Ep. 21: When Getting Pregnant Is Hard AF
November 26, 2018
In this week’s “Big Topic,” Shanna discusses her journey of trying to conceive, which includes a long, circuitous route through infertility, pregnancy loss, reproductive endocrinologists and IVF. Laura discusses the intricate baby-name spreadsheet she created, and Shanna talks about her 32-week growth scan. The moms-to-be also reveal their BFPs and BFNs for the week. Laura is 28 weeks pregnant, and Shanna is 32 weeks pregnant.
- Laura's Baby Name Spreadsheet (Google Sheets) Make a copy, fill in your own names, and share with your partner!
- Ask Polly: Why Do Women Obsess About Babies and Fertility? The best advice column, ever.
- Magic for Humans on Netflix It's delightful.
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Laura Birek: Hey. Real quick before we start the show. If you could go to iTunes and leave us a review and a rating, we would be so grateful. It really does help us find more listeners and share the show with the rest of the world.
Laura Birek: Hi. Welcome to Big Fat Positive. This week on the show we have our weekly check-ins. We have a special, big topic where we hear how Shanna went from TTC to IUI to IVF, and then we have our BFPs and BFNs for the week. Let’s get to it.
Shanna Micko: Hey, everyone. Welcome to episode 21.
Laura Birek: Welcome.
Shanna Micko: Hi. Let’s get started with our weekly check-ins. Laura, where are you at this week?
Laura Birek: I’m at week 28. You know what that means.
Shanna Micko: Third-trimester.
Laura Birek: Everything is going pretty smoothly. I’m really happy to be in my third trimester. It feels like things are finally sort of moving along. I can sort of see the end in sight and also, every day that goes by I have a more viable baby. That’s always just nice to know. Third trimester, I got my Tdap.
Shanna Micko: Good.
Laura Birek: If anyone doesn’t remember that discussion, let’s see what episode was that in. In episode 14, we talked about getting immunizations during pregnancy and I got my third-trimester Tdap, so I’m feeling good about that. I can pass on the whooping cough immunity to my baby and things are going pretty smoothly. Oh, I do have some baby name updates.
Shanna Micko: What?
Laura Birek: No, I set that up like way too exciting of manner. Just that we have absolutely no fucking clue what we’re going to name this baby.
Shanna Micko: Oh, man! That is not a fun update, sorry.
Laura Birek: Sorry, Shanna. No, but the update is that we have a Google doc. So when people ask us if we have a name, my usual cute response is we have a Google doc full of names. But I’ve started making it even more complicated. I’ve added in data about the historical rankings of the names and what the ranking was in 2016 and other notes. Like there was some name I can’t remember what it was that to my surprise, I discovered was now more prominent as a girl’s name than a boy’s name, stuff like that. Hopefully, there can be a little bit of additional metadata to help us choose.
Shanna Micko: I feel like you need to share that template with the listeners too. You don’t have to have your names in there per se.
Laura Birek: Sure.
Shanna Micko: But that could be really helpful.
Laura Birek: Well, you know what I could do is I’ll share the template with your name, my name, our producer Steve’s name, stuff like that so they can sort of see an example.
Shanna Micko: That’s a good idea.
Laura Birek: I’ll put that up in a public Google doc and link it in our show notes, so you’ll be able to get it at bigfatpositivepodcast.com.
Shanna Micko: Cool.
Laura Birek: Everyone visit our website. Then the other thing is that I have just developed this complete inability to focus on my work, like just crippling problem. Especially when you’re self-employed and have deadlines, I am so distracted and so unmotivated and I know I have to get shit done and I’m going to. The nice thing about having clients and being a freelancer is that if you don’t get your work done then you don’t get paid. That’s a huge motivation to actually get it done, but it feels like pulling teeth right now. I don’t know why.
Shanna Micko: What do you want to do instead? Sleep?
Laura Birek: Everything else. No, actually sleep is not on my list. I’d love to get a more restful night of sleep. But what I really want to do is all the things that pop up as I’m puttering around the house for example getting the nursery ready. I’d love to be done with work so I could put my desk in the garage and set up the crib. I can’t do that. Also, when I go into my bathroom cabinet to get something out, I see the pile of mess of toiletries and medicines and stuff, and literally all I want to do in that moment is take everything out of that fucking cabinet and sort it and make it organized. I want to do that with every storage space in my house, but I can’t. I have to look at it and say, “Pile of toiletry crap, I will get to you after this deadline.” But oh, it’s just driving me nuts. I feel so scattered and I just want to do everything but work.
Shanna Micko: Since you’re at home, those distractions are always right there in your face.
Laura Birek: Yes.
Shanna Micko: It’s like when I go to the office, my biggest distraction is the tub of Doritos that are there for free.
Laura Birek: Those are also a delicious distraction.
