Our Infertility Journey: Successful Fresh Transfer
Wow. Thank you for all of the sweet comments, emails, and messages from Tuesday’s big announcement. Finn and I are taking the time to read through every single one of them. We are continuously blown away by this amazing community and we are so happy we can share the joy of our big news with all of you! Thank you.
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog post, it was quite a journey to get to this point. We didn’t just get to snap our fingers and be pregnant. Instead, our most recent round of IVF was a painful one with lots of shots, surgeries, and appointments. But clearly, it was well worth it since it resulted in the healthy, happy baby growing inside of me!
Last we chatted about our journey to parenthood, I shared that I had my second chemical pregnancy back in April of 2019. We were, of course, devastated, and also feeling a bit lost about what to do next. We were creating normal and healthy embryos that were implanting in my uterus, but at some point, they would stop growing and I would miscarry. Why was this?!
After I had my 9-week missed miscarriage, I put my name on a waiting list to see reproductive immunologist, Dr. Kwak Kim. This was back in December 2018 and my appointment with her was scheduled for June 2019. I was hopeful that I wouldn’t even need to see her and that I would get pregnant long before then. Clearly, I was wrong. After our chemical pregnancy in April, Finn and I decided that we would stop treatment until we could get in to see her in June.
Reproductive immunology is a new field in infertility and there really are only a handful of reproductive immunologists in the country. I heard that Dr. Kwak Kim was a miracle worker, helping women with recurrent pregnancy loss carry their babies to term. Women from all over the world (!!) come to see her and here she was only an hour away from my house! It was meant to be.
Our First Dr. KK Appointment
My appointment with Dr. KK was moved up to mid-May and Finn and I eagerly went to that five-hour appointment ready for some answers. It starts with a one and a half-hour ultrasound (yep, you have a wand up there for that long) where they look at every single nook and cranny of your uterus and ovaries. They also measure the blood flow to each area (they have a special machine that can do this), ensuring that you’re getting enough blood to those important areas for reproduction.
The rest of the appointment was filled with giving about 25 vials of blood, a physical exam, and then finally meeting the famous Dr. KK. It was at this appointment that we learned that blood flow to my uterus was very, very poor. This was a possible answer to my previous losses and was something I never found out from my other doctors because they just don’t have the same ultrasound technology as Dr. KK. The healthy embryos were implanting, but couldn’t survive for long because of poor blood flow…it made sense to me! She mentioned that there were blood thinners I could take to combat this issue, and we would need to wait until all of my results came back to properly make a plan.
Dr. KK Follow-Up Appointment
Three weeks later, we returned to Dr. KK’s office hopeful for more answers. My blood work revealed that I had multiple clotting disorders (mostly genetic). These were contributing to my poor blood flow and luckily, could improve with proper treatment! I also had a slight immune issue (high antibody titer), but again, she was confident we could improve that in order to keep a healthy pregnancy.
At this appointment, we discussed our gameplan moving forward. Our first egg retrieval (in March 2018) produced five normal embryos. We had used three of them (two chemical pregnancies, one miscarriage), and we had two remaining. However, these two embryos were the poorest quality of the bunch, having been PGS tested two times (they came back “inconclusive” the first time and had to be tested again). Our plan was to use these embryos next, but Dr. KK advised against it and instead urged us to move forward with another egg retrieval while I’m still on the lower end of my 30’s.
From the very first time we saw her, Finn and I both agreed that we would follow through with her recommendations and she would be the one doctor (out of the many we have) whose words we would follow closely. She is a revered doctor for a reason, so we felt we might as well follow her plan exactly. It looked like another egg retrieval was in our future!
My Second Egg Retrieval
At the end of July, I started shots and meds for my second egg retrieval. This time around I was on daily Lovenox shots (a blood thinner) to improve blood flow. Because Finn and I had gone through this grueling process once before, we knew exactly what we were in for. Finn knew how to mix up the shots, I knew how to prep my body, and together we were much more confident the second time around.
You can read more about my first egg retrieval process here, but at the end of that round, I was on shots for 21 days and we got 29 eggs which yielded five normal embryos. This time around, things were much different.
I ended up only stimming for nine days, instead of 21, this time. My fertility doctor decided to cut things short because my uterine lining was looking so good and she suggested doing a fresh transfer instead of a frozen. I have a hard time getting my lining thick enough for a frozen embryo transfer (they like it over 8mm), and the meds were making all of my numbers super stable and my lining thick (like 11.5mm!!). We decided to cut things short and get in there to get the eggs, with hopes that we would put a fresh embryo back in five days later.
