a gut wrenching part of the process. It was very difficult watching my wife stick this needle in to herself filled with drugs night after night. The effects of these drugs also bothered me, maybe not in the interim but in the future, you just don't know what effect they have on someone, heck these drugs are often used by doping athletes, it was a complete unknown. At this point all I could think was I really want a baby but more over I want my wife for the rest of my life first and fore most.         



Gonal F Pen

As the end of the Gonal F drug cycle drew to a close, Joanne was having scans every few days. These scans were in order to see how big the eggs were growing and how many there were. It was fascinating every time we went in to see their progress. Then came the big day, egg collection, this is when they literally suck the eggs out of Joanne and see what they have to play with. You want good mature eggs here, ones that will fertilise.  Our nerves were on another level and not the Dane Bower kind. At this stage we had talked about how many eggs we would love to get, we were hoping for maybe 6-8 good eggs based on the scans Joanne had been having. If you didn't know a woman produces only 1 egg a month, but Gonal F cranks that right up and the woman produces far more eggs.  

We arrived at the clinic and were brought in to the day ward, almost immediately I was carted off for my new sperm sample and then brought back in to Joanne. The embryologist came in to meet us, she was lovely and completely put Joanne at ease. Soon after Joanne was rolled off in her blue gown for the collection. All I had to do was sit and think, it was torture waiting for her to come back. Trying for babies had come to this, Joanne going in to a medical theatre, knocked out and having eggs collected, it was an absolute mind f*&k , this however was only a microcosm of what was to come. She was wheeled back in 40 mins later, off her head on anesthetic, all we could do was laugh our heads off, it lightened the whole occasion. The nurses brought some breakfast in for Joanne, and soon after we headed home when Joanne was back in the land of the living. Joanne had to rest for the remainder of the day, so that meant chilling at home, we got Dominos pizza and chocolate, we comfort ate like there was no tomorrow. 

That afternoon we got a phone call from the clinic, they had collected 7 mature eggs and tomorrow they would call again to tell us how many fertilised. This next part is called the 5 day wait, the clinic will call you after day 1,2,3 and 5. Day 1 arrived, WE HAD 6 FERTILISED EMBRYOS, THE ICSI worked!!! blooming heck it was like being on a rollercoaster, what an insane high! Day 2 arrived our 6 had now become 5, feck it we still have 5 !! Day 3 arrived, this day is considered a key point, because if you have very few embryos left and of lower quality, they transfer them on this day. Our numbers were dwindling however, we had 4 embryos left but they were progressing so we would now wait till Day 5. The clinic does not call on Day 4, this day they do not do any analysis, they like to leave the embryos alone undisturbed. Day 5 arrived, we had 3 embryos left, 1 really good one and two slower guys. With this news Joanne was hauled back in, they were going to transfer the strongest embryo, basically put back in to Joanne. Wow if the nerves were high on collection day, I can safely say we were now shitting ourselves completely. This time I got to go in with Joanne to the medical theatre, I saw the little embryo go back in, what an immense feeling, this could be the moment I am witnessing the start of our baby's life. The transfer was a much shorter procedure, we were in and out in an hour. The little guy was in the oven! We were both so happy and positive about this whole process. Unfortunately the day after transfer we got a call from the clinic saying our other two embryos were not viable. It was now all or nothing, what awaited us is something called TWW - the two week wait. In this time you basically wait for the embryo to implant in the womb, after 14 days the woman does a blood test, and its either you are pregnant or not. 


This is a picture of our one little embryo that we put back in. We called him Arnold, because like Arnold Schwarzenegger were hoping the little guy would be strong.


We got on with our lives for those two weeks, we tried everything to take our minds off of all baby related thoughts and not to think about the big day of the blood test. We tried to decompress as much as possible, we even did jigsaws anything to detach from the reality. The day came, we resisted doing any home pregnancy test kits, it was in to the clinic for the blood test and back home for the day to wait for the results to come through. The time went so slowly, it was as if everything had slowed right down waiting for this. The call came, we put the nurse on speaker....all we heard was "Guys I am so sorry ....". We weren't pregnant, it had not worked. It was heartbreaking for us both, we had gone through trying on our own, we had done 6 months of trying with IVF and we were back at the start again. I felt absolutely numb from it all, what more had we got to do it here to make this work, I felt sick for Joanne and all I could do was console her as best I can. It was a tough few weeks trying to plough through it all, we were in limbo awaiting our review consultation with our fertility specialist for follow up.

