Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

The time has come to finally face the giant that has been in the back of our minds since we first realized we were struggling with infertility. This week we looked IVF (In-Vetro Fertilization) square in the eyes and said, "We're not scared of you!" ... But we were bluffing. We're a little scared. 

Diagram of the IUI process
With our third IUI largely expected to fail in 8 short days, we knew it was time to take the steps to get ready for the big, culminating event of IVF. For those who aren't familiar with the world of infertility, IUI stands for Intra-Uterine Insemination which is a process where the doctors pick the very best time of the month for us ladies, pick the very best, strongest swimmers, and place them directly at the site of action through a catheter through the cervix. Tons of fun. 

I'm going to explain the reasons why doctor's think that trying naturally and IUI will usually not work with women with endometriosis. So if you're not interested, keep scrolling. 
Hey, guess what? Did you know that your fallopian tubes and your ovaries aren't connected? Well they're not. The endometrial growths on the outside of the uterus and ovaries are a very toxic environment. When the egg releases from the ovary on its way to the fallopian tube, it has to travel through these toxins. Doctors believe these toxins sort of poison the outside of the egg, making it very difficult for the egg to fertilize. Since IUI is a MUCH less expensive route than IVF, most fertility specialists will advise you to try IUI at least 3 times to give yourself every opportunity to get pregnant "naturally." 

These were the syringes and needles that we got to practice with at our class
So, with our 3rd IUI cycle about to come to an end with presumably negative results, we went ahead and signed up to take the IVF class which was last Wednesday. BOY, those nurses really know how to throw a bunch of overwhelming information at you in a short span of time. We spent 3 hours learning about the typical calendar protocol for a text-book IVF cycle, and also learned how to give myself shots in my arms, stomach, thighs and butt. So basically I'm going to be a human pin cushion for the next two months. 

It all starts with antibiotics,
condoms, and birth control pills. Ironic that the process that is supposed to give us a baby starts with two methods of contraception, but it's true. The birth control pills are to suppress your body from making eggs so that when the time comes to stimulate the ovaries, all the follicles (egg sacs in common vernacular.) will grow evenly. The condoms and antibiotics are apparently because men are gross and carry bacteria. I'm kidding. No, I'm actually not. It's really for that reason. 

Follicles on an ovary seen in ultrasound
After 3 weeks of suppression, I will go for an ultrasound to be sure that my ovary (I've only got one, don't forget) is a nice, blank slate. My awesome nurse, Kelli, will then teach me once more about how to measure out and mix the medicine I will need in the syringes. A huge box of oral medications, needles, syringes, and vials of medicine will come to my house and will have everything I will need for the cycle. I'll use those injections for about 2 weeks, coming in for ultrasound checks every few days, until the follicles are at the right size to take them out. (Called "retrieval.") The doctor is hopeful that I will produce 10-12 follicles, but it's a wait and see kind of thing. 

ICSI - Sperm being injected into the egg
At that time, they will put me under sedation in a surgical center and with a hollow needle will go in through ultrasound guidance and suck out all of the eggs that they can get...and that's about as delicately as I can put that, because that's literally what they do. Then, they will hand pick a good lookin' swimmer and that lucky guy will be injected with a needle directly into the egg. This process is called ICSI.

By the next day, they will be able to tell me how many of the eggs were successfully fertilized. From there they will watch the embryos grow for 3-5 days. Some will grow successfully, some will not. At 5 days they will bring me in and will put the best looking 1 or 2 embryos back into my body. (Called "transfer.") Once the transfer is complete, it's about an 8 day wait. Then I will do a blood pregnancy test to determine if the procedure was successful or not. 
Embryos in the IVF lab before transfer

So now you know what all IVF entails. What I didn't mention is that IVF is INCREDIBLY expensive. I have been so stressed out lately about the financial aspect of this -- what if it doesn't work? How are we going to make this work financially? We'll never be able to afford to do this twice. If we have to do IVF, we won't be able to do x, y, and z. etc. etc. I have been so consumed with thinking about the money that I haven't really stopped to think about the fact that this is so possible, and SO WORTH IT. Our dreams of being parents are almost within reach. All we have to do is be willing to step out in faith.

Today in church, our pastor was preaching a sermon on "golden gods." He preached from Ecclesiastes, where he read about Solomon, the wealthiest man in history. Solomon is suspected to have written the book of Ecclesiastes, although this has never been confirmed. In the book, he looks back on his life at all of the wealth and treasures and things he had acquired for himself and said that it is all "meaningless." Pastor Gunter also said, "We have come to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing." 
How silly to put a price tag on a baby. Yes, there is a monitary figure that we will pay at the end of the day, but what else could be a better use of our money? Instead of dwelling on the PRICE of IVF, we have to focus our attention on the VALUE of the end product. There is no limit to the value of a human being, the value of being a Mommy, the value of being a Daddy. So we are stepping out in faith, trusting that God will not only provide us with resources for this procedure, but also that God will open the storehouses of heaven and pour out his blessings on us in the form of our child. We are so excited about what the future holds for us.