Last year in April, I posted a timeline focusing on some highlights of our marriage, our moves and our journey to grow our family. A year and a half later, there is a lot to add to the timeline- including filling you in on our next big adventure!
If you aren’t familiar with our story or you need to get caught up- start with the original timeline here!
May 2016– We were making plans for our move to Los Angeles from the Bay Area. We still had 2 frozen embryos from our first IVF cycle in storage in Palo Alto and decided to do an FET (frozen embryo transfer) before we moved. We were back and forth between LA and the Bay for a few weeks- looking for a new home, packing our apartment, driving in for doctor’s appointments. We did a natural FET cycle that corresponded to my natural cycle and transferred our final 2 frozen day 3 embryos just a few days before we officially moved.
June 2016– Moving during your TWW makes time fly! By the time beta day rolled around we had officially relocated to Los Angeles. We were super excited to be on the brink of getting pregnant and moving closer to my family. The timing seemed perfect. Unfortunately, the pregnancy test was completely negative. Since we had used our final frozen embryos, we were completely back to square one. I immediately set out to find a new RE in the Los Angeles area and selected one primarily based on his success rates.
July 2016– We felt peaceful about another IVF attempt, and we got started with a new cycle with our LA doctor right away. Our new plan included acupuncture (loved) and an endometrial scratch (hated) for me. Andrew was also evaluated by a top reproductive urologist in the area, where we discovered that not only was our sperm showing signs of very low morphology, it was also showing high levels of DNA fragmentation. We were told this diagnosis corresponds to low likelihood of natural pregnancy and even diminished success rates with IVF. The urologist recommended a TESE procedure for Andrew in hopes of getting super fresh, non-fragmented sperm for our IVF cycle.
August 2016– It’s was my 29th birthday and I spent the day recovering from my second IVF retrieval and getting ready for our transfer. Overall, our second IVF cycle went very poorly. I didn’t have a good rapport with the office staff or my doctor. I was continually frustrated with my interactions with the office and extremely disappointed with the results I was getting from the new protocol I was on. Only 6 eggs were retrieved and of the 6 only 2 were mature. They fertilized the eggs with the sperm obtained from Andrew’s TESE (shout out to Andrew for doing that!) and both fertilized. We went ahead and did a 3 day transfer of both of them. (We literally put all of our eggs in one basket!) Unfortunately, our beta came back at 2 (considered a negative result) and never increased. So we were again back to square one.
I had no doubt in my mind that I would not be using the same RE again and began researching fertility specialists across the United States and even out of the country. In the course of my research I found Dr. Sher in Las Vegas. I read his article about diminished ovarian reserve and found it to be incredibly intriguing. In his article he spelled out why my last protocol hadn’t worked well for me and what he would do that would work better.
September 2016– We had a Skype consult with Dr. Sher. Even remotely, his “bedside manner” was incredible and I quickly built a sweet relationship with his patient concierge. He laid out a plan for us that included:
Immunology Testing and Treatment if necessary (everything came back negative)
Varicocle Evaluation and Embolization for Andrew (he didn’t think the TESE was as effective for this type of scenario)
Hormone Panel for Andrew (which led to Andrew taking several months of Clomid)
Vitamins/Antioxidants for Andrew
The Agonist-Antagonist Conversion Protocol for my Retrieval
Embryo Banking (We would do two back-to-back retrievals to get as many embryos as possible before doing a transfer)
The embryo banking was a new idea to us. We had been focussed on just establishing our first pregnancy, not thinking long-term about subsequent babies. However, Dr. Sher took the fact that my AMH is low very seriously. He pointed out that IVF retrievals may not be an option several years down the road for us and that if we want more children, now is the time to make those embryos. This was something we hadn’t thought much of before, but it felt like wise counsel to us.
We loved the plan and felt great about moving forward with him. We were hopeful to be able to start our first IVF with him in December.
October 2016– Lots of attempts to coordinate our care from afar. I researched, called, and sent records to multiple different LA specialists in an attempt to find a doctor who could do a varicocele embolization for Andrew. We finally ended up finding a very kind Interventional Radiologist at USC who was able to get us in for a consult. Unfortunately we would need three months recovery time for the sperm to get in the best shape possible before moving forward with IVF, so our December cycle plans were postponed.
