Friday, November 23, 2012

The Retrieval

After 10 days of injections and medications, Natalie finally went in for her eggs retrieval on November 9th. The appointment was scheduled for 9AM. On the way to the appointment, Natalie was advised to take a couple of Valium. The LOL's ensued soon after Valium #1, 30 minutes prior to the appointment. Valium #2 & #3 were taken as soon as we arrived at the doctor's office, approximately 15 minutes prior to the procedure. Natalie went in to the "procedure room" and was prepped for the retrieval. The doctor came in and gave Natalie words of encouragement and gave an explanation as to how the retrieval was to take place. Since Natalie was 3 Valium's in by this time, silliness ensued; slurred speech, silly questions and statements and that glazed over look. Natalie was hilarious.

The retrieval took approximately 15 minutes and was a success. The doctor informed us that 26 eggs were retrieved, which was more than average. Natalie was still a bit hazy from the Valium and was told to take it easy the rest of the day. The doctor informed us that we would be notified of the results of the retrieval the following morning. So after a day of restlessness and anxiousness, we were informed that of the 26 eggs, 22 were mature enough for fertilization. Out of those 22, 12 were strong enough to fertilize completely. The doctor informed us that after fertilization, we would have to wait 5 days while they biopsy the cells to make sure they were healthy enough for the transfer. During these 5 days, Natalie began to feel discomfort and pain in her abdomen. The pain was so severe, that we had to take her to the ER for a check up due to the pain. An ultrasound was conducted and no damage was found. Natalie was told to visit her doctor for follow up. After a follow up with the IVF specialist, Natalie was told that one of her ovaries was "mispositioned." Due to the fact that so many eggs were retrieved, Natalie's ovaries mispositioned themselves when settling back to their original position. It was definitely a painful few days for Natalie, but luckily, everything is back to normal and she is well.

5 days after the retrieval and fertilization, we were told that only 5 eggs were fully fertilized and strong enough for biopsy. During the biopsy, an embryologist would remove a cell from each of the remaining 5 eggs and send that cell to a PGD lab for genetic analysis. Natalie was contacted by the PGD lab to discuss the PGD process and its success rate. The PGD representative told Natalie that based on their statistics, only 1 out of 9 eggs were found to be healthy and fully mature for transfer. Immediately, we became nervous, as we only had a 1 in 5 chance. Several days past by of constant positive thinking and prayers. When we finally received a call back from our doctor, she informed us that 1 egg was fully mature and ready for transfer! We were ecstatic. The IVF process was heading in a positive direction and getting us closer to being parents.

The next step in the process is the transfer. Natalie will have to wait until the early part of December for the transfer. We will then go in approximately 2 weeks for pregnancy results. So we continue to pray and think positively. We can't thank everyone enough for your kind words and positive thoughts. Happy Holidays to all of you, we're truly blessed to have you as our friends and family. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The IVF Procedure

On July 2012, we decided to move forward with our decision to go through IVF; however, we still did not have a doctor that we really liked. Luckily, Natalie knew of someone who had gone through IVF and recommended a doctor. This "friend" advised Natalie that the doctor was a female and felt that she had a connection with her. She said that she had a true understanding as to what the woman would be going through in an IVF procedure. Natalie felt that having a connection with the doctor was just as important as the knowledge or experience of the doctor. So we moved forward and made an appointment to see this recommended IVF specialist. We could not be happier with the connection we had with this doctor. She was thorough in explaining the condition that Natalie had and how it could be overcome. She was also kind and reassuring. The decision to choose her as our IVF specialist was a very easy one to make.

One of the biggest drawbacks about IVF is the price. Every case is different and so depending on the condition, the price could be higher. In our case, beyond the costs of the IVF procedure, we also needed to have genetic testing, called PGD. PGD can be used for diagnosis of a genetic disease in early embryos prior to implantation and pregnancy. In addition, this technology can be utilized in the field of assisted reproduction for chromosome abnormalities, such as translocations or inversions. Since Natalie's condition is a chromosome translocation, PGD was recommended to analyze the embryo's prior to implantation to make sure she got the best of the bunch. We are also responsible for the costs of medication. There are several medications that Natalie will be on during the 10 days leading up to her retrieval (the day the eggs are removed). These medications over stimulate Natalie's eggs and prepare them to be fertilized. All in all, the costs (I won't say how much, but I joke and say that we're buying a Honda Civic) were not even a deal breaker. Our desire to start a family outweighs any price. In the end, the finances will work themselves out, but the opportunity to start a family is truly a miracle.

