In theory, the second transfer should have been much easier. We’d already done all the screenings, there was no need to do another mock cycle, and the clinics (both hers and mine) knew exactly what to expect from our bodies – how we would react to all the hormones and drugs.
But for us (there is always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) things got a bit more complicated because Blaine and I were slated to move that summer from Ohio to Alabama, and we had a two-week vacation to Oklahoma scheduled for our time in transit.
What we had done previously was considered a “fresh” cycle, meaning my IM was stimulated, had an egg retrieval, and a transfer was done three (or five) days later with newly fertilized eggs. If there are embryos left over after a fresh cycle, and they are strong enough, the clinic will freeze them for later attempts, called a “frozen” cycle. In surrogate lingo, sometimes those frozen embryos are called “totsicles”, “snow babies”, or “maybe babies”, and to cycle with frozen embryos is much less complicated. Only the surrogate needs to be monitored, which is much more predictable, and the day of transfer can be determined in advance and won’t (shouldn’t) change.
My IP’s didn’t have any embryos make it to freezing, which was discouraging, so our only option would be another fresh attempt. Once again it was all about timing, and coordinating the cycles. Because the IM (or egg donor) is using drugs to stimulate her ovaries, those ovaries need a rest period in between cycles, to avoid the danger of hyper-stimulation. Again, it’s all about the calendar when planning the next attempt. The doctor figured out her rest cycle, then started us on paper again …. Coordinating cycles, starting her stimulation, and estimating when she would be ready for retrieval --- and then planning the weeks needed to prep my body with the drugs, blood tests, and ultrasounds to prepare my uterus to receive the embryos. Naturally, for us, because why would ANYTHING ever be simple, that month-ish of monitoring for me fell while we were vacationing and moving.
That meant I did the initial bit of my monitoring at a local fertility clinic in Ohio … then found a fertility clinic in Oklahoma that could monitor me while I was there on vacation (ironically, the same fertility clinic I had been a PATIENT at years before … and the same clinic I am using now) Then, the instant we moved to Alabama, before I learned my way around town or got my kids settled or even so much as unpacked the toilet paper, I had to find a new fertility clinic that could monitor me as the time of the transfer drew near.
But you know what? Things were going well. Maybe it was the Gods of Complicated Timing smiling down on us, or just bold-faced luck, but I managed to get all the tests and blood draws and ultrasounds I needed, exactly when the clinic in Maryland needed me to get them. I was responding exactly as anticipated to my meds, and actually feeling pretty proud of myself, that I had managed to overcome this potential scheduling circus and find doctors I needed in each location.
Then, one afternoon a week or two before the scheduled retrieval, I got a panicked call from my IM. She was terribly flustered, and you could hear the anxiety in her voice, “You’re not going to believe what I did,” she said in a shaky, alarmed voice, “I just realized that I did my meds wrong this month. I titrated down instead of up, and I’ve messed up the entire cycle!”
“Wait, you what? What does that word even mean??? How did you mess things up?” I replied.
Come to find out, one of her injectable medicines was supposed to be given in small doses at first, and increased gradually throughout the cycle. She had misread the directions (especially ironic, considering she was a registered nurse) and had given herself the largest dose first, gradually decreasing the med throughout the cycle, and had just now realized her error.
“So what does this mean? First of all, are you ok? And second, is our cycle going to be canceled? I thought your ovaries looked good on the last ultrasound, and you were getting a good amount of follicles?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, still shaken. “I called the doctor but they said there’s nothing they can do but continue to monitor me and see what happens.”
So our first cycle was a bust, and our second cycle was most likely going to be canceled? I was starting to wonder if I was jinxed as a surrogate.