IVF #2: Beta #2

We spoke with our clinic yesterday, and they informed us that my hCG levels are rising appropriately! Yay!!! On Friday my hCG was at 7,008. That was a huge relief to hear! It means little Casper appears to be growing at a healthy, normal rate. They also said that my progesterone and estrogen levels are within normal range, so I should continue taking my medication as prescribed. 

The progesterone has made me feel so incredibly backed up. My stomach isn’t the happiest right now. All day I’ve been drinking lots of water and eating high fiber foods in an effort to counteract what’s going on. Hopefully it’ll ease up soon. 

My morning sickness seems to be coming and going. I read an article today that said morning sickness symptoms include lightheadedness, and exhaustion. I’ve definitely been feeling those. I’ve only thrown up about three times since finding out that we were pregnant, but I feel nauseated at least once a day. It may sound weird, but that’s an incredibly comforting symptom to feel. I actually feel more at ease when I’m nauseous and throwing up than I do when I feel totally fine!

We get to see baby Casper via ultrasound on Tuesday. I will only be five weeks and six days at that point, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up that we’ll see much. It’s still really exciting to think that in a couple of days we will be able to see our baby’s growth and progress!

Worry During Early Pregnancy: The Struggle is Real

During the course of our two IVF treatments, I always thought once we got that BFP my fears would subside, and I’d be able to relax a little more. I imagined myself relishing in the good news, and feeling more at ease than ever. Oh, how I wish this were true. 

I’m five weeks pregnant today, and feel like I’ve turned into a full-time hypochondriac. I’m over analyzing every symptom, and even wondering if it’s been too long between symptoms. Like why don’t I feel morning sickness today when I felt it two days ago? And how come I still feel that cramping in my uterus? Do I feel sick enough? Tired enough? Pregnant enough? It’s driving me crazy(ier). 

I’m already so attached to the idea of baby Casper. I’ve been thinking about him nonstop since we got confirmation that I was pregnant. Even the fact that we know he’s a boy makes it more real. I’ve pictured myself rocking, swaddling, and cuddling my son. I’ve thought about all the things he and Chris are going to do together. I’ve looked at baby pictures of my husband and wondered if Casper will look like him. I have his nursery completely planned out. I’ve thought about him playing with his cousins, and seeing them become best buddies. If I suddenly found out that was all going to be taken away, I don’t know how I could recover. 

The fact is, after a positive pregnancy result, us IVFers have so much riding on the line. I keep thinking about how if, heaven forbid, I have a miscarriage, it’s not like I can just “start trying” and get pregnant again on my own. This process is time consuming, and emotionally, physically, and financially draining. And we’d have to start from scratch with another FET. Ugh. The thought of it makes me sick to my stomach (or is that the nausea again)?

In order to allay the fear, and ease the anxiety, I’ve been working hard to combat it. For starters, I’ve pinned about 1,001 different affirmations for pregnancy on one of my secret Pinterest boards. Some of my favorites come from this website. Additionally, I downloaded an album on iTunes by Bree Taylor Molyneaux, and have been listening to a track on repeat called “Affirmations for Early Pregnancy.” It does seem to be helping, and sinking in a bit. I’m also working on making a vision/dream board for my pregnancy. It’s a total work in progress, but the goal is for me to think positively about my pregnancy, and visualize what a healthy, happy pregnancy would be for me. 

When all else fails, I just remind myself of the facts. My baby is chromosomally normal. I’m healthy. I have the ability to carry this baby to term. 

I keep hoping that confirmation of hCG levels rising, which we should have on Friday, will help to further diminish my fears. I’m probably going to be so nervous on Friday until we get that phone call. 

Come on, Casper. We believe in you, and we love you. 💙

IVF #2: Beta #1 Results

I’ve been peeing on sticks for the past few days like it’s my job. Today we finally got to hear it from the pros…

We are pregnant!

Somebody please pinch me! I cannot believe it. 

Our beta came back at 573. They’ll test me again in exactly a week to see if the numbers are doubling every 48 hours like they should. 

In the movie Casper, Casper goes into the Lazarus to bring himself back to life, but the villains steal the special solution and he turns out looking kind of like a fried egg. Well, to me, that’s what our embaby looked like on the day of transfer. So, that’s what we’ll call our little sticky bean on the blog, “Casper.” 