November 2016– Varicocele Embolization! This is a truly fascinating procedure and we have the X-rays to prove it! Kudos to Andrew for undergoing his second invasive intervention of our family growing adventures.
December 2016– Wow, what a year! This was a recovery month for us. We got to enjoy the holidays and I started on the birth control pill as part of my new IVF protocol. It was disappointing to face another holiday without a growing family, especially since we had been looking forward to having a 2 month old by Christmas time. Yet, we remained hopeful for the year to come.
January 2017– I continued on my birth control, began my injectable medications, and started a brand new job at a medical-spa in Los Angeles part-time. A few weeks after that I was hired part-time at a community health clinic that specializes in early pregnancy testing, limited OB care, and STI testing. Maternal-Infant health has always been a strong passion of mine and this job played well into my background working in community health. Even though it would be difficult to be around pregnant clients, I knew I didn’t want my personal fertility challenges to chase me away from my passions anymore.
February 2017– Our first retrieval cycle with Dr. Sher! Coordinating as an out-of-state client added a little bit of a new dynamic to the cycle, but overall it was very smooth. I did my pre-cycle monitoring here in LA. From LA we traveled to Phoenix where we were both in the bridal party of his brother’s wedding. Then from Phoenix we traveled to Las Vegas where we spent the remainder of the cycle! Everything went great. We retrieved 8 eggs and 6 fertilized- our highest fertilization rate so far. At the end of the 5 day growing period we were left with 2 embryos that were sent for PGS testing. It was the first time I had lost fertilized embryos in the lab, which was difficult, but we were, of course, hopeful for our two.
March 2017– We got our PGS results! One of our embryos came back as “no results” which is neither good or bad- just a flaw in the delicate testing process. However, the second embryo came back NORMAL! Our first ever PGS normal embryo! I surprised Andrew with the results and even set up a mini-gender-reveal for him. It was an amazing victory for us and the “win” we needed to keep pressing on with the intensive IVF retrievals. By this time I was already on birth control to get ready for our next IVF cycle.
April 2017– Our second freeze-all embryo banking IVF retrieval cycle. Again, we started the cycle in LA but traveled to Las Vegas for monitoring and retrieval. (We’re able to stay with my parents during the cycle in Vegas, which is such an incredible blessing!) Our numbers this cycle were similar to last time with 6 fertilized embryos and 2 that made it to freeze.
May 2017– After this retrieval, we weren’t sure about our next steps. Would we go ahead and do a transfer after the second retrieval like we had planned or would we commit to another retrieval cycle in order to bank more embryos for the future? I truly didn’t have a direction either way and the weight of such a big decision was looming over me. The wait for our results was made easier as I attended the Choose Joy Conference in Orange County. You wouldn’t think an infertility conference could be so fun- but it turned out to be a significant source of encouragement and new friendships for me!
We finally got our PGS results and it was a “good news- bad news” situation. One of our frosties was normal, but one was not. After two grueling retrieval cycles we had two viable embryos to show for it. We are so grateful for those two, but we had been hopeful for more. Once we got the results, the lights turned on for me as far as our next steps. We needed to go for another retrieval.
This was a heavy decision. IVF retrievals are truly taxing- mentally, physically, financially, emotionally. It’s not an easy thing by any means, but we knew this was the right next step for us. Within days I had my new protocol calendar, my specialty meds ordered, and was ready to go for round 5 of IVF.
June 2017– Our third banking cycle and 5th overall IVF retrieval was underway. When we showed up in Vegas for monitoring we were met with amazing news- I had FIFTEEN follicles developing! This was WAY more than I’ve ever had before and we were over-the-moon excited. This felt like such an answer to prayer and I was so hopeful that this would be our last ever retrieval cycle.
Retrieval day came and they retrieved 15 eggs and 12 of them fertilized. Twelve! We were so excited. Five days later I got an email at work containing our final number that made it to freeze. Two. Oh it was heartbreaking. To have retrieved so many, to have such high hopes, and to end up with the exact same number as before. It felt like such a punch in the gut- we were grateful but still grieving.
