Last time Breanne posted an update, she was shouting from the rooftops about her thick uterine lining (a phrase I never thought I would type). Now, she’s hunkered down in a hotel room in Memphis on bedrest, so I’m handling this update on our transfer.
Monday evening after work, acupuncture, and a progesterone injection, Breanne and I hit the road to Memphis. She had a suitcase packed with nothing but pajamas, a box of gluten-free cupcakes courtesy of my parents (Thanks, Mom and Dad), and plenty of Christmas music on her iPhone to pass the time. For those of you that know Breanne, you know that she loves Christmas. And I don’t mean the normal kind of love. I mean the already-has-all-of-her-Christmas-shopping-done-in-mid-November kind of love. So with “Let it Snow” playing in the background and the air conditioner on full blast, we made our way up I-55. Like a pitcher on a hot streak, we didn’t want to change up our pre-game routine, so we ate a late dinner at Memphis Barbecue Company on our way. We’ve stopped there every time we’ve come up to Memphis for IVF. If this round works, I bet it was the BBQ.
The morning of the transfer before we left the hotel is a bit of a blur, and I didn’t realize it was a blur until I started writing this post. It’s almost like we were on auto-pilot. I think we both had so many emotions running through us that morning – anticipation, excitement, hope, fear – and they all somehow cancelled each other out, leaving us numb and just going through our pre-transfer checklist.
We arrived at the clinic at 10:00 so that Breanne could have her blood drawn for a progesterone check; then, we spent the next thirty minutes in the waiting room where Breanne chugged water. Evidently, a full bladder helps the doctor view the uterus on the ultrasound monitor so he can guide the catheter. So there Breanne was, playing a chess match with her bladder all morning, trying to decide when to take her last pee before the procedure. Checkmate: Bladder.
The transfer is a much less invasive procedure than the retrieval. For the retrieval, Breanne was put under anesthesia; for the transfer, she only got a Valium. The transfer basically involves the doctor guiding a catheter into her uterus and then injecting a solution holding the embryo right up next to the uterine lining. That way, when the embryo hatches from its shell, it’s close enough to the lining that it can implant and begin to grow into a baby. Because the procedure is less invasive, I was allowed to be in the room with Bre. I just had to throw on a lunch lady hairnet and some massively oversized scrubs. But when you’re 5’7, just about everything is oversized.
When the doctor finally came in for the procedure, he gave us a picture of the embryo we had been dying to see. Suddenly, we weren’t numb to our emotions anymore. We were overwhelmed with hope. Right away we could tell that this little guy was a higher quality embryo than the one we transferred in our first round. It was more advanced and, without getting too scientific, had better cell differentiation. The embryologist gave it a grade of 4AB. The “4” indicates how far along the embryo is in its development. At stage 4, it’s considered an “expanded blastocyst,” which is exactly where you want it to be for transfer. The first letter in the grade represents the quality of the “inner-cell mass,” the group of cells that will eventually form the fetus. This part of our embryo got an A! It takes after its dad. The second letter in the grade is the quality of the outer cells that will develop into the placenta. This was a B. Not perfect, but still pretty darn good! For reference, the one embryo we had and transferred after our first round was a 2BC, so we knew we were already ahead of our first round.
The doctor left us alone for a few minutes while they prepped the procedure room, and we stared at our embryo. It’s hard not to get emotional looking at the little clump of cells that could grow into our precious little boy or girl that we have fought so hard for. And I’ll be honest, I teared up. Not many people get to see their children at this stage. Going through this infertility struggle has been unbelievably difficult for both of us. I bottle a lot up inside trying to be strong for Breanne, and my emotions wind up coming out when I least expect it. I actually broke down in our Customer Service Manager’s office a few weeks ago (sorry Bennie!). But getting to see this little 5-day old embryo before it hopefully grows into our beautiful baby made us feel so lucky…and me so emotional.
Next, they walked us into the procedure room and strapped Breezer in. The nurse looked through our chart to once again verify who we were (a lot of verification goes on during the transfer process which is very much appreciated). She laughed at how our names were so close, and Breanne, in her Valium-induced state of relaxation said, “Oh, it gets better!” and proceeded to explain how her maiden name is also Hancock. The nurse jokingly asked if we were sure we weren’t related, so to break the tension I said, “Well, if this baby comes out with a third arm, we’ll have our answer.” Hard to tell if that joke landed or not.
The procedure went about as smoothly as it possibly could have. Our doctor was incredible – he walked us through every step of the process so we could follow along on the ultrasound monitor. And being able to both be in the room meant so much to us. Breanne has had to fight so much of this battle on her own. She’s the one getting poked and prodded almost every day. She’s the one who has endured multiple surgeries in order to give us a fighting chance at a child together. But in that moment, getting to hold her hand through this precious piece of the process, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so connected to one person in my entire life. As the doctor transferred the embryo, we could see a little glow appear on the screen. The embryo is microscopic, but the solution it was in could easily be seen on the monitor. And when we saw that glow, we both teared up (again).
After laying flat for 30 minutes following the transfer, Breanne was finally allowed to empty her bladder (hallelujah!) She told the nurse it was the greatest pee of her life. The doctor gave us our post-transfer instructions, which involved a lot of bed rest for Breanne. Once doc was finished with us, I went to go get the car to pick Breanne up. About halfway to the car, I heard a woman’s voice calling for my help. Once I walked over to her, I saw her and her husband trying to get a stroller to fold up so they could load it in their car – I’m guessing it was their grandchild’s stroller. The woman said, “You look young – I bet you have kids. How do you get one of these strollers to fold up?” Not wanting to share our whole infertility story with a stranger in the parking lot, I awkwardly laughed and tried to help. When I couldn’t figure it out, she said, “Well I thought you’d be more helpful – you look like you have a couple kids, don’t you?” Guess I need to work on my dad bod… After I swung by the hospital entrance to pick Bre up, we had to stop to let two very pregnant women walk across the street. It was as if the universe was taunting us, but we laughed it off. No negative vibes for our little embryo on board!
In order to make sure she followed the doctor’s instructions (and to allow me to get back to work), Breanne’s mom met us up in Memphis and is currently staying there with Breanne until tomorrow morning, then they are heading home. Thanks, Connie! If anyone can keep her in line, it’s you.
I’m not gonna lie – it’s been really hard being away from Bre over the last few days. Knowing (and praying) that our embryo could be implanting as I write this is crazy to think about. Yet being 200 miles away from each other sucks. I’m just ready for tomorrow evening when we can start spending the rest of this 10-day wait together.
Thanks so much to the dozens of you who have messaged us, encouraged us, and prayed for us over the past few days. If that little embryo can sense the love y’all have sent our way, he/she will definitely want to stick around!