Shanna Micko: But it takes me 15 seconds to chew through one of those. I don’t know how long it would take you to chew through your bathroom cabinet, but probably at least an hour. So that would take away from your work.
Laura Birek: I know that’s the thing. I know it wouldn’t take all day because I have a very small bathroom cabinet and I know it would be so satisfying to do, but I know it’s like the hour I can’t spare. It’s the hour where my clients are like, how come you haven’t delivered this website review to us yet? I’m like, oh, well because I just had to organize my toiletries. Don’t you understand? It’s nesting. That’s basically where I’m at mentally this week. Anyway, how are you? Where you in your pregnancy, my friend?
Shanna Micko: I’m good. I’m 32 weeks and I have two things. The big one is that I’ve been scheduled for a growth scan, like another ultrasound at 32 weeks for ages because at my 20-week ultrasound, they found out I have the marginal cord insertion in my placenta.
Laura Birek: That’s right.
Shanna Micko: One of the things with that is that maybe the baby doesn’t get as much blood and nutrients, so they check the growth of the baby at 32 weeks. Of course, I was nervous going in as usual, but we had a great tech this time who talked us through everything. Did we talk about before how we like to have kind of a chatty tech who talks us through stuff or am I imagining that?
Laura Birek: We talked about how I’ve never had a tech. Every single one of my ultrasounds has been done by either my doctor or the perinatologist who are also chatty.
Shanna Micko: Oh, that’s right.
Laura Birek: They’re very no-nonsense, but they talk you through everything, which is great. I feel you, but I’ve never had a tech, which I think is really, really unusual.
Shanna Micko: I’ve only ever had a tech do the main one and even in my last pregnancy, so I’m used to it. But the one that has done our two previous ones was just kind of stoic throughout and just doing her measurements and very focused and me and Steve were like, oh my gosh! Is everything okay? This woman was so friendly. She’s like, oh my gosh! It looks great and this is measuring right on track and blah, blah, blah. So from the get-go, we were so at ease and happy and baby girl is totally measuring on track. She’s actually measuring about a week ahead, which is cool and they estimate that she weighs four pounds, nine ounces.
Laura Birek: Wow.
Shanna Micko: Which I don’t know. That’s crazy.
Laura Birek: That sounds big, isn’t it?
Shanna Micko: It’s so big. It’s a little bit ahead for her age, but I think that’s about right. That went well then the doctor came in and reviewed it and he did a couple of scans himself just to double-check and of course, he had to do his 3D pictures, which were absolutely more terrifying than any I’ve received.
Laura Birek: Oh, really?
Shanna Micko: I complained about these every time and this is just the worst. She’s head down now, so she’s like really jammed into my pelvis area. I think her face was all jammed up and it was hard to get an image and her nose was smashed up and I was just like, turn it off. But I didn’t want to say that. I wanted to be polite because I think he takes pride in taking these pictures and so I’m just like, cool. Thanks for that scary image.
Laura Birek: See, this is making me feel better about the fact that I have not had any of those 3D/4D ultrasounds because my office doesn’t offer it. I think they only do it if there’s a medical need to see something in more detail I guess and so my only option would be to go get an elective one and I thought about it. I thought it might be fun, but I had heard that a lot of people regret getting them because they’re scary.
Shanna Micko: I don’t regret it because I guess it just came with the package. I don’t know. I’m not paying for it. But if I did pay for that, I think I would be like, oh, bummer.
Laura Birek: But that sounds fun.
Shanna Micko: Then he said I was fine I don’t need to come back for any more ultrasounds. But he does recommend that starting at 36 weeks, I go in every week and do a heartbeat test. It’s also called a nonstress test I think where they hook me up and whenever I’m having a contraction, they monitor the baby’s heart rate and just make sure she’s doing okay. So I’ll start doing that once a week starting at 36 weeks.
Laura Birek: Are they real contractions or Braxton Hicks?
Shanna Micko: No, like Braxton Hicks.
Laura Birek: Okay.
Shanna Micko: Then the other thing this week is I started feeling baby’s hiccups.
Laura Birek: Oh, really?
Shanna Micko: Yes.
Laura Birek: What did they feel like?
Shanna Micko: Oh, they’re crazy. They feel like spasms in your stomach. Just very regular pulsing spasm. I had them all the time with my first daughter and so I’ve been wondering, why doesn’t this kid have the hiccups? I got them for the first time the other day and I was like, oh, she’s hiccupping.
Laura Birek: It’s the most adorable spasm ever.
Shanna Micko: It’s cute at first and then when she starts hiccupping at 2:00 AM and I’m trying to sleep and your stomach is just having a weird spasm in one place, it’s a little bit of a torture, like stop. I’m moving around, rolling around trying to get her to stop and she’s just like hiccupping.