Casper and Baby Hopeful

He sure is cute. We can’t wait to meet him in nine months. 💙

IVF #2: 5dpt Update

It’s only been five days since transfer, but it feels like it’s been so much longer! The two-week-wait is taking its jolly, sweet time. 

I don’t have tons to report other than (gasp) gas. It’s not lady-like, but I’m feeling pretty gassy, and have been ever since the first day after transfer. Every now and then, I’ll catch a wave of nausea, but I feel like it’s all stemming from my overly active digestive system. 

I had pain in the right side of my uterus yesterday, and the day before. Although, I had that in my failed IVF cycle too. I have seen zero signs of implantation bleeding, but for once, I’d really like to see just a tinge of blood! 

Last night I had a dream that I took a home pregnancy test and it was negative. I woke up feeling pretty bummed about that. Hopefully that’s just my fears coming through in my dreams, and it doesn’t mean anything. 

My close friends have been really sweet and checking in on me frequently. My good buddy brought me fonuts at work (they are delicious baked donuts, not fried. You’ve gotta try them) and a sweet card. I’m lucky to have such loving friends. 

Thanks, K! This was the perfect message for me. 💗


  

I went to therapy this week because I was feeling pretty blue. We talked about how difficult it is to go through this process again. The most frustrating part for me is the utter lack of control we have over the outcome. Chris and I are hard workers, and if we had any ability to influence the cycle, you bet we’d be doing whatever we could. It’s hard to feel so powerless. 

We are doing our best to stay positive, and when we start to doubt, or feel down, we just remind ourselves of the facts: our embryo is healthy, and good quality. My uterus looks great. Our transfer went beautifully. We have reasons to be hopeful, and we should keep our heads held high. 

Beta is next Friday, October 2nd. We’ll post the results here once we’ve had time together process the news. Thanks for all the good thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes we’ve received from you all. We feel such a strong support from this community. We’re sending all our warmth and love right back at all of you.  

 

IVF #2: FET Day!

Chris and I slept poorly last night thinking about our frozen embryo transfer today. We wake up bleary-eyed at the indecent five o’clock hour (good practice for kids right?) and make our way to the reproductive center. Traffic is near gridlock, so we come skidding into the parking lot about five minutes late. We sign in at 7:50, and wait for them to call us back for our 8:30 transfer.

Ok, so I know we are a little late, but they are running much later than us. Normally, I wouldn’t mind so much. However, with an embryo transfer, they require you to come with a full bladder. I’m starting to think my bladder is weak sauce because at about 8:45 (still no call back) I start thinking I’m going to piss myself in the swanky lobby chairs. Chris starts to see that panicked look in my eyes, and says he’s going to go find a nurse. They tell me it’ll be at least another 30 minutes, so they ask me to “partly” empty my bladder. I probably looked at the nurse with that same sideways expression my dogs give me when they hear a high-pitched noise. So she explains I should start to pee, count to ten, and shut it down. After that, I feel much better, and we go back to the swanky chairs to wait some more.

A nurse calls us back, asks us to sign the waivers, and then tells me I should undress from the waist-down and get under a sheet on the hospital bed. They provided me with some sexy rubber-grip hospital socks, but I brought some of my own.

 

My hopeful socks!

 
The nurse walks in and tells me she’s going to look at my bladder. She squirts the clear ultrasound goo on my lower stomach region, and begins pressing like hell with the ultrasound into my oh-still-very-full bladder. She tells me how perfect the fullness is (uh, yeah lady, I can feel that it’s full). Meanwhile, our doctor walks in, greets us, tilts the hospital bed so my feet are in the air, goes to the end of the bed and flips my sheet back. I know they are used to seeing the goods, but I was so bashful lying there with my cookie hanging out. He proceeds to spread my legs, grab a speculum, and do the regular gyno routine, and then insert the catheter through my cervix.

The nurse called the embryologist, and she loaded our chosen embryo into a syringe. We decided to go with our top rated male. The moments while we waited for her to come in were probably the most awkward since no one in the room really had a job to do, and I was lying there feeling pretty exposed. Soon enough our embryologist came in, and the injected our little boy through the catheter and into my uterus.

Not the clearest pic, but here is our embaby in his new home.

