I’ve finally recovered from hand surgery and am back at the blogs. Thanks to everyone for their prayers and support.
The following is a continuation of the story of how my wife Kolette and I went from making the decision to have a family, to finding out what that would require, and eventually successfully through the in vitro process.
In order to be a part of Dr. Heiner’s next “batch” we had to get started right away, before I was even released from the hospital. As instructed, Kolette began to take birth control. Now it may seem odd to start birth control when you want to try to have a baby. But, at the Reproductive Care Clinic (RCC) they want to have all the women in the same group or “batch” doing everything at the same time. This means regulating menstrual cycles. The best way to do this is to start everyone on birth control which will in turn allow every woman to have their period around the same time.
The doctors use this time to gather a lot of other information as well. Blood tests, ultrasounds, and exams are all done to establish a baseline. Kolette had to go to the RCC to get her work done. Since I was already in a hospital giving blood and getting examined a number of times each day they just threw my tests in with the battery of exams I was already getting.
A week after I was released from the hospital Kolette began daily shots of Lupron mixed with FSH. Lupron and FSH are drugs that stimulate the ovaries forcing more follicles to produce more eggs. These are shots from a little tiny syringe that Kolette would give herself each day in her belly much like a diabetic would administer insulin. Kolette didn’t have any experience giving shots and was frankly a little nervous to do so. The RCC was prepared for this and had a class where the woman could take her partner and they could both learn the procedure together. This way, if there was a question or need for a helping hand both parties knew exactly what was going on. Unfortunately for Kolette, the class was held while I was still in the hospital, so, when the time came for Kolette to give herself the shots I was not only unable to help physically but I didn’t have much knowledge to bring to the fore either. A hearty “Go Kolette” was really all I brought to the table.
Continual blood draws and examinations brought us to the 29th of January, 2008. This was our big day. They would harvest eggs from Kolette, gather the sperm from me, and if all went well we would finish the day with fertilized embryos. You’re encouraged to make this time a period of low stress.
In true Jason and Kolette fashion the 29th also ended up being the day we were to close on our new home. Obviously we were going to be busy on the 29th so we asked the title company to move the closing to the 30th. Dr. Heiner thought this was an interesting way to keep “low stress”. To his credit, he was just getting to know us and didn’t yet understand that we just don’t do “low stress”.
We went into the RCC early that morning. In the clinic they have two little operating rooms. We would be in the rooms simultaneously. This meant I was going to need extra help getting onto the table in the OR. The staff was a little surprised when we bought a 22-year-old aide with us to what was traditionally a fairly private procedure.
Kolette went into her operating room, my aide helped me into mine, and we were off. During the hours we spent at the RCC that day Kolette’s parents and one of my three aides waited in the waiting room.
Kolette’s procedure was both standard and simple when it comes to IVF. Despite being 37 years old and considered “high risk,” her ovaries had cooperated and the doctor was able to harvest nine eggs. This was fantastic! Nine eggs! Nine eggs would give us nine chances to try and begin our family.
True to form however, my procedure was neither standard nor simple. Although we had had some success getting sperm in more “natural” ways before, the doctor felt that because of issues with motility and mobility a procedure called TESE (testicular sperm extraction) was our best option. During this procedure the doctor would take a needle, insert in directly into my testicle and procure the sperm.
I have to admit I cringed a little bit when I first heard him describe the idea (frankly, talking about it now still makes me cringe a bit), but this was for a family. Most of what Kolette had gone through was no picnic either and we had decided we’d do whatever it took–and at least with the help of an anesthesiologist I’d be asleep.
They hooked me up to the anesthesia and I went to sleep in the same way I had for so many other surgeries. When I woke up however, I was still in the OR. The doctor asked me a few basic questions to make sure that the anesthesia had worn off. Once he was confident I was comprehending what he was saying, he proceeded to tell me that there was a problem.
Contrary to the tests that had been done before, the sperm that were retrieved by the procedure were dead and useless. My heart sank. I felt so sure this was going to work.
The doctor said that there was one more option. He began to explain that the procedure was rare, painful and maybe not worth the risk. Before he even finished the sentence or told me what the it entailed, I looked him in the eye and said, “Let’s do it!”
Dr. Heiner asked if I could let him explain it first and then decide. I told him that he could explain the procedure, but that there was nothing to decide. True to his word he explained that the new procedure meant taking a biopsy of my testicle to see if they could get any sperm from the biopsy. He told me that based on how the TESA went my odds weren’t good. True to my word I said, “Lets do it.”
Our real dedication to making this work was showing through. Just before he’d come to ask me about continuing with the second procedure, the doctor asked Kolette what she thought. Kolette told him, “ It’s Jason’s decision, because it’s his body. But I already know that he will want to do whatever is necessary, so don’t be surprised when he says yes.” We weren’t just dipping our toes in the IVF pool–we’d jumped in headfirst.
The anesthesiologist put me back under and about an hour later I woke to better news–not much better, but better. The doctor said the sperm weren’t dead but they weren’t really moving either. He said that they would know more in a few hours but the chances that the sperm were viable or small. There was nothing more to do but wait.
Kolette and I went out to her parents. We were all a little confused. Everyone in our inner circle had prayed so hard and felt so good about a positive result, and yet everything that happened seemed to speak to the contrary. Kolette and I went home to an empty apartment a little saddened by the news, but resolved to have faith. We both believe in a God that loves us and wants only the best for us. That afternoon we decided to accept God’s will happily; whatever that meant.
Because of our unique situation everyone at the RCC, from the receptionist to Dr. Heiner come had become a little extra emotionally involved in our case. Leaving, we felt that they may actually be as sad as we were. While we went home to wait, the people at the Reproductive Care Center watched for movement. Later we were told that around four o’clock that afternoon one of the nurses came into the main commons area at the doctors office and announced excitedly, “They’re twitching!” We got a call that night at 6pm that through a procedure called ICSI (where they use a tiny needle to insert the sperm directly into the egg) they had been able to potentially fertilize all nine eggs. They told us that we would have to wait until the next morning to find out if any of the eggs became fertilized yielding actual embryos.
There have been many nights in our life together where Kolette and I have prayed for a miracle. But, it’s hard for me to remember a night when we prayed harder than that night. When the doctor called the next morning we were awake. As one might imagine we didn’t have a lot of sleep. Gratitude filled our hearts as we listened together to hear a choked up Dr. Heiner tell us we had seven viable embryos. No one could really believe it.
There are those people in the world who will tell you that God is dead. There are those people who will tell you the miracles don’t exist. There are those people who will tell you that so-called “miracles” are nothing more than coincidence and chance. I know they’re wrong. Those two days were filled with enough miracles to last me a lifetime. If I ever question the existence of a being who loves and cares for me I simply have to remember that day–the day when He allowed the impossible to become possible.
We weren’t out of the woods yet. But we are closer than we had ever been before. Although Kolette was not yet pregnant we now had seven chances to get her there. Seven shots at having a family. Seven shots at having our dreams come true.
(To be continued in “The Cole Creation Part IV” )