After talking to a friend of mine today about this journey I’ve been on for three months now with IVF, she asked me “have you been keeping a journal on this? There’s no way I would remember all these details!” Everything is fresh in my mind right now, but I know it won’t be the further removed I am from this. So, today I am going to attempt to compile all my thoughts, feelings, and experiences with my IVF egg retrieval here on my blog.
This journey started for me the night of November 16, 2018 – the night I went to the tattoo parlor with my mom to get my second tattoo. She and I had talked about getting matching tattoos, so we picked a night and settled on our tattoo design. As we were waiting for the tattoo artist to draw up her (other) tattoo, my mom got a phone call. Little did I know how that phone call was going to change my life!
My mom came over to me and told me that one of our mutual friends had been considering IVF (In-vitro Fertilization) in order to conceive, but that her doctor told her that the chances of getting pregnant using her own eggs was slim. They strongly encouraged her to find an egg donor.
When this was originally brought up in the conversation between my mom and this friend, my mom says she felt led to say, “what about Jessa?” This friend kind of laughed it off, but after praying and feeling compelled to explore this further, she called my mom again the night we were at the tattoo parlor.
A day or so after getting our tattoos done, this friend called me and asked to talk to me about being her egg donor. In all honesty, this was an easy thing to say yes to! My husband and I are probably done having children, so if I’ve got the eggs to give, then why not?
We prayed about this a lot, and moved forward with paperwork and lab testing. I was tested to make sure that everything was compatible with the birth mama – and I passed! I filled out lots of FDA paperwork to make sure I wasn’t a risk for the egg retrieval procedure, and I passed! I went to counseling independently, and with the birth mama, and everything was lining up wonderfully. I had different labs done at almost every appointment, and everything was looking good. After the paperwork was out of the way, everything moved much faster.
By December, we knew that the egg retrieval process would be taking place mid-January. I had a couple ultrasounds done to check the quality of my ovaries, and fortunately I was still looking very fertile so everything was set to go!
I’ve learned so much from this process, and let me say that I feel for every woman that undergoes the IVF process in order to have children. This is a labor of love, to say the least. Before my egg retrieval procedure on January 23, 2019 I started my week of hormone and medication injections.
This was the part of the process that I was probably most nervous about. I kept myself from thinking about it until absolutely necessary because I HATE needles. I told myself I would be doing my own injections, but when it came down to the moment of injection, I chickened out the first time…and the second time. For a brief moment, I panicked and wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into.
The first injection I started taking was a pre-filled pen called Follistim. It’s used to stimulate the follicles inside the ovaries. It’s inside the follicles that the eggs grow. Even though the needle was somewhat small, I found myself in tears – handing the pen to my husband so that he could do it. “Do it the first time so that I know what it feels like,” I told him. I’m so thankful that he helped me along in this process!
My second injection (that same day) was a combination that I had to mix myself called Menopur. Menopur is an equal mixture of the naturally occurring follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone used to stimulate ovulation – so, in summary, this medicine helps healthy ovaries make eggs. I was already producing healthy eggs, but this medication helped my production go into overdrive. My husband was able to give me this second injection, and after that I continued to inject myself for a total of seven days, twice a day. That same night, I also started a tablet (pill) called Letrozole – which is used as an estrogen suppressant, which in turn causes the ovaries to make even more.
These injections could either be given in the fat of my stomach, or in my upper thigh. I chose my upper thigh for most of them, and fortunately I didn’t experience any side effects of taking them there. Eventually my left thigh started to bruise, but after each shot I would ice the spot for a minute and rub the medication in real good so that I wouldn’t feel a knot there.
Around maybe day four of injections, I was given another medication to start: Cetrotide. This was a timed injection that had to be taken promptly on time. For me, this time was at 9:15 AM for about three days, if I’m remembering correctly. This shot had to be given in the stomach. Cetrotide is used to prevent premature ovulation. The way the doctor explained it to me was that when a woman’s ovaries start producing mature eggs, they start sending signals to the brain saying, “hey, we’re ready to release these eggs down here!” And thus, either pregnancy or a period occurs. Cetrotide blocks that signal from the ovaries from making it to the brain. Therefore, it’s super important for that shot to be administered exactly on time, because even one minute late could cause the eggs to start releasing. Isn’t science amazing??
Unfortunately, this shot wasn’t comfortable. I found that the shot burned while injecting it, and itched a lot afterwards. The first couple times I also had a little red bump on the injection site. But, on the long list of possible side effects this was nothing!
I had regular check ups at our fertility clinic, and they checked me to make sure I wasn’t at risk of experiencing ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. I had two internal ultrasounds where the doctor was actually able to look inside my ovaries and count the number of follicles I had, and even measure them to see how mature they were getting. It was amazing! The doctor was very happy with my progress – at the time, we were noticing around 20 follicles, which meant roughly 20 eggs maturing.
The doctor did end up giving me a pill called Cabergaline to prevent hyper-stimulation. Funny name, but I’m super thankful they put me on this pill. Being a young, fertile woman already, these extra hormones naturally put me at risk of developing OHSS. I stayed on this pill even after my egg retrieval was done, just to make sure I was safe.
Three days after starting Cetrotide, I was instructed to stop all prior injections and prepare for my trigger shot…the dreaded trigger shot. I say this because the trigger shot is the biggest of all the shots. Whereas the others were all subcutaneous injections – being in the fat – the trigger shot, Preganyl, is intramuscular – right into the muscle. This was what I affectionately call my butt shot. I knew this one would be hard, so weeks before I contacted a nurse friend of mine and asked her if she wanted to get to know me on a much more personal level. Fortunately for me, she agreed to give me my butt shot (thank you so much, Julie! I couldn’t have done it without you!). Thanks to her, I barely even felt that shot. This injection was 10,000 units of medication as opposed to what I was used to getting: 150 units or so. The next day though, it felt like someone punched me in the butt. Again though, of all the possible side effects it wasn’t bad.
Receiving the trigger shot was a big deal because this meant that the egg retrieval would be the following two days. Preganyl is full of the human pregnancy hormone, which induces ovulation. This shot was getting my ovaries ready – getting all those follicles ready for the picking. At this point, I was getting physical uncomfortable! My ovaries were noticeably bigger, with my left one being slightly bigger than the right.
The night before my procedure, my mom and I went to a hotel closer to the clinic and started my wonderful bowel prep. Let me just say, in all honesty…this was the worst part of the whole process. I had to drink 14 caps of Mirolax and take 4 Ducolax pills in order to clear my bowels. This made it easier for the doctors to get to my ovaries, and would prevent any accidents from happening if they were to accidentally penetrate through my ovaries into my intestines (eek, right!?). Four hours after starting all of that, I still wasn’t moving (if you catch my drift). I started my cleanse at 5:30 PM, and by 9:30 PM I was throwing up. My stomach was visibly swollen with so much fluid that wasn’t moving that I think I just exploded. Fortunately, the medicine did was it was intended to do and everything was fine for the next morning. (I did, however, begin throwing up again around 4:30 AM. I reiterate…worst part.)
At 8:00 AM on the morning of January 23, 2019 my mom and I arrived at the clinic to prepare for the egg retrieval. My dad and our friend – the birth mama – met us there. This procedure would take less than an hour, and is considered out-patient. I would be going under anesthesia, so that did make me a little nervous, but I had been under before so I wasn’t super concerned. The procedure would consist of inserting an ultrasound probe with a syringe attached to it, up into my ovaries in order to retrieve all viable eggs. The needle would penetrate every follicle to retrieve the egg inside, and it would be kept at the clinic for observation. We estimated around 20 follicles. The doctors retrieved 41 eggs from me that day.
I awoke from anesthesia feeling a little uncomfortable, crampy really. My parents drove me home, and I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I slept through most of Thursday, getting up around 5 PM to start trying to move around. It is true what you read about the recovery: using the bathroom afterwards can be somewhat uncomfortable. My ovaries were aggravated from being poked and prodded, and it took some time for them to get back to normal. Leaning over, I felt them a lot. Heating pads and staying hydrated are important tips for healing (that and salty foods, they say).
By that Friday, I was up and assembling shelves for my kids’ closets (I wish I was joking…). The recovery wasn’t too bad at all! All that was left to do was to wait and see how the eggs were doing. After they had been fertilized, it was a waiting game to see how many healthy ones survived to day five, transfer day.
The day after my retrieval, 30 embryos were still mature – which was awesome!! The doctor told me that this might have been the highest recorded number of eggs taken at their clinic. Hopefully they will give me a wall plaque or something (totally kidding!). By the third day, 29 embryos were still mature. I was feeling really good about those numbers, because statistically they start to drop significantly.
And…drop they did by day four. 15 were healthy by day four, and the number settled at 11 embryos by day five. Still great numbers and good news for my friend! By day five, she was ready for her procedure.
While I had been giving myself injections, my friend was also giving herself injections to prepare her body for embryo implantation. Which shots exactly, I don’t know. By day five, she went to the clinic and was given two of the embryos from my egg retrieval. She was instructed to go home and rest, and WAIT.
Fast forward a couple of weeks…and she had blood drawn to see if her hcg level showed she was pregnant. I’m so excited to say that she IS! We would have to wait several more days to find out if both of those embryos stuck, or if only one did.
This past Monday, we found out…
SHE’S HAVING TWINS!
Guys, how crazy is this whole experience!? How awesome is it to be a part of this amazing journey?? I’m so excited, and flattered that my friend asked me to be a part of this with her, and I join others in praying for a healthy, full-term pregnancy for her and both her babies.
For any of you interested in more details about my story, feel free to leave me a comment or follow me on Instagram and send me a direct message. I saved my experience on my Instagram highlights under “Egg Donor” if you want to see my videos regarding this journey.
Thank you for reading, and join me in sending positive thoughts to this special mama!
** Per some questions after this post was published, I wanted to make sure to include that currently the leftover embryos are still being frozen until the birth mama knows what she wants to do with them. We’ve talked together and agreed that if she was finished with them, we would be glad to donate them to another family in need. The plan is to at least wait until her babies are born to decide that.