Our embryo is a handsome little guy by IVF standards. He’s rated a 6AA on the Gardner Blastocyst Grading Scale, which I was really pleased to learn is the best rating an embryo can receive. The 6 means he’s a hatched blastocyst. The first “A” means his inner cells are tightly packed (this part becomes the fetus), and the second “A” means his TE cells are plentiful and form a cohesive layer (this part becomes the placenta). This is light years better than our only blastocyst in our first failed IVF cycle. We are thrilled.

Baby Hopeful’s first picture–you can see clearly that he’s hatched from his shell. 🙂

I feel like a drug addict, but we added ANOTHER pill today. In addition to my estrogen shots and progesterone lozenges and suppositories, now I’m taking methylprednisone. This is supposed to help prevent my body from rejecting the embryo so it can attach.

All in all, good news to report today. Our doctor said my endometrium looked great, the transfer was flawless, and we have a perfect embryo. He said it’s all up to my body at this point. So come on, body, let’s get pregnant!

 

IVF #2: Progesterone is not my friend

 

Putrid grape-flavored lozenge

 
I’m just going to start off by saying, “YUCK.”

Today I had to ingest my first progesterone lozenges and they are beyond nasty. You know the grape-flavored medicine that everyone hates? This is so much more disgusting than that. For starters it’s a lozenge, so it lasts for what feels like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. I have to take them underneath my tongue, and hold them there until they are completely dissolved. No joke, the dissolving process takes about 15 minutes. As it dissolves, the lozenge makes your mouth feel simultaneously numb and waxy. The first one I took this morning almost made me puke. I think partly that’s because I did it on an empty stomach. I don’t really have a choice, though. I have to take them about eight hours apart because I’m doing it three times a day. So this means bright and early when I wake up, midday, and before bed. Even after transfer, I get to do this until my 10th week of pregnancy. I’m already sick of it. Honestly though, I will do anything to become a mom. So if it means ingesting repulsive grape-flavored medicine, I’ll do it 100 years if necessary. If given the choice, I would much rather do progesterone in oil. I’m already doing estrogen in oil, so what’s another shot?!

Last cycle with a different doctor, I did Crinone suppositories for my progesterone and they were icky! TMI Alert: if you haven’t experienced the joy of  Crinone, let me just tell you what you’re missing. They contain a bio adhesive that makes them literally get stuck in your vag for as long as possible. I used to pass gigantic clots of glue every day. My husband didn’t even want to touch me while I was taking the stuff. And I don’t blame him! To call them gross is quite an understatement.  

 

Endometrin tablet and applicator

 
This time I’m taking Endometrin three times a day. I’ve only taken two doses, but so far I like them a lot more than the Crinone. The only downside I’ve noticed so far, is that they’re making me feel a little bit irritated down there. They are a pill instead of a gel, and you insert them with an applicator. They dissolve up there, and then they kind of slowly leak out throughout the day. Pantiliners are a must-have on this stuff. 

So far I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting headaches right after my dosages of the lozenges and the Endometrin. I feel little bit detached from my body after I take them for about an hour or two. I hope this is something I can adjust to, or that will eventually start to go away on its own, because it’s a distraction in the middle of my day. The headaches are not debilitating, so I’ll be able to manage for awhile. What’s 11ish weeks when you get a lifetime with your kid, right!? đŸ‘¶đŸŒ

IVF #2: Decision Day

  
Even through transfer is still a week away, today we had to give our embryo transfer decision to our clinic. According the the results of our PGS, we have four healthy embryos: three boys, and a girl. We’ve been going back and forth on our decision for transfer, but after a lengthy discussion with our RE, we’ve finally made up our minds. 

Chris asked our RE about transferring twins. Our RE told us a story about some friends of his who needed IVF in order to conceive a child. Naturally, they turned to their buddy, our doctor, for help. They ended up transferring two embryos, and both stuck. The twins were born early, as most are. Unfortunately, one of the twins had cerebral palsy as a result of their prematurity. Dr. W said each week their families get together for sporting events, and each week he is reminded of why it is best to transfer only one embryo. It was a pretty powerful story for Chris and me to hear, and ultimately led us to the decision to transfer only one embryo. 

