I don’t remember much after waking up from surgery.

I remember finding out my right ovary and fallopian tube were removed, even though that was not part of the original plan. And I remember my doctor answering “yes” when I asked if I could still have children.

The next thing I remember is getting out of the hospital bed feeling surprisingly fine, marching out of the joint like I had just won the lottery, and demanding that my husband take me to Starbucks for a Strawberry Acai Refresher to celebrate.

My IVF success story

I could still have kids! My biggest life goal of being a mom could still be achieved! It wasn’t until later that day when the meds started to wear off that I realized moving around would be a challenge for the foreseeable future. And also, that there was a reason they had to remove two of my organs. And that getting pregnant might not be as easy as I thought.

This is my IVF success story!

It all started in March 2020.

You know, the same time a global pandemic was declared. It was also the first month that my husband and I decided to use an ovulation test to try and get pregnant.

Due to COVID-19 anxiety and the desire to know if I was finally pregnant, I began taking my temperature numerous times a day. After doing so, I discovered that I had a constant low-grade fever that hovered between 99 and 100.3. While I was of course scared it was Covid, I was also excited because an elevated body temperature after ovulation can mean you’re pregnant. Not to mention, I started to have constant nausea, random stomach pains, and bloating. Then, I didn’t get my period.

So, I took pregnancy tests—dozens of pregnancy tests—every day for nearly three weeks. I even had a blood test done after reaching out to my ob-gyn. All were negative. 

After receiving a negative COVID-19 test result as well, nurses assured me I was fine and that my period was skipping a month due to stress caused by the pandemic. But I worried that was not the case. After reaching out to my doctor’s office yet again, they told me I could do an ultrasound to confirm that I wasn’t pregnant if it would make me feel better. So I did. 

Discovering The Benign “Fibroid”

“There’s the tumor,” the ultrasound doctor announced while moving around my insides with the unpleasurable wand that is used during transvaginal ultrasounds. 

Tumor. You would think I, a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, would panic and jump to some pretty outrageous conclusions lying there with four people standing over me watching a highly visual tour of my downstairs. But while my eyes did water, I was more relieved than scared. Something was wrong. I was right.

The doctor announced it was a 3cm benign ovarian mass, probably a fibroid. But they wouldn’t know for sure unless it was removed.

Afterwards, I met with my doctor. She assured me that the mass was too small to be causing that much pain and bloating and that a lot of women find out they have them incidentally during ultrasounds. We scheduled a follow up ultrasound in six weeks. She also encouraged me to check in with my primary care doctor, as something else could be causing my symptoms.

Over the next couple weeks, my stomach pain got worse, the bloating and weight gain continued despite the fact I was constantly working out, I was still always nauseous, and I still had an unexplained low grade fever. So I kept seeing doctors. After multiple x-rays, more blood tests than I thought humanly possible, a CT scan, and multiple Covid tests, we had no answers. Everything came back normal. No one knew what was wrong. 

The day of my follow up ultrasound finally arrived. And while the mass did not shrink, it also did not grow. 

While my doctor said it wasn’t necessary, she advised that I could have surgery to remove it if I wanted. I decided to move forward with the surgery for peace of mind. I also felt strongly that this little thing could be the cause of my problems, even though no one else believed me. 

What They Found: Ovarian Fibromatosis

Three and a half weeks later, I went in for surgery to remove what they thought was a 3cm fibroid. 

However, they didn’t find a 3cm fibroid. What they found was a mass that was double the size. A mass that had covered and suffocated my right ovary and had already started growing on the left side. A mass that required them to remove my right ovary along with the right fallopian tube during the surgery, too.

They discovered I had something called ovarian fibromatosis . It wasn’t a fibroid after all. Instead, it was an extremely rare, benign condition (only about 30 cases of it have been covered in medical literature to date) where there is tumor-like ovarian enlargement. 

Next Steps: Fertility Preservation

It was suggested I seek fertility preservation treatment immediately in case my remaining ovary died. Because the fibromatosis grew so quickly on the right side, they were afraid of how quickly it would grow on the left side. If I didn’t get the eggs out in time, there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to have kids.

The doctor stressed that this was precautionary. She said I could still try to get pregnant naturally, and that the fibromatosis might never even grow on the left side. However, all I heard was “might not be able to have kids” and it replayed in my head until I got to my car and started sobbing. 

All I’d ever wanted was to be a mom. Knowing that I potentially waited too long and now might never be able to give birth to my own children put me in a very dark place. 

But I wasn’t dying! I still had the chance to successfully have my own children—and maybe even naturally. Who was I to be upset? Who was I to complain? And during a pandemic where thousands of lives are being lost every day? I shut myself up. I made myself lock my emotions in a box and hid them away. 

How We Found Out My Husband Is Infertile

My husband and I met with a fertility doctor the next week. She ordered a bunch of tests and told us we could start the process at the start of my next period. She was very clear that there were no studies of anyone with ovarian fibromatosis attempting IVF. We would need to tread lightly. And since there was an imminent threat to my one remaining ovary—and it was at risk of being damaged during IVF—we would need to move fast.

While I was nervous, I was still hopeful that I’d be able to get pregnant naturally after this. That is, as long as my ovary remained alive.

But yet another obstacle presented itself when we received our test results and found out that my husband has male infertility. This meant that to conceive, we would have to do IVF. The chances of us getting pregnant naturally were highly unlikely.

We were so grateful to find this out though. If it hadn’t been for my ovary issues, we would have been trying for who knows how long. You can always find positives in negatives!

Starting IVF: The Egg Retrieval

My IVF success story

I cried during the first shot. My husband and I are both far from medical professionals and had no idea what we were doing when it came to mixing medications in syringes and injecting skin with needles. But alas, we were in this situation and there were no reasonably priced on-demand nurses I could pay to come over and do the injections for me. “SO MANY PEOPLE do IVF,” I kept telling myself. “You’ll be fine.”