My August egg retrieval only yielded eight eggs, seven of which fertilized. Finn and I then waited to see how many would survive. Five days later, we went back to the doctor and she put one embryo in.
We soon learned that the embryo we put in was the only one that survived. This was crushing. All of that work and we didn’t have any “backups.” If this embryo didn’t take, we would have to do another egg retrieval and start the painful process all over again. I was so sad hearing this news, but Finn reminded me that the embryo inside of me needed our support. So, we focused all of our attention on making this little one grow, grow, grow!
The Two Week Wait
The two-week wait (TWW) is usually a long and tortuous time when you’re waiting to find out if you’re pregnant. Lucky for me, we were in the midst of our big move to the house and I had one million things on our to-do list. I kept really busy and the nine days of waiting flew on by for me. My Lovenox shots continued, though, (as did the huge purple bruises).
During that time, I had an inkling that I might be pregnant, but I didn’t dare take an at-home test. I was too nervous that it would be another chemical pregnancy and I would get my hopes up from the test, only for them to be dashed when my bloodwork came back. Throughout the TWW, I was peeing at night constantly and I had a few moments getting up where I had severe pain in my uterus. I remember waking up in the middle of the night before my blood test and confidently saying to Finn, “I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant.” I think he just mumbled, “Okay honey, let’s see what happens tomorrow,” and went back to sleep.
My initial numbers came back high (HCG was 160) and as I mentioned Tuesday, I was incredibly happy and incredibly scared all at the same time. Most fertility doctors take your HCG number every other day (you want it to double) a couple of times. Dr. KK likes to monitor HCG super closely, with a blood draw every other day until you hear the baby’s heartbeat (usually around six weeks). I went in every two days, scared that they would tell me my number dropped, but it kept on climbing and climbing. Wow, was this going to be real?!
I had my first ultrasound at 5 weeks 3 days and we were able to see a gestational sac and yolk sac perfectly placed in my uterus. It was a relief. A week later, we heard Baby Finn’s heartbeat for the first time and it was the sweetest sound we ever did hear.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we visited Dr. KK’s office weekly for ultrasound and blood work. Luckily, the blood thinners (lovenox, vitamin E, and baby aspirin) were doing wonders for my blood flow and the prednisone was keeping my immune numbers in normal range. I was also on estrogen and progesterone for extra support for the baby. I was always thankful to hear that my numbers looked good, because I know of other women who have a much more intense protocol with Dr. Kwak Kim. IVIG (intravenous immune globulin therapy) is commonly prescribed by her to help protect the baby. This is often not covered by insurance (we were denied coverage) and each visit can be around $2,500. Some women have to do this almost weekly throughout their 40-week pregnancy. You do the math…that’s a huge chunk of change.
Dr. KK did let us know that we might have to do IVIG at some point during my pregnancy, and we agreed that we would do anything to protect our baby. My dad has generously offered to help out if that happens, but fingers crossed, we won’t ever need it. For now, I’m just so grateful that things have been looking so great!
Our First Trimester
As I said in this post, we only had one big scare with my ER visit for the subchorionic hematoma. Other than that, it has been a wonderful pregnancy. I’m still on Lovenox shots every other day (and will be until I give birth), but I’ve been able to wean off of the prednisone, estrogen, and progesterone. It feels great to almost be a “normal pregnant lady!”
I’m so happy that I get to see our sweet baby every single week on ultrasound. Baby Finn is usually moving allllll around, so much so that the ultrasound tech has trouble measuring the sweet babe. You can’t contain this kid! We both cry at every ultrasound whenever we see an image of our baby because it’s just the happiest feeling in the world. I wish I could bottle the happiness that we exude every time we walk out those doors with our long roll of pictures from that visit’s ultrasound. It’s the best feeling ever. And check out our 12-week ultrasound, doesn’t it look like our baby has a cigarette in the womb?! We got a kick out of that!
In the end, we’re not sure why things finally worked for us. I think it was a combination of doing a fresh transfer (where my uterus was really happy and ready to receive an embryo), the protocol with Dr. KK, and perhaps just the timing of our life and moving into our new house. I don’t really think it’s just one specific thing.
We’ve waited for this baby for a long time. And looking back, I now know that every shot, every surgery, every tear was worth it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if it meant that I get to meet our sweet baby next year. Baby Finn, you were worth the wait!
Oh, and if you want a little behind-the-scenes shot, here’s a 5-gallon bucket about 3/4 full of all of my used needles. Finn organized them in there so I could get the letterboard photo. So.many.shots.
Our Infertility Journey
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.