Then came the gender decision. At this point, I’ve never successfully been pregnant. Although our infertility is male factor, my ability to carry a child is still uncertain, but of course we’re hoping for the best. Since we have three boy embryos, we feel like it’s a safer choice to transfer a boy. We want to preserve the health of our little girl, and make sure everything is in working order with my body before we try to transfer her. 

I told Chris if this cycle results in a negative pregnancy test, we’ll reopen the discussion of how many embryos to transfer next time. I’d likely push for two, if this were the case. Let’s hope it’s not, and everything goes smoothly. 

Next Monday, September 21st is our transfer. I’ll be on bed rest for two days, so I’ve ordered some great Netflix movies to keep me busy. I’m definitely going to do a home pregnancy test after about six days, because I can’t wait (obediently) until beta again this time around. Just thinking about the results makes my stomach flip. 

In about nine months, we hope to welcome a little boy into our family. 💙

IVF #2: Prepping for Transfer (aka Shots in the Butt)

Chris is now a pseudo-nurse. Tonight will be his third time administering a shot of Delestrogen into the muscle of my upper buttocks. I knighted him as shot-giver since that’s a pretty tough area to inject on yourself. I was going to try it, because I’d way rather give myself my own injections, but the angle is a little tricky. 

The first time, it was a super smooth process. I didn’t even really feel it, and I was surprised when Chris told me it was over. The only downside is it bled quite a bit. I couldn’t get the injection site to stop bleeding for about 15-20 minutes. Finally, after lots of pressure, it quit. The second injection stung so badly–it felt like a hot poker into one of my nerves. The upside was there was no blood at all. Go figure. 

I’ve been incredibly emotional lately. I feel so sad and depressed. So many things have set it off. First, I found out Chris’s cousin is having a baby girl. She decided to announce the gender to everyone in the family except for us. She told Chris’s brother she didn’t tell us “for obvious reasons” (I’m guessing our infertility). Still, it sucked to find out the news from someone else in the family. Does she really think avoiding us is going to make it easier? We’re going to find out either way! I felt like an infertile outcast, not to mention hurt and excluded. Granted, I understand she’s in a lose-lose situation. It’s not easy to tell people news that you know is going to be tough for them. I don’t really know how to reconcile this, other than just chalking it up to the fact that people really don’t know how to act when you’re infertile. 

As I was driving to work this morning, I was passing a semi filled with hogs. Every time the semi driver would get on the brakes in traffic, the hogs would begin to squeal. This made me feel so emotional I wanted to just start bawling. I am definitely an animal lover, and I know this would’ve affected me even without the shots of estrogen in my system. However, I feel like the hormones made it a lot worse.

This weekend I went to another Resolve meeting. This one was only women, and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the women there. The girl next to me shared that the synthetic hormones make her incredibly depressed. I totally related and connected to that sentiment. Although the stim phase never seems to affect me, the shots of estrogen, which I’ve never had in the past, seem to be doing a number on me emotionally. I’m ready for this process to be over. 

I am beyond nervous about transfer. I am so terrified of getting another negative beta. I can’t even describe how traumatizing that would be. I am so afraid that this is going to destroy me emotionally if it doesn’t work out. The fear is almost paralyzing. It’s hard to be positive, because there’s so much riding on these results. I don’t know what to do. Every day I worry about the success or failure of our transfer. It’s a huge weight on my shoulders. 

After doing lots of research, and speaking with my OB/GYN, I am definitely leaning towards transferring two embryos, while Chris is leaning towards transferring one. We intend to talk to our RE in further detail next time we see him. Even though we aren’t on the same page with our desires for transfer, Chris and I are getting along well. We are definitely able to talk about it without any frustration or argument at this point.

Total random sidenote: I don’t know what to call this transfer. It’s technically our second frozen embryo transfer, but it’s also our second complete IVF cycle. So do we call it IVF #2: FET #1 or is it IVF #2: FET #2? 

Either way, I hope it’s our last!

IVF #2: Decision-Making Standstill

Stress-cartoon

We met with our RE on Friday for blood work and an ultrasound. As he was speaking with us, he mentioned our PGS results and said, “Now you guys just have to decide which embryo you want to transfer.”

“Just one?” I clarified.

He launched into an explanation of higher risks associated with multiples, and how if it were his kid and his choice, he’d choose just one. He added that at my age (31) I’m likely to bounce back from a singleton pregnancy, but twins would do a number on my body. “You don’t want all that saggy skin,” he harped.