It was the 16th of March, we had our follow up review. We had a million questions, especially myself, I wanted to ask everything as to why it didn't work. I felt like I cross examined our doctor with every question, but we needed to know if we were going to do this again what were our chances of some sort of success. It was a fraught sort of meeting, ultimately they had no answers, no further tests they could do, nothing more than try again lads and we will hope for the best. Unfortunately the money element raised its head, we simply couldn't try again and hope for the best, we only had enough money for one more go. So we had to know if we tried again we were going to do absolutely everything to have a baby. Unfortunately we couldn't get these assurances from our clinic and decided to end our relationship with them. At this point we left our clinic with the classification of no determined reason as to why we didn't get pregnant they could not tell us. Joanne had eggs, I had sperm we tried the best method of IVF but it still didn't work. Leaving the clinic we had no malice toward them, they did their jobs really well, and tried their best but ultimately they couldn't give us a definite diagnosis. We both decided it might be best to take a break for a few months and reassess after our summer holidays to Alicante in May.

I didn't take a break, I made it my mission to read up and learn as much as I possibly could about fertility. I mean there had to be some sort of fix. As part of my research I stumbled on a clinic by the name of IVFSpain, who happened to be based out of Alicante, 25 mins from where we holiday. I called them.........

To be continued.

Will.



Comments

  1. You are an inspiration. You come across so devoted to Joanne & seem to be genuinely nice people. From the bottom of my heart I really hope this all works out for you. You both deserve this and more. I'm hooked now so hurry up with part 3 because you have left me in suspense now!!!!

    #yougotthis

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks alot again this week for posting Hayley, I guess who knows what the future holds you know.

      Delete
  2. Willem and Joanne you are both amazing and so brave letting everyone in on your journey. You are a great couple an amazing Aunt and Uncle, hopefully one day you will be amazing parents to one lucky child. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah thanks Caroline!! Thanks very much for reading, I am so glad to have Luke in my life he is a legend!!

      Delete
  3. Both part one & two is so honest and extremely heartfelt, your both very brave, it's a difficult journey & I really wish you both the very best, I hope the future brings great things for you both ☺ #staypositive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Martina for your kind message and thank you for reading

      Delete
  4. Thank you for sharing your story so far with us Will,both of your blog posts were so heartfelt and honest. I hope the future brings you and Joanne heaps of happiness,cannot wait to hear next weeks part Of The story. Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura! hopefully next week ties it all up nicely.

      Delete
  5. Wow, your story has brought back the years we spent trying to have a family. What we have to go through is unbelievable... If I had one more person tell me just to think positive... It doesn't get more positive than picking out names, two years buying baby clothes... yikes. I sure hope this works for you guys... Anyone who takes the time and emotional journey through IVF deserves a little bundle of joy... Good luck

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing, all you have is positivity and totally agree with you about the names. Its such a crazy ol journey to be on isnt it

      Delete
  6. Hi Will. Thanks for posting this. I hope a brief version of Our story can help others and maybe you. I've searched the Internet a few times looking for stories from other guys like myself who've been on this rollacoaster.Myself and my other half started our journey a little over 4 years ago. As a couple it's the hardest time you will probably ever have.We like most other couples never imagined we would have trouble conceiving but after a year of trying said we would go have some investigations done. My sperm was OK but my partner had blocked fallopian tubes. So she had them flushed out and we tried again for a while, nothing happened. We were both 34 and from talking to doctors we knew the clock was ticking so after finding out one was blocked again she had it removed under our specialists recommendation. We then tried 3 courses TSI but had no succsess. Because of our age we went straight to IVF. We had 2 failed cycles and had a positive pregnancy test on the 3rd try. We were ecstatic. We were devastated 2 months later to find out our baby had no heart beat.
    After some time and grieving we decided we were going to try one last time and throw everything at it. Every minute of every day we were focused on our goal of having a baby. After a lot of research we done everything physically possible. We both went on a wheat,sugar,dairy and alcohol free diet for 6 months leading up to our last go. We done Chinese herbs,travelled to Wexford for Accupuncture twice a month(we live in dublin),my partner done ancient maya massage,she used Castor packs on her stomach,I used ice packs on testes every night as keeping semen cool is advised,we done green juices every day,she took Hemp protein,we used natural shower gels and deodrants,she done courses of Intralipids,she listened to zeta West fertility meditation cds every night. As i say We done everything we thought possible,some things might sound silly but what's the harm in trying when you want something so bad. We decided after hearing really good reports that lister clinic in London was going to be the place for our last go. The travelling over and organising was stressful and hard going but we now have an amazing little baby girl who was born in November just gone. I got so emotional today reading your story it brought it all back. But you know what I'd do it all again. Every second of hardship and pain is worth it. My advice to you Will and anyone going through this is be there for each other,look forward and never give up hope. We never thought it was going to happen for us but it did in the end.Again thanks for sharing your story and I look forward to hearing about the rest of your journey,I. Sincerely wish you all the luck in the world .

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for sharing. It's great to hear things from the man's perspective. infertility and IVF is such a horrible thing to go through. We just had our third IVF round fail last month. The doctor doesn't know why it didn't work. There are so many unknowns when it comes to fertility! Wishing you and Joanne all the best on your journey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for getting in touch and reading, just hope it helps other couples to hear.

      Delete

Post a Comment