Last fall, we introduced our community to Allyn Rose, a breast cancer previvor, well known women’s health advocate, former Miss USA and Miss America contestant, and full-time model.
Allyn is documenting her journey to motherhood via blogs and videos in hopes that it will lift the veil of the unknown associated with infertility treatment, and also serve as a reminder to women to be their own advocate. “I hope that it will ‘pay it forward’ to other women going through this and help them realize that they aren’t alone either.”
Catch up on Allyn’s journey:
READ ALLYN’S FOURTH BLOG ABOUT HER EGG RETRIEVAL EXPERIENCE:
(*Allyn’s egg retrieval took place prior to COVID-19.)
Even though an IVF cycle only takes a few weeks, it can feel like it’s never going to end. The process itself isn’t all that complicated… but add in the emotional highs and lows, a hormonal free-for-all and the inherent challenges that infertility or a genetic diagnosis can have on your life — it’s not always pretty.
The day of my Egg Retrieval felt like a relief. I was DONE! My hard work was over… I had grown the follicle friends and now it was up to the doctor to do his/her part.
I was scheduled for surgery at 12 noon which meant that the toughest part of my morning was not eating breakfast and picking out what pajamas I wanted to wear to the surgery center.
Because Christopher wasn’t in town, I asked my best friend Caitlin’s mom (who I affectionately call Tish) to be my driver and emotional support bestie for the day. Tish picked me up from my brother’s house and drove me to the Shady Grove Fertility Rockville location for my procedure. The surgery center there is BEAUTIFUL and I instantly felt at ease when I was greeted by the warm reception staff.
The thing I love about SGF, and what I think makes them stand out, is that a large number of their staff have undergone fertility treatments themselves. I really appreciated that because I felt like they ACTUALLY understood what I was going through and when they told me that I would be okay – they meant it. It was also an extra boost of confidence to be surrounded by women who are SGF success stories!
After I finished my initial paperwork I was led back to my recovery room where I was suited up in everyone’s favorite open-in-the-back surgical gown. Yay.
One by one various doctors and nurses came by to check on me and to prep me for surgery. First I met with a wonderful nurse who catered to my every need – including giving me THREE heated blankets because I’m always freezing. No really, they came out of a special blanket heater… I was in heaven. The doctor performing the actual egg retrieval explained each step of the process and let me know that the procedure would only last about 20 minutes and when I woke up I would already know how many eggs they had retrieved. How’s that for efficient!
Then came my favorite kind of doctor – the anesthesiologist. I imagine there is a lot of job satisfaction being the one that gives people “happy juice” before surgery. He prepped my IV, explained the types of medicine that he would use and told me that he would be back later with the good stuff.
I called Christopher who was in Germany at the time for one last “I love you” before we got this show on the road. He wished me luck and as we wrapped up the call, the anesthesiologist came back as promised to wheel me into the surgical room.
I felt pretty calm because I knew it was a fairly straightforward procedure and I trusted the team I had. The room looked a little like a more pimped out gynecologist’s office with one of those stirrup style chairs in the center. And to be honest that’s all I remember about it. I sat in the chair, cracked a joke about my French Bulldog socks and I was out!
I woke up back in the recovery room feeling a little groggy. But they quickly brought Tish in and the doctor joined to tell me that I had THIRTY FOUR eggs retrieved! No wonder I had felt bloated and uncomfortable – my ovaries were probably the size of grapefruits! I spent about 15-20 minutes waking up from the anesthesia before I felt comfortable enough to walk to the car and head home.
The nurse warned me that I shouldn’t eat heavy or greasy foods after this procedure so of course I made Tish drive straight to the nearest pizza restaurant because that’s my post-anesthesia ritual.
Thankfully my stomach survived and we made it home without any complications.
The next few days were a bit of a roller coaster. I began to experience what my doctor presumed to be Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This can happen during IVF cycles, particularly ones like mine which result in a very large number of follicles. Essentially the body is “over stimulated” and you experience things like fluid build up in the uterine cavity, as well as bloating, constipation, headaches and over all yuckiness. OHSS symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, so Dr. Devine had me change my flight back to Germany for a week later and had me come in to monitor each day to ensure that the fluid was decreasing.
Lucky for me it was a very mild case and after a few days of monitoring I was back to normal and ready to ship back off to see Christopher in Germany. Now came the hard part – THE WAITING.
After your egg retrieval, the eggs are checked for their size (to see if they are mature enough) and then fertilized – often through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or “ICSI.” Some of the eggs are stubborn and won’t fertilize even if they are mature enough, that’s why sometimes you see numbers like 34 retrieved, 25 mature, 15 fertilized. Unfortunately, not every egg will go on to become an embryo.
After the eggs are fertilized, they are placed in containers and undisturbed for 5 days to allow them to “grow.” The embryologist then checks on Day 5 to see if they have reached Blastocyst (a stage of cell division). If they have reached that stage, they are ready to be sent for genetic testing! Sometimes the embryologist sees that the embryos are ALMOST there and allows them an extra day or two to see if they will reach Blastocyst. If they do, they are also sent for genetic testing.
Let me tell you – IVF stimulation was hard but WAITING FIVE DAYS to see how many embryos you have felt like a life time!
To add insult to injury, AFTER you wait 5-7 days to see how many embryos you have, you have to wait another TWO WHOLE WEEKS to get your genetic test results back. It seems like cruel and unusual punishment. My only advice is to pick up a new hobby, find a long Netflix series or do something like learn how to knit because otherwise you’ll drive yourself insane.
So in order to prepare you for your next IVF cycle, I’m going to make you wait until my next blog to tell you how many embryos we sent off to testing 😉 Stay tuned!
Continue following Allyn’s IVF journey on Shady Grove Fertility’s Instagram, YouTube Channel and Enewsletter!