Thursday, January 13, 2011

Update, In which there is an Embryo Clusterf*ck

Soooo. Hi, yes, it has been an entire year, let's just forget about that, shall we?

When we last saw our heroes, I was quitting my job and moving down to suburbanville to rejoin ML after 3 months apart. S was nearly 14 months old and still nursing like a newborn. We knew we wanted another (another 2, actually) and before we left the Big City, we did a cycle of IVF with ML's eggs at our clinic that we loved so much - not knowing what we would encounter down south. We froze the resulting 9 embryos, feeling exultant and fairly certain that we could get 2 more kids out of those 9 embryos.

Fast forward to June-ish. We start getting serious about #2. I start nudging S towards weaning, since we don't want my fertility to be decreased at all before we do a frozen embryo transfer. There's also the question of my baseline breast MRI - I found out I carry a BRCA2 gene mutation (the "breast cancer gene") when S was 8 months old. Lactation and pregnancy do not lend themselves to good radiology, and the docs wanted a good, clear MRI image to compare future images against. Otherwise, without those two factors, I would have happily nursed her until she stopped on her own.

So S was weaned by July, faster than I expected, after 19 months (and a half!) of happy nursing. In August I had the MRI. And in September, we went to our first appointment with our new clinic. Only one of the two big clinics in town take embryos from other clinics, and the billboards for the really big one creeped me out, so that decision was easy.

So apparently this whole thing with moving the frozen embryos from one clinic to another doesn't happen that often. I kind of expected a, you know, a system. A procedure. A standard practice of mutual cooperation between clinics when patients move from one city to another and leave frozen embryos behind.

No, no. There was paperwork, of course, I expected paperwork, but I did not expect to have to coordinate the logistics myself. I'm talking, many many calls to Northern Clinic - eventually figuring out that if I asked for "IVF lab" instead of "embryology", I would not be accidentally transferred to andrology. Northern Clinic asked whose tank we would use. I had no idea... Southern Clinic's? But no, turns out Southern Clinic has no such tank. Northern Clinic can rent us one, or there's a company that does it! Well geez guys, I have NO IDEA so how about you just TAKE CARE OF IT and charge me whatever it costs?

Oh no. I have to find out the tank dimensions from this person, go to FedEx and get shipping labels and fill them out with the addresses and my billing info and mail them to that person at Northern Clinic and then they can give my info to ANOTHER person at Northern Clinic to charge me for the tank rental, which is separate from the shipping charge of course.

Meanwhile, I'm shooting up with Lup.ron and the transfer date is rapidly approaching, despite beginning this process a good 2 months before the date.

There is more drama when they call to tell me they don't actually have a tank prepared to ship it right away so it will be there in time or something, but I finally just start crying on the phone while getting my hair cut (good thing it's a family friend who cuts my hair). They sort it out and the embryos arrive mere moments before the transfer (ok, a day or two.)

Throughout all of this, all of the paperwork, all of these phone calls, all of these emails, I am continually making reference to the fact that we are only shipping 4 out of our 9 total embryos. Not because I enjoyed this process so much that I wanted to repeat it, but just as some insurance in case something went wrong. If the tank malfunctioned or the shipment was lost or the FedEx truck drove off a cliff, not all would be lost. I laugh with my main contact at Northern Clinic about how paranoid I am and explain that my mother once lost a UPS shipment because of a truck fire.

You can see where this is going, of course.

So anyway, we proceed with the transfer. A surprising 3 embryos are thawed and do not survive :( The fourth embryo survives and is transferred, while we shake our heads and mutter about close calls.

A week later we were celebrating - two lines! Due July 28th. S would be a big sister...

Unfortunately, I started spotting on Thanksgiving day. On S's 2nd birthday, the next day, I had an encouraging ultrasound (5 weeks 1 day, too early to see a heartbeat, but we saw a nice clear sac & a little smudge of an embryo.) Later that day, however, there was no longer any question what was happening. I miscarried and it was horrible. It was the most heartbreaking and painful experience I've had.

After the smoke cleared and my bloodwork came back negative for pregnancy hormones, we started all over. I dreaded dealing with the shipping situation again. We went ahead and sent in the paperwork again before the holidays, and after the new year, I sent an email to my buddy at Northern Clinic asking about the next step.

A few days passed.

I was about to have to call (have I mentioned how much I hate talking on the phone?)

I was eating lunch a couple of days ago when my phone rang with Northern Clinic on the ID. It was Dr. Big Muckity Muck, head of the Everything Department. One guess what he had to say.

"Um, well, we're very sorry, but we've been in contact with the lab at Southern Clinic, and, well, weactuallysentall9inthefirstshipment."

I was gracious. All's well that ends well, right? Yeah, it was a big deal and neither clinic noticed despite the NUMEROUS times we made reference to our split shipment. But in the end, it saved me a headache and several hundred dollars. "Just put some checks in place so it doesn't happen again."


(I immediately called Southern Clinic and made them promise me that they for sure, definitely, no question, had 5 more embryos in storage for us.)