IVF Cycle Part One: STIMS

If you read our previous IVF post, (IVF Got This! [Starting the IVF Process]) you will know that we got a box FULL of medications and that it was highly overwhelming. Well, all of these medications covered what we needed for STIMS, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer.
We got our box of medications on June 22, 2018 and had our medication teaching appointment on June 24th. During this whole week, I went in for ultrasounds to check my lining and bloodwork to make sure my body was ready to receive the stimulants for retrieval. And just to go ahead and get one thing straight- pre-pregnancy ultrasounds are NOT jelly on the belly ultrasounds. They are internal ultrasounds using a large wand and some jelly. Those in the infertility community like to refer to this as "Wanda." As in, "I have an appointment with Wanda today." And I'll also just go ahead and say, I had too many appointments with Wanda...or at least a lot more than I cared to have.
ANYHOW! On June 28, we got the okay from our fertility specialist to begin STIMS shots. Which means my lining was just right and WHEW, I was so thankful. If my lining wasn't looking great or my levels (estrogen etc.) were down, we wouldn't have been able to start STIMS and we would've had to wait until the following month to try again. That's one super sucky part about IVF, IUIs, and infertility. You want to start things like yesterday, but they have to coincide with your cycle, levels, lining, etc. Everything has to be PERFECT because well, you're spending a lot of money and you don't want to waste it if things aren't as perfect as they can be.
I was a little nervous starting STIMS, but it wasn't that bad. We had two prescriptions- Menopaur and Gonal-F, these both had a liquid and a powder that needed to be mixed together before the mixing the Menopaur and Gonal-F mixtures together. Our doctor told us how much liquid we needed to mix with the powder, how we needed to SWIRL not shake the mixture, and then how to inject it into my body properly. These shots were given to me in my belly on alternating sides every day. We only had to do one shot every evening and we did them around the same time every night. Some nights went well and others the mixture would give me a burning tingle. But overall, 10/10 would recommend if you absolutely must.
And mad props to Alex because he gave me my shot every single night and he did a great job. The first night, it took us almost an hour to get it figured out and by day five we had it done in 15-20 minutes. So, if you're going through this or getting ready to go through this, I PROMISE- it gets easier and is not as intimidating as it seems. It becomes a part of your nightly routine and daily life. You can do this!
Not to mention, our doctor gave us a calendar so that we knew how much to take every day and a space to check off when it was complete. BLESS THEM. Because without that calendar, we would've been lost.
During the first week of STIMS, we were having ultrasounds every 2-3 days to monitor follicle growth, my lining, my levels,...basically everything. We had to keep track of how my body was reacting to the stimulants and I'm honestly so blessed to say that it reacted really well. The picture below was taken a little over a week into the STIMS process and we were monitoring 40 follicles! I was blown away. Had they all been mature, that's 40 eggs that we could get in retrieval...and that's A LOT. 40 chances for our babies. Wow, God.
We did STIMS for about two weeks and like I said, I'm thankful that my body responded so well to the medication. Here a few things I did intentionally during that time to make the process easier:
ONE: Drink! Water! Granted, it was the dead of summer. But I made sure that I was drinking a lot of water every single day to help with the bloating. It made me feel so much better. I limited alcohol completely to maybe, maaayyyybbeee a glass or two total in that two week span. I wasn't going to risk anything.
TWO:  Walk, run, MOVE! I could tell that some bloating was starting to set in, especially towards the end of STIMS. I started to feel like a storage unit for all of these follicles! But drinking a bunch of water and moving in some way every day whether it be a long walk or a jog, it made me feel much better.
THREE:  Eat your veggies, kids! Okay, no I didn't eat veggies for every meal and yes, I definitely splurged on chicken tendys and fries when I wanted to. But overall, I tried to maintain a pretty healthy diet. Putting all three of these together just helped me to feel better overall and helped me to avoid being uncomfortable as much as possible. I don't know about you, but if I ate whatever I wanted and didn't move, I'm sure that my bloating would've been more and possibly more uncomfortable than what I experienced. I just remember thinking that the better I maintained my body, the *hopefully* better condition my follicles would be in.
I definitely just want to say that this was my personal decision. Every day, I had to evaluate how I was feeling and listen to what my body needed. Towards the end, I didn't get out of pajamas because the bloating was so much and I didn't want anything pressing against my belly. My biggest piece of advice for STIMS and for all of IVF, listen to YOUR body. Do what YOU need to do. Now is not the time to feel pressured to do something if your body is telling you no. Listen to your body and do what you need to do to feel comfortable and at ease. This is a stressful time already, don't allow yourself to add more unnecessary stress.
And my biggest piece of advice: REMEMBER WHAT YOU ARE FIGHTING FOR! This is for your baby! This is the biggest, most challenging, yet most beautiful thing you will ever do. I know it takes a toll on you and from day to day it can be a challenge to stay positive, but you can do this! And if you are struggling or feeling less than adequate, shoot us a message and we would love to connect with you!
We hope you're ready for part two, because this is where things get FUN! Make sure you read the rest of our story because this is only the start and it only gets better from here!
Photo Credits:
Featured Image:  Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Syringe and Vial Image:  Photo by Thirdman from Pexels
Ultrasound Image: Personal Photo
Fruit Image:  Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels