Over the next 9 weeks, we invite you to come along on an IVF journey, step by intense step. From making the decision to go forward with in-vitro fertilization, to the meds involved and what they're really like, and to finding out whether this emotional and sometimes painful roller coaster ride yielded the results so dreamed of and prayed for. our site blogger Melissa Willets will be documenting every detail in a series of blog posts.
I'll never forget sitting in my doctor's office and hearing her matter-of-factly telling us that some meds, used during the egg stimulation and embryo transfer phases of IVF, could only be administered via injections.
Her calm delivery of this information left me thinking, "Okay. No big deal." Except it is a big deal, and I'll tell you why.
As a little background, I don't have a fear of needles. I don't enjoy getting injections, but after four pregnancies being poked and prodded, even having undergone an amniocentesis, I am over my needle phobia from childhood.
But when my injectable medications arrived via mail, I was shocked by the sheer number of them. Most meds for the egg stimulation phase require refrigeration. Below is a photo of my "drugs."
Even scarier? My husband, who has no medical training, would be administering the shots. Again, not a trained medical professional. My husband. He would learn how to properly prepare and administer the injections by watching videos online.
I know he looks happy in this photo! But he had a hard time with the idea of inflicting pain on me each night.
Before my injections, which we did around dinnertime once our kids were occupied or asleep, I had to psych myself up. During the egg stimulation phase (more on what that's really like next week), I would receive two shots per night. Closer to my retrieval, that number increased.
I'd walk around and breathe deeply and repeat a few mantras I found helpful while my husband prepared my shots. My anxiety level started to increase significantly the closer we got to having to do them. And here's the problem: the meds, which are hormones, can cause many side effects. For me, one side effect was increased anxiety. So the further we got into this cycle, the harder it became for me to calm my nerves pre-injection time.
Here's the truth: I cried every night, before, during, and after my injections. My tears weren't only about the pain of the shots. Honestly, the egg stimulation meds, which were administered in my stomach, didn't hurt terribly, although I'd be lying if I said it was nothing. I cried because I couldn't believe we were here, doing this. We'd just lost a baby late in pregnancy. I cried for her. I cried because I desperately wanted IVF to work. I cried because I was scared, and for a million other reasons.
Doing the injections never got easier. I felt emotional the whole time. Wrapping my mind around what I was doing to try to get pregnant, and that I was putting myself through all of this, even when it may or may not work, was challenging, to put it mildly. I also struggled with not knowing what would come next, having never gone through IVF before.
For example, I didn't know the embryo transfer phase of IVF required injections, too. More on that later, but for now I'll say that those shots were worse for me. The needles are larger, since this stage requires intramuscular injections of hormones, versus the subcutaneous injections I received during egg stimulation. Oh, and they had to be administered in my butt. It hurt. A lot.
In the end, facing the many injections required by IVF was one of the most challenging aspects of my journey. But surfing through chat rooms, I saw that for some women, this isn't as big of a deal. I can't relate to that, but I'm sure what all of us women have in common, is by the time we complete an IVF cycle, you look at the number of injections, and you think, "Damn." It's both emboldening, and humbling.
Looking at all those shots, I also think back to the many nights I sobbed to my husband, "I can't do this." But somehow, through doubt, fear, pain, tears and heartbreak, I did. And if I can, anyone can.
Read more about my IVF journey:
Photos: Melissa Willets
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.