IVF Cycle Part Four: Embryo Updates

Okay, now it's time to get into the SUPER fun part about the post-retrieval week. Yep, I'm talking about the embryo updates! Check the picture below and you'll see 16 of our cute and squishy little babies as EMBRYOS! Isn't that amazing? And it's really weird for me to think that one of those little embryos in this picture could be the beginnings of the baby that is now growing in my belly. WOW. God is amazing!
So, go back to retrieval day. After they had Alex's sperm sample, they washed it and found the best fighters. Then after the eggs were retrieved from my body, they were injected with Alex's sperm and put in petri-dishes to develop and grow into embryos. Yes, we went with ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). That's where they did just as I previously stated, they inject Alex's sperm into the cytoplasm of my egg. We had the option for "natural selection" which is putting the sperm and egg in a petri-dish and hoping it works, but with our past 5 failed IUIs our doctor recommend ICSI.
The next day, the very next day after retrieval, we got a phone call from the embryologist with an update on our babies. Of the 58 eggs that were retrieved, 39 of them were mature, and of those 39, 36 of them were fertilized! AMAZING! I remember sobbing as soon as I got off the phone because what an amazing blessing. God was with us and He wanted us to know that these babies were HIS! These embryos belong to Him and His Kingdom. Thank you, Jesus!
Every day that week, our embryos were growing and dividing cells. From 2 cells to 4 cells to 8 cells to freezing! Our embryologist said that the process is like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Days 1-3 are slow like a caterpillar, embryos are slowing dividing. Day 4 is the cocoon stage where they are dense and compacted. Day 5 is the butterfly stage which means they are officially ready to be frozen for a future transfer!
We got a call every day and it was amazing to hear how our babies were forming. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to some of the embryos. Either the cells weren't dividing properly, they stopped dividing altogether, or the matter of the embryo was fractioned. Hearing that was not fun. But every morning, I woke up and I prayed over our embryos and I gave it all to God. "These are Yours, they don't belong to us. And I trust you, no matter what you want to do here. I trust you." And I would sit and I would cry and I would listen to worship music until that call from the embryologist came through. Because again, it's really scary when you're sitting and waiting for the unknown. I never knew what that call would give us. For all we knew, our strong number of 58 eggs could've dwindled to having only a handful matured and a few fertilized. It's a tricky thing and you just never know how it will go.
But every day, I got a phone call. And every day, I was in awe of what God was doing. And every day, I was thankful for the babies that we did have.
Day four was going to be really hard. We weren't getting a call from the embryologist that day because as I previously stated, the embryos were like a cocoon- dense and compacted. They couldn't get an accurate reading to tell what was happening so they said they would call on day five with our final number of frozen embryos.
Well, day four was also the day we had to go into the clinic for my post-retrieval check-up to make sure my body was healing properly. A huge concern after egg retrieval is that the woman will develop OHSS (Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). This occurs when a woman's ovaries swell and leak fluid into the body and to keep an eye on this, they encouraged me to weigh myself every day post-retrieval to make sure that I wasn't rapidly gaining weight (a pound or more per day). Thankfully, I didn't! Whew. By this point I was still bloated, but it was starting to go down and the discomfort was minimal.
Our check-up went just fine, Doc said my body was doing exactly what it needed to do to heal from retrieval. But. BUT! Before he left, he asked us if we stopped by the lab on our way in to check on our embryos. We were confused because we weren't supposed to get an update. Like duhhh Doc, it's day four! We told him no and he said, "Well, let's chek on them!"
Y'all. He pulled out his phone, signed into the system and walked us through the embryologist report posted above! He took screenshots and sent them to me and left us with the best news ever: "Your embryos are doing really well." THE MOST AMAZING GIFT! We were in shock and I just remember sobbing after he left and staring at our babies. I don't think I stopped looking at those photos for the rest of the week.
On day seven, we got our final call from the embryologist. They had been monitoring a few final embryos for day six, so we got our final numbers on day seven.
15 frozen embryos.
15 embryos waiting on us. We were mom and dad to 15 embryos. I couldn't believe it. I was absolutely blown away.
Speechless, absolutely speechless.
I couldn't stop praising God for all He had done. I couldn't stop thanking Him. I couldn't stop smiling.
After so much pain, so much hurt, so many no's. We finally had a YES. We finally had smiles that couldn't fade or be tarnished. We finally had real joy, something we hadn't had in what felt like years. Thank you, Jesus. All glory is YOURS!
After we got our final call, everything was kind of said and done for awhile. Our embryos were already frozen and all we needed to do was wait. Studies show that a frozen embryo transfer has higher rates of success. It gives my body a chance to CHILL from the STIMS and retrieval hormones before bringing in all new hormones that come with pregnancy.
We waited for about a month and again, we had to do everything based on my cycle. So when my next cycle came and went, I called our clinic so we could begin our next step: transfer.
Our embryo transfer story is the next and final piece of this set. It's an amazing story of God's grace and unending love, one of which I hope you will read. One of which, I hope gives you hope.
I want to take a minute to say thank you. Thank you to everyone that prayed with us during this time of embryo updates and beyond. We felt so surrounded by love and grace during this time and it made such a difference. Thank you for your support.
We really couldn't have done this without your love and encouragement,
Photo Credits:
All internal photos are personal.
Cover photo:  Amina Filkins from Pexels