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.”
READ ALLYN’S SECOND BLOG ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE IVF PROCESS:
If I learned one thing going through IVF, it’s this:
TIP 1: Prepare FOR ANYTHING.
As a young-ish woman (31 in IVF terms is still a spring chicken) who didn’t have any known fertility problems, I went into the process exceedingly optimistic, and admittedly a little naive…
I felt confident. In my mind, I’d breeze through all of the initial screenings and tests, I’d only need one egg retrieval cycle resulting in more embryos than I could have ever used (unless I went the Octomom route) and who knows maybe I’d even be able to donate my remaining embryos to a family in need!
Enter Stage Left: Reality
The Firsts: Pre-IVF Examinations
When starting the IVF process, you’ll undergo a few initial screening tests. The first batch of tests only require simple blood work: infectious disease screening, testing of hormone levels and your ovarian reserve. (Fun Fact: women are born with all of the eggs that they will ever have! This test is an indicator of how many you have left.). Simple enough. But be prepared to learn several acronyms for your hormones which are thrown at you in succession! FSH, AMH, LH…
Just when you start to get the hang of things, they bring in the big guns: the intrauterine ultrasound and the… Hysterosalpingogram (HSG). Oh great, another acronym.
An ultrasound seemed easy enough – I have them at the gynecologists office from time to time, but I really had no idea what the heck an HSG or “tubal patency” test was. To keep it simple, many IVF facilities require an HSG to see if there are any issues with your Fallopian tubes. You may be asking: “Why do they care about my Fallopian tubes if I’m doing IVF (which doesn’t require the use of the tubes). The HSG outlines the internal shape of the uterus and shows whether the Fallopian tubes are blocked. If they are blocked, it’s likely a result of another issue that may cause problems during the IVF process. Feeling extra confident about the shape of my Fallopian tubes, I practically skipped into my German doctor’s office.
If the German medical system wasn’t uncomfortable enough…I was placed into a large room with a single exam chair, asked to undress from the bottom down and told to sit in the exam chair. I looked around… there was no paper covering. So there I am, exposed for the entire world with no privacy screen. That’s when I see a swarm of students come into the room. I remember… oh that’s right… this is a teaching hospital…
I shook off my initial insecurity and remembered that I likely had the Vitruvian Man of Fallopian tubes and thought to myself – this is a teachable moment.
I was warned prior to the exam that I may experience some “slight discomfort.” Even though I pride myself on my high pain tolerance, wanting to be extra prepared, I took two ibuprofen prior to the exam… just in case. Spoiler alert: the HSG was about as gentle as a kick in the head. As the dye was injected into my Fallopian tubes, I felt a pressure that kept increasing. “Oh that hurts… wait… no… that really…. dear God when will this be over?!” What felt like an hour was probably only 1 minute. Nevertheless, it was… unpleasant. After the test was over, the doctor stoically looked at me and said, “Both of your Fallopian tubes are completely blocked. You won’t be able to conceive naturally… good thing you’re doing IVF. Have a nice day, goodbye.”
The Firsts: The Emotions
How could this be?! I was the spring chicken, remember?! I was the “prime candidate!” I took my checkout sheet and made what felt like the walk of shame back to my car. I’m not an overtly emotional person but I broke into tears. As silly as it is, I felt like a “failed woman.” I wasn’t able to do THE ONE THING that my body was biologically primed to do. I was young. I was healthy. I flossed and took a multivitamin. What more was I supposed to do? I summoned the courage to call my husband to tell him the news – his wife had inferior Fallopian tubes. It felt like my world was over.
I thank God every day for my calm, cool, collected German husband because he simply replied: “Calm down. Everything is fine. No matter what, we will figure it out.” And then finished the call by saying “See you at home… my Fallopian beauty.”
I decided to get a second opinion and this time I went to the pros at Shady Grove Fertility. I called Dr. Devine and asked if it would make sense to be tested again. Because I was at a very low risk of having tube issues, she recommended that I try again at their Rockville facility. I walked into the appointment and it was like a spa treatment compared to the animal at a zoo situation at the university hospital in Germany. The nurses and doctors were warm and friendly and I experienced significantly less pain this time around. I’ll be honest, it’s still pretty uncomfortable, but it was a hell of a lot better than the previous torture chamber. The result: one completely clear tube and one that appeared to be “blocked.” But it turns out the “blockage” wasn’t actually a blockage, it was a spasm of the tube and I was perfectly fine! Whew! I was so happy that I got a second opinion. I was back to feeling confident! Bloodwork was clear, ultrasound was tip top, tubes were A-okay!
The Firsts: The Injections
Now all that was left were the first injections. I totally wasn’t scared…
Okay, I was scared. There’s nothing less natural than stabbing yourself with a needle in the stomach. What made it even more difficult was that I would be “on the road” for work and not in the comfort of my own home. And this wasn’t a normal work day… I was scheduled to appear on Good Morning America.
No pressure right… I just took a deep breath and said to myself that I was incredibly fortunate to undergo a procedure like IVF with PGS and even if I had to start in an “unconventional way” I would still be okay. So I took a seat in my hotel room, set my shots up next to the Keurig and got started.
I didn’t die. It didn’t hurt. It was really a lot easier than I expected. I kind of felt silly for being so anxious about the whole process because it was over in less than a minute. I kept waiting to feel more pain or to have a crazy side effect. But that was it! Really as simple as two little pin pricks!
I was off to a good start and couldn’t wait to see those little follicle friends grow! Check back for more from my IVF journey soon!