By: John Jericiau
We had to wake up at the crack of dawn for the Sunday morning embryo transfer scheduled for 6:30am. It felt extremely early since the night before was our standing date night, although we skipped the movies after dinner so that we could get to bed at a reasonable hour, and my mind was so full of baby thoughts I don’t think I could have focused for two hours.
Our friend/surrogate was ready at the back door when I shuffled downstairs to head out. We decided that Alen would stay home with the boys so they could all sleep in. Traffic was light so early in the morning so it took 10 minutes to get from Santa Monica to Westwood (compared to 30 minutes with traffic). We walked into the IVF clinic door at 6:15am as requested, and immediately got an ominous notice from the nurses’ station “Sit tight. I don’t think the transfer is going to happen today!” Say what? Why? We were sent to the waiting room to await the IVF doctor’s arrival for clarification. Ten long minutes later he was greeting us with “Ready?” as he continued to the nurses’ station, but I stopped him in his tracks with “We are but something is wrong.” He consulted with his nurses and then called us in. I hadn’t anticipated the situation that was presented to us, but I kept my cool and continued to breathe throughout his entire explanation.
The embryos were now five days old but had not been checked on since day 1 so as not to disturb the growing process. The good news first: almost all of the 13 embryos were of the highest quality possible. The less than good news: none of them was ready for transfer today. Ideally they would like to see expanded embryos -expanded meaning “further along” in the growth process than all of these were. “They may actually be ready in 6 hours, but we’ll do the transfer tomorrow. This happens about 50% of the time.” I needed to hear that this was not so rare, but still it was quite a surprise to me.
When we returned home I got right online and researched expanded embryos, and was happy to read that by waiting until day 6 like we were, the embryologist is going to be able to choose with that much more accuracy which embryos will have the most chance of success, mostly because they have made it all the way to day 6! There have been recent advances in the medium used to nourish an embryo as it grows, so embryos can survive and flourish for a week now, whereas before it was for only 3-4 days.
I expected another fitful night of sleep, and I got one, but the morning of Day 6 finally arrived. We had requested a more reasonable 9:00am transfer time, so I was able to crawl through my 6am Master’s swim workout, shower, and return home to get the boys ready for school before heading to the IVF clinic. Would today be the day?
We arrived at 8:45am as instructed, took a seat in the waiting room, and literally 30 seconds later our physician came through the waiting room and without stopping gave us a thumbs up. Today was the day! We finally exhaled the breath that we had been holding since the day before. He called us back to the nurses’ station with what turned out to be yet another batch of unanticipated news: from the 13 embryos that made it through to day 1 post fertilization, only 7 embryos were now viable on day 6. The good news was that all 7 of these embryos were expanded embryos that were of the highest grade that an embryo can possibly achieve! As I stood there I thought back about last night when Alen and I had spoken in depth regarding how many embryos to transfer. Although the Octomom had implanted 12 embryos, that seemed rather excessive in our case. Since we thought we had 13 embryos to work with, I thought we should transfer 4 embryos each cycle (we only have 3 cycles left in our attempt at expanding our family.) Alen thought 3 per cycle was more reasonable. I finally agreed, and prayed quietly that this would be enough to get our friend pregnant. I awoke from my daydream and realized that the doctor was talking about the transfer of two (yes only two!) of our embryos. I was reluctant to agree to so few embryos until I heard how confident he was about the quality of the embryos and the likelihood of success.
The procedure was relatively simple. The embryologist entered the procedure room with a straw of two embryos (randomly chosen per our request), and while the doctor pointed to the spot on the uterus (aided by ultrasound) the embryologist transferred them there. It looked like the doctor did one other step (glued the embryos to the uterus, I hope), but in 5 minutes it was done and our friend then had to remain still for an hour so as not to displace the embryos. We drove home slowly and our friend took the next three days off to rest some more, start on two more medications, and endure frequent questions from us such as “Do you feel anything?” And crazy enough, as we wait the ten days until the pregnancy test, I’m starting to feel tired, crampy, and it’s harder to fit in my tight jeans.