My IVF success story: the IVF process

My IVF success story: the IVF process

This blog post is very personal. It’s our IVF success story, and all about our infertility journey.

My goal in sharing our story is that it will provide hope for those struggling with infertility, and help them feel less alone. Infertility takes a huge toll on your mental health, physical health, relationship and finances. Frankly, it’s really really hard. 

I want to be sensitive in recognizing that everyone has their own journey to pregnancy and/or parenthood, and I realize just how lucky we are to be an IVF success story. I am in awe of the strength and courage that couples endure to make their dream of having a family come true.

If you’re experiencing infertility, I hope my IVF success story gives you hope, and insight of what the IVF process is like.

IVF success story

My IVF Success Story: The IVF Process

Not only did I never imagine that I’d be writing a post about our IVF success story. I never imagined that Mitch and I would struggle with infertility!

We ticked all the boxes for a healthy couple trying to conceive: We started trying for a baby at 30, and we live an active, healthy plant-based lifestyle. But infertility doesn’t discriminate. Sometimes you have no control over your fertility diagnosis – no matter how many yoga classes you take, or green smoothies you drink.

Our fertility journey started in September 2019. 18 months later we were finally pregnant. Our IVF success story. 

So, let’s start from the beginning…. to those initial months when we were #TryingtoConceive.

Trying to Conceive:

It was a surprise when I got my period a couple weeks after we started trying to conceive. As teens we’re told that you’ll get pregnant from blinking if not on birth control. But I thought, “No biggie. It’ll happen soon,” and the following month we tried again… then again… then again… 

Well, 6 months arrived – and I was not pregnant. By this point, my anxiety started to surface.

The process went like this:

  1. I would get my period (again), and feel depressed and disappointed.
  2. I’d hit the “hope zone,” and we’d try again this month.
  3. My ovulation window would pass and I’d undergo the two-week-wait. It was riddled with anxiety, but also possibility. I’d read into every sign that maybe I’m pregnant this time??
  4. I’d get my period! And the roller coaster of hope and disappointment would begin again. 

At this point, thoughts about getting pregnant consumed me. And I decided to get my fertility checked. 

Getting tested for infertility

Typically, the recommendation is to try for 1 year if you’re under 35, but thankfully my doctor booked an ultrasound and bloodwork right away. 

Unfortunately, Covid hit, which held my testing back. Part of me thought, “Well, I’ll probably be pregnant by the time the clinic opens up again,” Fast forward 2 months – I was not pregnant. Eventually, my appointments were scheduled and I followed up with my doctor for the results. 

“Everything looks good!” he said. But if everything looked good, why wasn’t I pregnant!? It had been 8 months of actively trying! (*steam coming out of ears*)

My doctor agreed to refer me to a specialist, because it can take many months to get an appointment. “By the time you get the call from the specialist, you’ll be pregnant,” my doctor reassured me.

Fortunately, one week later I received the call from our fertility clinic, Markham Fertility Center. Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – I wasn’t pregnant.

Our fertility specialist recommended that we come in for additional testing. She wanted to redo my bloodwork and ultrasound, as well as perform a hysterosonogram to evaluate my uterine lining and fallopian tubes. At this point, we also did a sperm analysis for Mitch. (Not sure why it’s so late in the process for men to be tested, as fertility is 50/50, but that’s a whole other can of worms). 

A glimpse of hope and tragedy

During this testing phase, my anxiety about getting pregnant was reaching an all-time high. We’d been trying for nearly 1 year and I was approaching my 31st birthday. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t pregnant yet. I thought I’d have a baby by now, or would at least be well into pregnancy.

But finally, we had a glimpse of hope….

In July, I was one week late on my period, which had never happened before (my periods were so regular). My husband and I felt really hopeful that our time had finally come! 

Then, something traumatic happened. My 1-month old nephew, Max, suddenly passed away and it shook our family to the core. Finding out about his passing was one of the saddest experiences of my life, and is still something I struggle to understand. 

Two days after the sad news,  I had a chemical pregnancy. I felt like my sadness had willed our pregnancy away. I’ll never know why it didn’t take.

Then, just a couple of weeks later we got our results back from our fertility clinic, and our diagnosis: we were “the 1-in-8.” Medically diagnosed as an infertile couple. 

IVF success story
Me and Mitch post egg-retrieval.