In the days that followed, I panicked before, during, and after each injection. I would turn on the video tutorials and watch intensely each time replaying them over and over again.

In addition, I went into the office for daily transvaginal ultrasounds and bloodwork. During these appointments, they stuck the unpleasurable wand up my vagina and counted the number of follicles growing. Unlike a natural period cycle where one follicle grows, they make ALL the follicles grow during IVF. The hope is that each follicle will contain an egg, but that is not always the case. This makes the egg retrieval procedure a literal Easter egg hunt. Which ones will have a prize inside?! No one knows!

My IVF success story

When the doctor believed I had enough follicles growing on my lone ovary, and that they were big enough to assume they contained eggs, it was time for the “trigger shot.” This injection triggers the follicles on your ovary to release the eggs exactly 36 hours after the injection. That is when the surgery is scheduled. And yes, that means the surgery isn’t scheduled until 36 hours before!

Although the doctor was initially able to retrieve 12 eggs, after mixing them with my husband’s sperm and after growing them for seven days and after sending them out for genetic testing, only one came back normal. While one is enough for a miracle baby, one is not enough for any guarantees. This is especially true when the life of your one remaining ovary is hanging by a thread and you want multiple kids.

We immediately did another retrieval.

Our 2nd Egg Retrieval and the “What-If’s”

The next one was more successful than before. They retrieved 14 eggs and 12 fertilized into embryos. After growing them for seven days and sending them out for genetic testing, seven came back normal. That meant we had eight frozen embryos. 

We were (and still are) extremely grateful for this outcome. Some people have to do tons of egg retrievals to receive even one or two good embryos. 

However, I feared this could be my last possible chance to produce eggs. I worried what would happen if this wasn’t enough. I didn’t know how many kids I wanted. And I hated the thought of wanting more kids one day but not having enough embryos frozen left. And not having ovaries to make more. I was also worried about not having my own eggs if anything were to happen to my husband or marriage. Like if I wanted to have kids with someone else one day but had no ovaries to do so. 

The what ifs consumed me. I found myself trying to plan everything in my life out again. But didn’t I learn at the start of all of this that life doesn’t care about your plans? Things happen and you adjust. I was lucky to have eight frozen embryos. And I was lucky to have been able to do IVF thanks to my health insurance. Not everyone has insurance that covers it, and it’s insanely expensive to pay for it out of pocket.

So I decided: If I wanted to transfer one now and risk the chance of not being able to make more later, so be it! I needed to do what I wanted in the moment. Not plan for what I think I might want later on. And what we wanted was a baby. So we transferred.

The Embryo Transfer Process

I didn’t cry the first time I gave myself a butt injection. My husband was there to stretch my skin and for moral support, and I just went for it. As someone who has always looked away when getting shots and blood drawn, I had become a master at not caring while watching needles enter my body. Butt injections a.k.a. the infamous Progesterone in Oil (PIO) shots are by far the scariest part of IVF—and a crucial part of the embryo transfer process.

They let me have two valiums before the transfer, which was necessary because I was freaking out a bit, but it was a breeze. I laid down on the bed with a heated blanket over me and they stuck yet another wand up my vagina and placed the embryo in my uterus. Then, it was over and I went home. And then my husband brought me McDonald’s french fries because supposedly these are good luck to eat after IVF procedures. And I love any excuse to eat french fries.

My official pregnancy test was scheduled 9 days after the transfer. But of course I could not wait and tested at home 4 days after the transfer. It was positive!

It stayed positive for my first official pregnancy test. And it remained positive after I could finally stop the daily PIO shots at 10 weeks! I was going to have a baby!

What I’ve Learned From IVF

Many months later, we were ecstatic to become an IVF success story. Big shoutout to CCRM Boston, our awesome fertility clinic!

I gave birth to a beautiful, baby girl who is now a chaotic 2 year old toddler, and those initial days of my IVF journey now feel like a distant memory. I’m also happy to report I still get my period, even though every month I worry that it won’t come and that will mean my remaining ovary is dead.

But while I have no idea what will happen in the future—with the rest of my frozen embryos, with my ovary, with my menstrual cycle, and with my life in general—I’ve learned you need to change course when life shifts your path and keep moving forward. I’ve also learned you need to speak up when you feel like something is wrong—and persist until you find the answers you’re looking for. It could change your life. Imagine if I listened to doctors three years ago and blamed myself for being a hypochondriac instead of demanding answers? Would I have ever had children? Who knows.

I plan to teach my daughter all of these things and more. And I thank my diagnosis and IVF for making me a better mother already, even before I actually become one. 

Infertility is exhausting. It sucks the life out of you via hundreds of syringes and at times, can drain you of happiness and fill you with misery. But I believe challenges make you stronger and change you for the better. Even when it sucks most—even as life continues to throw curveballs your way—finding positivity in darkness, accepting the things you can’t change, and clinging to hope will get you through. What’s on the other side might not be exactly what you imagined for your life, but I promise it will be beautiful. No matter what.

Author

Hi! I'm a 30-something mom who is part of the SPICE GIRLS GENERATION aka an older millennial. This is my new website Forever Millennials! I’m the author of Average is the New Awesome: A Manifesto for the Rest of Us, a humorous self-help book that was published in 2020 by Seal Press/Hachette, and the person behind the Instagram account @averagepeopleproblems. Before launching this site, I ran the website Forever Twenty Somethings for many years. My work can be seen on Parents, USA TODAY, Women’s Health, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Reviewed, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and more. I live in a suburb outside Boston, MA with my husband, toddler, and 300 pounds of clothes I have been saying I need to post to Poshmark for the past 3 years.

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