Laura Birek: You can’t scare her to make her boo.
Shanna Micko: Hold your breath, kid. That’s my check-in for the week.
Laura Birek: Cool.
Laura Birek: Our special segment this week is going to be another big topic. Listeners might remember in episode 12, I talked about my trying to conceive or TTC journey, which thankfully and luckily was fairly straightforward, fairly short. Today, we’re going to talk to Shanna about her journey in trying to conceive and have her children and her story is a bit more complex than mine was, but I think it will really resonate with our listeners. She’s ready to talk about it. Shanna, thanks for letting me interview you about this. This is like a very formal sit-down NPR-style situation.
Shanna Micko: Yes.
Laura Birek: Do you wanna start by telling us how you started to try to conceive and when that was?
Shanna Micko: Well, first of all, I want to say that I feel like I’m getting a little bit nervous just even diving into these topics. It’s not something many people know about me or my life and as you can tell, I haven’t really talked about it much yet on the show and I think it’s why it’s very personal and I don’t know I feel nervous. So if you hear my voice quiver, me ramble on at any point, you’ll know why. Just putting that out there.
Laura Birek: I just want to say that I think it’s totally understandable and part of the reason we haven’t done this until our 21st episode is because we were waiting for you to feel ready to talk about it. I think everyone understands and I think honestly, a lot of listeners have similar stories. So I think it’s going to be really great for them to hear what you’ve been going through. Tell us about what the beginning was like.
Shanna Micko: Well, the beginning was full of optimism and excitement and I was maybe 34 when Steve and I decided that this is something we wanted to do and we were going to go for it, and getting pregnant did not happen for us one year, two years.
At about that point, I decided to go and see someone and see like maybe what was going on.
Laura Birek: By someone you mean like a reproductive endocrinologist?
Shanna Micko: Yes, to get testing to see if something was going on because at first, I was like, oh, we’re probably just not doing the timing right. I learned about timing and I learned about all this stuff on my own and once I learned about all that stuff and started doing all of the ovulation kits and the temperatures and all of this stuff, it wasn’t happening and so we went and saw a reproductive endocrinologist who did a bunch of tests. Of course, everything came back fine and was like, you have unexplained infertility. So we got no answers.
Laura Birek: You have an undiagnosable disease that we can’t tell you anything about. Bye.
Shanna Micko: Exactly. But she was very quick to give me stats. She’s like, you basically have a 1% chance of getting pregnant on your own without help. I’m like, oh, boy. We were going to gear up and try for like an IUI, which is intrauterine insemination and then I actually got pregnant naturally right before we were going to do this. I was like, okay. Maybe the universe was just waiting for the right time and blah, blah, blah. Then 10 weeks later, I had a miscarriage which I’ve talked about on the show before and so that was a real bummer. I decided I didn’t want to wait another two years to try to get pregnant naturally via the universe is blessing. So I went back to the reproductive endocrinologist and was like, let’s do this. That’s why I took some Clomid, which is an ovulation stimulating drug and we were going to do the IUI and long story short, I missed the ovulation day.
Laura Birek: You were testing every day, but it didn’t come up, right?
Shanna Micko: It never tested positive. I wasn’t using the fancy ovulation kit that you have.
Laura Birek: You were just using those cheaper ones that I tried at first that didn’t work at all either.
Shanna Micko: Someone should have clued me in on that. We missed the IUI so she couldn’t do the insemination, but luckily, Steve and I had been doing the deed as they say on the boards, DTD: doing the deed, and that actually did get me pregnant. So it was a combination of the Clomid, the hormone drugs, and DTD that finally after almost three years of trying to conceive, I got pregnant.
Laura Birek: With your now lovely two and a half, almost three-year-old daughter.
Shanna Micko: Yeah.
Laura Birek: Who is delightful. You didn’t have to pay for the IUI you missed, right?
Shanna Micko: No, I didn’t.
Laura Birek: That’s good.
Shanna Micko: It saved me a lot of money.
Laura Birek: That sounds like it worked out pretty well. The Clomid obviously worked on you. Did you have any weird side effects from the Clomid or was it fine?
Shanna Micko: No, it was totally fine.
Laura Birek: It’s just like a pill you take, right? It’s not like you have to inject.
Shanna Micko: Clomid is super easy.
Laura Birek: I have to say that when my stepsisters heard that I was starting to try to conceive, TTC, she sent me a message and she was like, “Just start taking Clomid now” and I was like, maybe I should wait six months like my doctor says and I’m glad I did because one of the risks is that you could end up with multiples, right?
Shanna Micko: Yeah, I think it made me produce at least seven or eight follicles and so I was definitely concerned that I might have twins. I was very relieved on the first ultrasound to see there was only one. That’s a weird advice to go out the gate with the Clomid.