Here's a photo of just a couple of the medications that Natalie has to inject herself with.

There's our brave mommy-to-be injecting herself with one of the medications. After a breakdown and several minutes of "thinking about it", she finally went for it. So proud!

As mentioned earlier, Natalie will be on the medication for 10 days. After those 10 days, she will go in for the retrieval of the eggs, tentatively scheduled for November 9th. Natalie will be on bed rest for the day, so shhhh.......

We'll keep you all posted after the retrieval.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Pizarro's

We are Erik and Natalie Pizarro and we have decided to share our journey of parenthood by way of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). For those unfamiliar, IVF is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. When the IVF procedure is successful, the process is combined with a procedure known as embryo transfer, which involves physically placing the embryo in the uterus.

We arrived at the decision of IVF after many failed attempts to get pregnant naturally. Natalie's first pregnancy occurred back in July of 2009. As any first time parents, we were thrilled to learn that we were about to become parents and shared the happy news with all our family and friends. Natalie made it through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy; however, when we returned for an ultrasound that September (this was to be the day we were going to hear a heartbeat for the first time), we learned that there was no development. The doctor advised us that Natalie had a blighted ovum. Basically, cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself. An emergency D&C procedure had to be performed to remove the undeveloped sac from Natalie's uterus. As you can imagine we were completely devastated. The doctor advised Natalie to take a few months to recover and then start again. Approximately 6 months later, we learned that Natalie was once again pregnant; however, our elation was somewhat reserved. The initial loss of Natalie's first pregnancy was still fresh on our minds and we did not want to get our hopes up in case there was another loss. This time, we kept the news of Natalie's pregnancy to ourselves, as we did not want to "jinx" ourselves. 4 weeks into pregnancy #2, we once again learned that Natalie had another miscarriage. No D&C was needed this time around, as Natalie was still early in the pregnancy. Once again, the doctor advised Natalie to take some time to recover before trying again.  Natalie began to question herself and started asking, "what is wrong with me?" Less than a year later, Natalie was pregnant for the third time. Natalie barely made it through 3 weeks, when we learned that she lost another pregnancy. After the 3rd miscarriage, the doctor advised us that it would be best to consult with an infertility doctor before attempting to get pregnant again.

We wasted no time and made an appointment to see an infertility specialist to try and understand the reasons for the miscarriages. The infertility specialist was insightful and provided us hope. We were given a crash course on the various causes of infertility and how these miscarriages could be overcome. We both had a blood screening done, Natalie had about 37 vials of blood drawn from her; whereas, Erik only had about 5 vials drawn. Natalie also underwent a couple of ultrasounds and various other screenings. Once the doctor completed his analysis, we learned that Natalie has a chromosomal abnormality. Our response was, ¿como?.... So what we learned was that chromosome 4 and chromosome 15 were inverted. Due to this chromosomal abnormality, Natalie's uterus was rejecting the pregnancy. Alas, we found an answer as to what was causing the miscarriages. The doctor advised us that the only course of action would be if we considered IVF. We decided that we wanted to get a second opinion. We met with another infertility specialist whose advice was completely different. After meeting with Natalie and reviewing her medical history, this doctor told Natalie, "getting pregnant is like playing poker, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Keep trying and come see me when your when your exhausted." Needless to say, we were not thrilled with this response and we did not return to see this doctor. At this point we were stuck. We weren't sure whether to try getting pregnant again naturally or pursue IVF. Not much thinking was able to get done, as we soon learned that Natalie was pregnant yet again, #4. This time around, Natalie barely got through 2 weeks before having another miscarriage. This was the last straw. Natalie was not only physically drained, but also mentally exhausted. The emotional high of learning of being pregnant always seemed to be defeated by the devastation of learning of the miscarriage. We decided that if we were going to have a baby, IVF would be our best option.

As we have learned about infertility and the causes, we have come to realize that there are so many other couples out there that are going through similar situations, Statistics. We have been fortunate enough to have such a wonderful support group that includes our family and friends. We want to share our journey and provide support and hope to those couples that are also going through the same journey. We also want to educate those unfamiliar with IVF and infertility. So, get your reading glasses and get ready to laugh, cry and go on a journey... The journey of "Growing the Pizarro's."