No, I don’t want saggy skin. Most of all, I don’t want to put my babies at risk. I don’t want to put myself at risk, either. What do I want? To be pregnant. To deliver happy, healthy, baby(ies).

This advice from our RE is a little unexpected. When we interviewed Dr. W, we loved that he said we could transfer two embryos, and we would. Why the change of tune? I didn’t ask, because I was in too much shock. Is it because we did PGS and filtered out the ones he knew wouldn’t stick? I’m so confused, and frankly disappointed.

Last time we transferred one embryo, because it was all we had. In return, we got nothing but a negative beta, devastation, and complete heartache. I really liked the security of transferring two this time. In my mind, it sets us up for a greater chance of success. I wonder how much more we have the ability to endure. Are we strong enough to go through that pain again? I am afraid it might break me.

Then I think it through and realize, the thing that would break me more is to feel like I made the wrong choice. Heaven forbid we choose to transfer two embryos, and that decision is at the cost of the health or lives of our babies. Damn you, infertility. Fertile couples don’t have to make decisions like this.

Chris and I have talked circles around what to do, and what the best decision will be for us and for our family. All we’ve concluded is that this is a more difficult conversation than we realized it would be. To be honest, we are pretty stressed about making the right choice, and that has resulted in us treating each other less than our best. I love that we’re aware of this, and we’re doing everything in our power to turn it around, work together, and get on the same page. We know we’ll figure this out together. Eventually. 😉

Mr. Hopeful Explains What It’s Like To Have A MESA/ TESE Procedure

Walnut2

The purpose of this post, dear reader, is to relay experience gained through two separate procedures—two MESAs and one TESE—in hopes of helping my fellow men who may be facing similar procedures as a result of male factor infertility. Prior to my first MESA procedure, I scoured the Internet trying to gain a sense of what to expect, yet all I came up with was technical jargon and basic explanations. As such, I’m providing this boots-on-the-ground narrative in an attempt to help shed light on the procedures and educate others as to what to expect.

Fair warning: the following contains graphic content. Prior to my first MESA procedure, I would have loved to read a no-B.S. assessment of what I was getting myself into. As such, I’ve written this post in the same straight-up, conversational manner that I’d use if talking to another man about the topic. I’ve used jargon that you may find offensive. There’s definitely TMI contained in the following paragraphs, and if you have a weak stomach, are easily grossed out/offended, or just plain don’t want to read a firsthand description of what it’s like to have a testicle cut open, you’d better skip this blog.

A note to all the women who may read this blog: I am under no false illusions that your involvement in the IVF process is immeasurably harder and more physically uncomfortable, humiliating, and demanding that mine—and that’s before you (hopefully) carry and deliver a baby! In no way am I trying to diminish your contribution by describing what I have been through; I’m merely trying to accurately convey my experience in hopes of taking some of the fear and mystery out of the procedure(s) for the benefit of other men. I’ll be the first to admit that men are tough…but women are much, much tougher!

OK, now that you’ve been warned/notified, let’s get started:

My first procedure was scheduled to be a MESA—short for Microsurgical Retrieval of Epididymal Sperm—or, as I read it in my head every time, “Mildly Embarrassing Sperm Acquisition.” Those of you who have followed our blog will likely remember that I was born with congenital absence of the vas deferens, meaning that I don’t have any tubes connecting my nuts to the rest of the system. Translation? I produce sperm but don’t deliver it, meaning that in order to get my half of the IVF recipe, my urologist needs to physically retrieve it. Lucky me.

Dr. W is without a doubt one of the best male fertility specialists in the business. At about six-and-a-half feet tall, he’s also likely one of the biggest. I felt comfortable from the moment that I met him, and he assured me that he would do everything in his power to make the procedure a successful one.

My balls—and our reproductive future—were soon in his large and competent hands.

Although I’ve done this procedure twice at two different IVF clinics, both times Dr. W traveled to the clinic to perform the procedure. For the sake of eliminating redundancy, I’ll describe the second, more successful procedure, adding in notes from the first when relevant.

The day of the second procedure also marked my wife’s retrieval, since we didn’t want to have to freeze my sperm. She went first, and I sat quietly in the waiting room and kept a good thought for both of us. I have had a number of surgeries in my life and wasn’t too nervous, but I definitely felt my adrenaline spike when they asked me to come in back and start getting ready.

