Something New Every Month: The Roller Coaster of IVF

Something New Every Month: The Roller Coaster of IVF

As many of you know, this whole IVF process has been quite difficult for me insofar as absorbing all the science behind it. I lean toward the more natural methods of medicine and science, and always have. My parents were au naturale hippies of the late 60s and 70s. I was born at home in Woodstock, NY, in 1978, and was raised on organic foods before it had a label. One of my first ever jobs was in a health food store, where I spent countless hours of downtime reading about alternative medicine and remedies. (This was in the mid 90s, and since the store was located in a mall, it was often very slow; mall-goers of the time weren’t interested in independent, health food stores.)

Yet here I am, almost 20 years later, involved in a fertility process that makes me feel like my ovaries are a science experiment. I know the outcome “is all that matters,” and when I’m holding our baby “none of this will mean anything,” that it will all feel “like a distant memory.” I know all these things, and I believe them. I really do. And I thank the readers and friends and family members who have said these things to me. But it’s hard to keep those thoughts in focus after having gone for my Day-3 ultrasound this week, and being told that I now need surgery before we can begin the low-dose IVF cycle that we had just discussed with our doctor five days prior.

Huh? What? Why do I suddenly need surgery??

My most recent ultrasound was done by a nurse I hadn’t seen before. She was nice enough — kind, soft spoken. But she was also the one to tell me, “Not this month, honey. You need to have surgery before we can begin the IVF cycle.” I was shocked. Surgery?

I sit listening to the nurse, trying to absorb all that she’s saying as she lifts her shirt on one side to show me her itty bitty scar from the same surgery she’s now telling me I need.

Sara and I explained to the nurse that we just had an appointment with the doctor a few days ago, and that we all three planned to go ahead with the mini-IVF cycle this month. She said the cyst on my left ovary — the one that has always been there — and the two new-to-this-cycle cysts on my right ovary, along with this new-found endometrioma and my age-old uterine fibroid, are all indications that I need to have surgery. It’s like she’s telling me that my insides are a mess. She went on to explain that she had this very same surgery, and that it’s not too bad.

“You’ll be out of work for about a week,” she explained. Out of work for about a week? For a surgery that’s “not too bad?”

I sit listening to her, trying to absorb all that she’s saying as she lifts her shirt on one side to show me her itty bitty scar from the surgery.

“It’s really nothing.”

This doesn’t feel like “nothing.” This feels like an upheaval. A complete abandonment of our plan. Sure, things happen. Plans change. But this wasn’t even on our radar.

The nurse apologizes to me at least four times.

“I’m sorry, honey,” she says with that sympathetic face and that weird part smile, part smirk of awkwardness.

She leaves the room and I immediately start sobbing in Sara’s arms. How did we get here?

A few hours later, at home, after processing what I’ve been told and crying a lot, I tell Sara that I don’t trust the nurse’s diagnosis. Sara suggests we call to speak with the doctor to get some clarity about what just happened.

After almost two days of trying to get through to the doctor, he finally called me this morning. We talk for a while, and I explain all my concerns: about the nurse’s “diagnosis,” her quickness to recommend a surgery she herself has had, my discomfort with the idea of surgery, this new-found endometrioma, and my disappointment in delaying our IVF cycle.

The doctor offers alternatives to surgery within minutes of our conversation. He says that, first, I should come in next week for another ultrasound to monitor the endometrioma, because it’s possible that my body will take care of it on its own. If it has reduced in size within the week, that’s an indication of my body getting rid of it. If it has remained the same, we can “take note of it, know that it is there, and proceed next month with the low-dose IVF cycle.”

“So, I don’t have to have surgery?” I ask.

“No, there are other ways we can work with this.” The words hit my ears like a symphony. And I cry for the twelfth time in two days, though this time they are happy tears. He never said the nurse was wrong with her “recommendation,” though I never suspected he would say that. He was clear in stating that surgery is an option. But it’s not the only road we have to take. Like most times in my life, I’m going with the one less traveled.

I knew going into this that we’d face obstacles. That there would be unforeseen bumps in the road. But nothing has prepared me for the emotional roller coaster this journey has thus far been. July won’t be our month, just like June wasn’t. I keep my fingers crossed and my prayers steady for August, and in the meantime I’ll continue listening to my body and being my own advocate.


Photo: Seabamirum

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