Infertility Diagnosis 

Now, I’m not going to get into the details of our personal medical results. Mitch and I decided to keep it private. (I hope you respect our decision). But, I will say that there was a definite reason for our infertility (it was not “unexplained infertility“), and our best course of action for getting pregnant – based on our diagnosis – was IVF.

That’s right. We had just been catapulted from “trying” to “trying IVF.” No cycle monitoring, no IUI, but full-blown IVF… WTF!?

What infertility feels like:

Explaining infertility is really difficult…

The way I describe hearing our diagnosis was like finding out that someone we deeply loved had passed away. The news hit us like a crashing wave. It knocked us off our feet, and we didn’t know which way was up. 

There was a numbness in the air, which lasted for many days. The sheer ability to do everyday tasks felt unbearable, and every morning was a challenge to get out of bed.

We were in mourning…. 

The idea of having a baby started to feel utterly impossible. And with the passing of my sweet nephew, Max, it felt like even when you could have a baby – you couldn’t really have one. I grieved heavily this summer and sought external support from a psychotherapist to help with the trauma.

I must be clear, that it was never the thought of doing IVF that caused me such mental anguish, but the idea that we might never have a baby, which was so difficult to overcome.

Having a baby once felt so guaranteed. We used to discuss a future of, “when we have kids….” but this now turned into IF… “if we have kids…” 

This is a sad question that haunts you when you’re infertile. A future that you thought was so certain, an identity (being a mother) that you thought would define your future becomes a big question mark. It’s the dreaded “what if” questions that are so hard to grapple with.

“What if IVF doesn’t work…” 

“What if I can never have a baby…”

The greif is misunderstood

One of the hardest parts of our infertility journey was feeling like the people closest to us didn’t understand the true grief that came with our diagnosis. Although the advice was well intentioned, it was often hurtful and unhelpful.

Comments like,

“just relax, it’ll happen!” or,

“I’m sure it’s stressful, but having kids is really stressful.” are really unhelpful to someone struggling with infertility.

  1. “Just relaxing” doesn’t magically fix infertility. (If I had a nickel for the number of times people thought our infertility was stress induced…) Also, infertility causes stress, not the other way around.
  2. We can’t know if “it will happen.” Unfortunately the fertility doctors can’t even guarantee it.
  3. Of course, having kids is really stressful – but it mitigates the stress that infertility causes, and deems it less important. Not to mention, I didn’t know if I’d ever actually experience having kids. So it felt really hurtful to hear. Overall, they each have their separate challenges and cannot be compared. 

Seeing the world through a pregnant lens

Infertility feels like you’re at a stand-still. It feels like the whole world is getting pregnant. You start seeing the world through a pregnant lens – a club in which you are an outsider. And while people are celebrating pregnant bellies everywhere, your belly feels lifeless and your body feels broken. 

It was helpful for me to turn to infertility support groups, and to speak to women who had experienced infertility first-hand. They truly understand the trauma of what you’re going through. 

One of the support groups I joined was by MyMindBodyBaby, they have helpful resources and a private Facebook group with other struggling women. In addition, it was really helpful to listen to infertility podcasts (I highly recommend Big Fat Negative).

Infertility accounts on Instagram like @Pregnantish or @thefertilitytribe were also helpful. I loved hearing the infertility and the IVF success story of others couples to give me hope.

ivf success story
Daily cycle monitoring at our clinic.

What is IVF? The IVF process, from start to finish

So, what’s IVF life?

For any of you undergoing IVF,  I hope you find my IVF success story reassuring! The IVF stories we often hear are traumatic (which are valid too, of course). But they can leave you fearing the journey you’re about to embark.

Of course, IVF is not a breeze! Don’t get me wrong.

However, my IVF cycle was the happiest I had been throughout our infertility journey as it felt like we were finally making progress.

Here is my experience, and how the next couple of months looked…

The onboarding

First, we had an “onboarding” process with our clinic. This took about one month, and really helped us know what to expect.

Cycle monitoring

From there, I started my IVF cycle on Day 1 of my period. I would go in daily for bloodwork and trans vaginal ultrasounds, which would determine that evening’s hormone treatment.

Each morning, they would check to see how many follicles I had created, how they were growing, and check my estrogen levels.  I would be told later that day which hormones to administer (in the form of needles), which I’d take in the evening, and I’d do it all over again the next day.