Heather was already in recovery at that point, and I filled out paperwork while doing my best to take care of her. Pretty soon, the nurses opened up the curtain divider to reveal another hospital bed, and asked me to get changed into a gown and socks that were sitting in a neat pile. I couldn’t help but laugh at the nurse’s attempt at modesty when she came back and asked through the curtain if I was changed and decent. Really, lady? I thought. You’re about to see my junk under an 800 lumen light, and you want to make sure I’m dressed? I played along and after kissing my still-drugged wife and taking a quick piss for good luck, it was off to the operating room.

Dr. W had already arrived and was prepping his tools while singing along to an obscure ’70s hit song that was blasting through the overhead speaker in the room. With the help of a nurse, he directed me to lie down on the main operating table with an array of pillows jammed underneath my head and shoulders to keep me from moving around (and, I suspect, watching).

At this point, I asked for a blanket for my chest. Now, my cold tolerance is insane, but I have very little body fat, and the room was cool enough that I knew I’d be shaking like a jackhammer in about ten minutes if I didn’t have more insulation (normally I’d be content to just shiver, but given that in the next ten minutes I’d have needles and razors applied to my scrotum, I opted for the snivel gear).

With the same casual familiarity of a professional chef flipping a pancake, Dr. W flipped back the gown to reveal my family jewels. I glanced at the nurse to gauge her reaction; she looked about as unsurprised as a librarian walking past a shelf full of books. I took this to be a good thing and tried to prep myself for what I knew was coming.

The first thing Dr. W did was compliment me on the job I’d done shaving “the area.” I’ve had enough surgeries to know the drill, and he seemed as happy to not have to shave my sack as I was. Next, Dr. W warned that things would get “cold and wet” and proceeded to dump what felt like a 5-gallon bucket of ice-cold liquid iodine on my crotch. I felt myself inhale sharply as the iodine ran down my legs and all over the place, and soon Dr. W was smearing it around in as professional a manner as one can when smearing a slippery liquid over another man’s crotch. Next, Dr. W used some scotch tape—yes, the same stuff we all used in elementary school to hang up pictures—to tape my shaft to my stomach. I was happy to have it out of the way (not that either he or the nurse would slip with a kitchen knife—but hey, better safe than sorry!).

Dr. W then asked if I was ready to get started, and warned that I’d feel a “pinch and a burn” as he numbed the area. Now, there are many ways to describe having a needle stuck into one of the most sensitive spots on your body, and pinch and a burn is not the first that comes to mind. I bit my lip and reminded myself that my wife has had to endure similar experiences, and at a far greater frequency than this. Dr. W numbed the area to his liking. While I couldn’t feel the incision—or anything in that general region, for that matter—I could feel it in my stomach (every guy knows that if you get hit in the balls hard enough, your stomach hurts. This came on as a dull but bearable ache that remains for about a week or two).

At this point, Dr. W’s next actions aren’t entirely known to me, since I wasn’t directly watching (nor did I want to be) and, thankfully, I couldn’t feel much more than a muted tugging and slight pressure. I could tell that he was cutting into my skin and epididymis to retrieve a sample. The first time I had this done, the clinic-supplied nurse was borderline incompetent. While Dr. W pushed “fluid” out of the epididymis, she sucked it up with a syringe. Or, at least she pushed it around while Dr. W futility attempted to coach her through the process. Later, when she left the room, I asked if she was qualified to do this procedure. He said that she was but I could sense his frustration at her inability to do what he needed her to do.

Fortunately, the second nurse—whom I’m guessing is an employee of our current IVF clinic—was an absolute pro. She did exactly what Dr. W needed her to do, and soon he was leaving the room to view the sample under a microscope with the lab techs. I noticed that a second female nurse had entered the room. All modesty had left us at that point; whether she was there to help—or just view my fine china—I really didn’t care. We made awkward conversation while I stared at the vent in the ceiling wondering what bacteria was flowing into the room and my still-splayed-open nutsack.