July 2017– It was Andrew’s birthday and we were celebrating with his family when I got the call with my PGS results. We were proving to be very consistent- of our 2 frosties, 1 was normal and 1 was abnormal. I hated getting good news and bad news at the same time and I was bewildered as to why we weren’t yielding a better return on all our hard work. I wanted to be done with IVF, but we didn’t feel a peace about stopping.
After each cycle we would pray about moving forward with another. There were so many times I wanted it all to be over, but after each cycle we felt a prompting to move forward with one more. So that’s what we did and we started to prepare for our 6th retrieval in August.
August 2017– My 30th birthday and our 6th IVF cycle. Dr. Sher mixed up my protocol a bit which added some extra injections into the mix. We took a trip to Vancouver to celebrate my birthday and traveled with all my medications- it felt good not to let IVF hold me back from living life and celebrating this new decade!
While we were in the waiting room for one of our appointments Andrew got an email from a recruiter in San Diego. I thought it was nice that someone had reached out to him, but didn’t feel like San Diego was a great option for us right now. We had been looking at houses in Nevada and I had my heart set on a gorgeous new-build. Andrew decided to take the meeting just out of curiosity and it actually went really well, but we didn’t know if it would move forward or not.
The 6th cycle went smoothly and we retrieved 11 eggs, 9 of them fertilized and 2 made it to freeze. (I was starting to think they were just copying and pasting the emails to us- we had been so consistent with our freeze numbers.)
At the end of the month we took a trip to Barcelona. Andrew needed to go for work and I decided to tag along. It was our first big overseas trip since starting infertility treatments and I’m so glad we got to take a little adventure together!
September 2017– BEST NEWS EVER! Our PGS results came back- and BOTH EMBRYOS ARE NORMAL! The office staff was so excited for me- they called me as group! I cried the happiest tears at my desk at work. We now have FIVE normal embryos and our mystery no-results embryo for a total of 6 embabies! And we’re going to bring them all home!
I’m now completely at peace with moving forward with a transfer and feeling confident that my days of retrievals are finally behind me.
Andrew was still in communication with the recruiter. I was open to the idea of another move, but it’s a slow moving process and I wasn’t anticipating anything to come of that in the near future.
As I began to prep for my FET, I realized how heavily the stresses of life were weighing on me. We decided it would be best to take a leave of absence from my medical-spa position, but continue to work at the community clinic a few days a week. The goal was to focus on my physical, mental, and spiritual health as I prepare to bring home our first two little embabies.
October 2017– I got a text from Andrew that the recruiter wanted to set up a call for that evening. Surprise! It’s an offer for the position in San Diego- a really good one that Andrew accepts on the spot.
My focus shifted from FET to the fact that we were about to uproot our lives and move again. Our 6th move before our 6th anniversary at the end of December. I put in notice at the community clinic, which was really sad because I love working there, and began to tell our friends and family that another change was on the horizon for us.
I was already planning on October being a big month for us- not only do we have the FET cycle, but I also attended the Moms in the Making Conference in Dallas, Texas. The conference could not have come at a better time for me. The theme was Hope Renewed and that is exactly what I experienced during my time in Dallas. I walked away from the conference with fresh faith and excitement for the season to come.
So the current plan is this– Today is my last day at my job at the community health clinic and we are driving to Las Vegas later this afternoon! Tomorrow is our monitoring appointment for FET and we are planning on our TRANSFER on November 1st!!!! We’ll then head down to San Diego where Andrew starts his new job on November 6th. We don’t have a place to live there yet, so we’ll be staying in a hotel during the week and commuting back on the weekends until we find a place to settle down. We are 100% in adventure mode!
It would be easy for me to feel fearful right now or to focus on the past trauma of failed cycles that came alongside moves in the past- but that is not where my heart is. I am grateful to be surrounded by so much FAITH and EXPECTATION that this season is leading to good things and answered prayers.
I believe that God is working on my behalf, that He is doing a New Thing in this season, and that His plan is to give me the future I hope for.
I can’t explain the pain of the past. I can’t explain why this journey has taken as long as it has or has hurt as much as it did. I can’t explain the losses, the heartaches, the disappointments. What I can say is that in it all- God is good, He is on my side, and He isn’t going to let me down. My hopes are high and I am truly excited to see what new things my next timeline brings.
Behold, I am doing something new! Look and see, how I have already began! I will make a way in the wilderness and create rivers in dry land!”