This lasted about 14 days when I had enough “mature eggs.” I then administered my ovulation needle for egg collection (a.k.a – the trigger needle). My retrieval was scheduled 36 hours later.

trigger shot day
One of many needles administered during our IVF cycle.

Managing all the feelings

Yes, I was bloated and uncomfortable. Yes, the needles were tough to take (especially on trigger day, when I had to take 5 in a row!).

But after such a long journey to get here, I was happy to see my body responding and changing as it should. It felt good to actually be DOING something instead of the constant waiting.

It’s not always easy to stay on the bright-side when you have infertility. But every day that my tummy grew bigger I would think, “I am growing my beautiful eggs that are going to become my children!”

I had many written words of affirmation during my IVF cycle, which I would read whenever my anxiety surfaced. This mentality really helped me move forward in a positive manner. 

trigger shot day
Me after just taking my “ovulation trigger needle.” In 36 hours we’d make our baby!

Egg Retrieval Day

Egg retrieval day was both nerve racking and exciting. I focused on the fact that this was baby making day!

I don’t remember much of the procedure (apart from my doctor recapping Emily in Paris, and the anesthesiologist telling me I was about to get very sleepy…)

My first memory is seeing Mitch in the recovery room, and wondering how they got my underwear, pants and shoes back on! I then proceeded to thank everyone who walked by – I’m pretty sure some didn’t even work there… 

Afterwards, we spent the day relaxing and watching happy TV. Our goal was to laugh a lot and focus on keeping a positive mindset for the results to come.

ivf retrieval day
Me post-egg retrieval.

Egg Retrieval Results:

I was hesitant to share our egg retrieval results, because the last thing I want is for women to compare. It’s easily done and it can be disheartening.

However, I think it’s worthwhile to share our results because our retrieval numbers were not “ideal,” and I hope it provides comfort to women who’s numbers come back sub-optimal.

Before starting our IVF cycle, our doctor’s goal was to retrieve 15 eggs. But I only had 9 eggs retrieved. I wasn’t too upset by this… I thought, 9 wasn’t that bad – we had 9 chances for the egg to become an embryo. A-okay with me. 

Our clinics protocol was to provide status updates of the fertilization on Day 1, 3 and 5, post egg-retrieval. (The goal is for the embryos to become blastocysts on Day 5).

On Day 1, we got our update:

Of the 9 eggs only 5 eggs were mature. And of the 5 eggs, only 3 of them fertilized, with a 4th one showing “potential” of fertilizing. 

This hit me hard.

I went from the goal of 15 eggs to 9 eggs (retrieved) to 5 eggs (mature) to 3 eggs (fertilized)… + 1 with “potential.”

My heart sunk with the news. We had learned to expect to lose 50% of the embryos at each check-point, so if you did the math: we’d be lucky to get one embryo, and likely could have none.

All the hope and positivity I had during my IVF cycle vanished, and I spent the next 2 days bawling my eyes out.

only 3 fertilized eggs, maybe 4
Finding out we only had 3 fertilized eggs. 1 day post egg-retrieval.

On Day 3, our embryologist called with positive news. All 3 fertilized eggs (embryos) had survived, and the fourth embryo (the one “with potential”) had also fertilized and was still showing “potential!” 

On Day 5, we learned that all 4 embryos had made it to blastocyst!!! It felt like a miracle!!!

Although it wouldn’t be guaranteed that the embryos were viable until we did genetic testing (typically you lose another 50% from these results), we were in a good place. Hopefully 1 or 2 embryos would be viable for transfer.

Genetic testing took 2 weeks, which revealed that all 4 of our embryos were viable! This meant we had 4 strong chances at having a baby. 

I share our results as a reminder that the initial numbers don’t always reflect the outcome. Often women report having upwards of 15 to 20 eggs retrieved, which can feel disheartening when your numbers don’t fall close. If we follow the stats then I should have had 0 embryos, but I ended up with 4.

Just like my IVF success story, you can get yours too. 

IVF Embryo Transfer

Once we heard the good news about our viable embryos, we scheduled our transfer. I had to wait 2 full natural cycles to get my body back into balance before scheduling the transfer, which took us into December. 

I went back to the clinic for (almost daily) cycle monitoring – trans vaginal ultrasound and bloodwork  again – to determine my ovulation and the best day for transfer.

ivf success story
At the clinic for my embryo transfer!