The first time we did this procedure, Dr. W came shuffling into the room 10 minutes later and explained that he’d only found dead sperm. In the next few minutes, my MESA procedure became a TESE (Testicular Sperm Extraction or, as I came to refer to it, Total Emergency Sperm Exploration) as Dr. W went directly into my nut to try to get what he needed. Several trips back and forth to the lab and he had a few “twitching” sperm, but I could tell he wasn’t pleased.

Fortunately, my second procedure was completely different. I’d been taking daily fistfuls of supplements for months in hopes of raising my sperm quality; in the process, I’d become incredibly moody and I’d put on about 8 pounds of muscle (understandable, since my testosterone was through the roof and I was, in effect, juicing). But this regiment of chemicals resulted in a body composition change that fired up my little swimmers in a big way.

Soon, Dr. W came bursting into the room like Kramer from Seinfeld and proudly announced that I had millions of sperm. Millions! He said that the lab techs were high-fiving each other, and the sample looked so good that it could have come from a normal ejaculation. Words cannot convey how utterly relieved we both were to hear this result. As Dr. W jostled some tools and papers around the operating room, my thoughts returned to my wife, who had since left the clinic under the care of a friend to get some much-needed rest. I couldn’t wait to tell her the positive news, and that I felt like we were “back in the game” as far as becoming parents to our own children. Coincidentally, I noticed that the song that was now blasting through the overhead speaker was “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles. I can tell you this: if this cycle is successful, that song will never sound quite the same as it did before this procedure.

It wasn’t long before Dr. W began buttoning things up. He was smiling and very upbeat; I was pleased to see that he was truly invested in a positive outcome for us. Now that the pressure was seemingly off, we began casually conversing about a variety of manly topics—our shared affinity for martial arts, the folly of trying to out-swim a Navy SEAL BUD/S instructor, and the prevalence of Kalashnikov rifles in third world countries were all discussed as he stitched up my still-numb junk. The tough-guy conversation was likely not unintentional; I suspect that it was our shared way of acknowledging each other and saying, Look, this is as close to pillow talk as IVF gets. Neither of us particularly enjoyed this, but we’re both damn happy with how it went. Let’s get this done and be through with it.

The administering of the sutures was unpleasant (each time he tugged on the string, my boys momentarily left the surface of the table, like an adult-themed puppet covered in drying iodine). Again, Dr. W’s competence and professionalism ruled out, and he was finished before I knew it. The nurse left the room, and without further instructions I gently pulled all of the blankets to the ground and, after a sincere thank-you and a firm handshake with my towering doctor, I shuffled for the recovery room, where I quickly ditched my iodine-and-who-knows-what-else-stained gown and donned a set of tri-shorts (I’ve found these offer the best post-procedure support; jock straps can be a little too tight and actually hurt a little if they get out of place). The nurses gave me a few ice-packs, which I gratefully shoved down my shorts, and after waving off additional pain meds and throwing on the rest of my clothes, I was soon out on the curb and grabbing a ride from our friend. We then drove to pickup my wife, at which point I got behind the wheel and piloted us home. You’re technically not supposed to drive after this procedure, but if I was going to be sitting, I figured I might as well drive. Plus, my dear wife was still looped out from her procedure.

This photo was taken of my immediately following my first MESA procedure. As you can see, I was a little rattled by the experience.

This photo was taken of my immediately following my first MESA procedure. As you can see, I was a little rattled by the experience.

As the local anesthetic wore off and we arrived at home, I found myself in quite a bit of pain, but nothing that lying down and icing—combined with a single Tylenol—didn’t fix. In the next 24 hours, I ran a few errands to pickup take-out and to get my antibiotics from the pharmacy, but otherwise I stayed put and let the ice do its work (frequent icing is key to managing the swelling). Walking was a ginger affair for about two days, but within four days I was back at work (which entailed me being in disgusting, dirty, frigid ocean water while wearing an exposure suit doing mock emergency swimmer ascents from an imaginary submarine. Hurray for antibiotics!) Suffice it to say, nobody at work knew what I had been through, and within five days of my procedure I was riding a mountain bike (much to my wife’s chagrin. But to be honest, she knew what she was getting into when she married me).

Final note: I slept with a pillow between my knees for about ten days. The stitches go away on their own after a few weeks. About the time you get used to them, you realize that they’ve fallen out or dissolved or something.

And that, my friends, is what it’s like to have a MESA procedure. Let’s hope that it wasn’t for nothing!