Transfer day was really exciting! I woke up that morning and ate a big breakfast. I drank the recommended 1.5L of water, and we headed to the clinic. 

There was a little blip in the beginning. I had to “go and pee a little” because my bladder was too full for transfer. (Fyi – it’s very difficult to pee just a little!) But the doctor successfully transferred our embryo after that. Now I had to wait two weeks for my pregnancy test.

Oh, the two week wait…

Surviving the Two-Week Wait:

This wait felt like the longest two weeks of my life! Anyone trying to conceive knows the anxiety of the two-week wait. It felt extra heightened given how much we’d been through to get to here!

We planned a list of activities to take our mind off the wait. But of course, I still read into the symptoms wondering if I was pregnant… Actually, most of the time I felt nothing at all, which made me SO anxious.

Not to mention, after my transfer I was taking progesterone injections for pregnancy support. Often I didn’t know if a symptom (like fatigue) was because I was pregnant, or if it was a side-effect from the hormones. 

When to take a pregnancy test

I decided to wait for the bloodwork confirmation from the clinic about my pregnancy. At-home tests were too triggering.

This certainly came with some pros and cons. 

  • The pros of waiting for bloodwork: I knew my results would be 100% accurate. I couldn’t handle the idea of seeing a false negative – it was too stress inducing.
  • The cons of waiting for bloodwork: it was long and excruciating, and would have been much faster to take an at-home test. 

Ultimately the decision of when and how to test is up to you. I think you have to plan for your personality type and commit.

finding out we're pregnant
Moments after we got the call that I was pregnant.

The results 

My heart was pounding the morning of our bloodwork. We waited 3 hours to receive the call from the nurse. By now you know she confirmed I was pregnant!! The staff told me that I nearly broke her ear drum from how loud I screamed. (Oops).

It was the happiest day of my life. The moment we had waited and fought so hard for. We were an IVF success story. Finally, we were pregnant.

5 months pregnant
Me at 5 months pregnant.

All-in-all we feel incredibly fortunate for having such a positive experience with IVF, and to have an IVF success story. I’m lucky to have responded well to the treatment. We’re also lucky to have had a wonderful team that made us feel supported, confident, and listened to. 

Infertility is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. It took a huge toll on my mental health, and I really struggled with anxiety and depression. I’m usually a positive person and it felt really out of character. I’m also not surprised – infertility is really hard. 

I hope that my IVF success story will help provide light for couples undergoing IVF. It can feel like a scary process when the future is unknown. But I was at my happiest undergoing IVF than any other time during our fertility struggles. We were finally making progress, and it is what led us to our successful outcome of falling pregnant. I am so grateful to be on this next chapter of starting our family.

I hope this provides some encouragement for your journey too.

No matter what happens, I think it’s so important to love your beautiful body and everything it does for you. You are worthy, and your body deserves to be celebrated.

Hold your beautiful head high, and dare to dream it. <3 

Sending you so much love and strength, 

Hannah xx

 

 

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  1. I just wanted to say a huge thank you for writing about your IVF journey. I’m currently going through it too (this week was my egg retrieval!) and since I have no friends / family who have been through anything similar, reading blogs like yours have been so helpful and encouraging. I’ve actually gone back and read through your full IVF story 3 or 4 times at different points in my treatment! I especially want to say thanks for sharing your numbers of eggs / embryos, I appreciate it’s such a sensitive topic. We’ve just found out that our numbers are also sub-optimal / less than we had expected or hoped for, but knowing that yours were similar has really helped me to stay positive. Sending you lots of love and thanks from Scotland! Xx

    • Hi Sarah. Thanks for this really sweet and thoughtful message. (I dm’d you back on Instagram!). I’m really glad you found this blog post so helpful and I’m really glad it resonated with you. Hope your IVF cycle went well. Sending all my love and luck. <3

  2. Thank you for sharing your ivf story! its so important to raise awareness about infertility and ivf. and i must say, you were so lucky to succeed on first transfer! i had 29 eggs, 15 embryos but 3 failed transfers. the numbers wont give you anything. but after 2 years of only ivf we succeed at 4th time! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this… sooooo much resonated with me. My partner and I are just starting our third IVF cycle… need I say more??? I really appreciate your candidness and positivity… thanks you!