Laura Birek: I know. I was like, all right. Cool your jets. We’ll get there when we get there. Anyway, that sounds like it wasn’t a straight path at all, but in the end, the Clomid worked and so that was great. When it came time to when you and your husband decided it was time to have another baby, what happened then?
Shanna Micko: Well, at that point my daughter was about 14 months old, I guess. We didn’t necessarily make a decision to try, but it was like, we’re not going to prevent that whole thing. I wasn’t on birth control or anything.
Laura Birek: Would you mind sharing how old you were at this point because that makes a difference obviously in fertility?
Shanna Micko: At that point, I was 38.
Laura Birek: Doctors start getting real, like giving you real concerned looks when you want to get pregnant any time before I don’t know 37 I feel like. I don’t know about what you’ve gotten.
Shanna Micko: Definitely.
Laura Birek: You weren’t necessarily trying.
Shanna Micko: We weren’t trying, but we weren’t preventing and honestly, I was like, it took forever to get pregnant the first time, what are the odds of this even happening? After a couple of months, it did happen naturally and we were surprised and excited and I was really excited because I was like, oh, good. I’ll have my second baby before I’m 40, which for some reason in my head was like, I just wanted to do that. I just wanted to have my babies in my thirties and then another 10, 11 weeks later we went back in for our second ultrasound and couldn’t find a heartbeat and so that one passed too. So I had a second miscarriage.
Laura Birek: That’s rough.
Shanna Micko: It was really rough. The thing I did this time though, which I really was glad I did is I had the chromosomes of that fetus tested afterward because I had a DNC. I didn’t do it naturally. I just wanted to just kind of get in and get out of that situation.
Laura Birek: People who don’t know, a DNC is where the doctor will surgically, they don’t need to make an incision, but they’ll go in and clear out and make sure all the remains of the pregnancy are out of your uterus. So there’s nothing remaining that will try to grow and cause problems, right?
Shanna Micko: Because the other option, which they’re like, you can just wait it out and your body will eventually pass it and I’m like, obviously my body is not keyed into the fact that this pregnancy is not viable because I had no idea and it was probably at least a couple of weeks.
Laura Birek: That’s so rough.
Shanna Micko: Because you go in and they measure so they can see about the age of the fetus and it’s like the age of the fetus is like eight weeks, five days, but I was about 10 or 11 weeks along. So my body was not clued in on that and I wasn’t keen on waiting around to see when that would happen. Anyways, the DNC was the right decision for me personally and the benefit of that, maybe you could do this if you pass it naturally I guess if you bring it in the doctor I don’t know, you can test the chromosomes of the fetus and find out if there were any chromosomal problems, because one of the big things about having a miscarriage at least for me is I automatically blamed myself. What did I do wrong? I had a drink before I knew I was pregnant, blah, blah, blah. I’m this that. What did I do? I exercised too hard. I don’t know. Just like so many things go through your head and the doctors are very quick to tell you it’s probably chromosomal, but there’s no reassurance in that if you don’t know.
Laura Birek: You don’t know for sure if you don’t test it.
Shanna Micko: I tested and I found out that this did have a chromosome problem. You remember Turner syndrome?
Laura Birek: I do. It was Turner syndrome, which is when you have one X chromosome and no pair. For 99% of the population, if you have two X chromosomes, you are born female. If you have an X and a Y, you’re born male, and Turner syndrome is when you have what they call XO and there are some children who there’s a range of I think outcomes, but I think most of them miscarry early. It can be a horrible disease if you don’t. Did you call my mom for that one?
Shanna Micko: Yeah, I talked to your mom who, if listeners don’t remember is a geneticist and she explained it to me. She was so helpful and awesome and just really helped me understand it. I felt obviously devastated, but I felt a lot better knowing that this was kind of nature doing what nature needed to do. You know what I mean? It wasn’t me personally that did anything, but that’s a devastating experience to go through that again.
Laura Birek: What happened after that? When did you feel ready to move on and take the next steps to try again?
Shanna Micko: Something about my personality is that when I’m faced with something hard like that, the way I like to cope is to buck up and find a solution of how to move on. I find that I’ve done that a lot in life.
Laura Birek: It seems like a good quality to have.
Shanna Micko: I guess so. Sometimes I feel like maybe I don’t process emotions enough, but that’s just the way I handle it. I would say pretty quickly within a couple of weeks I felt like being pregnant the second time kind of showed me that I did want to have another child because I was on the fence a little bit beforehand. But being pregnant again and being excited about it and everything made me realize, okay. I do want this, but I don’t want to live through another miscarriage. I just can’t. I’m getting too old. First of all, it really sets my timeline back a lot to be pregnant for almost three months to live through a whole first trimester, which we all know sucks so bad to live through all the nausea and exhaustion and everything and I was just like, I just can’t do it. If I go through another miscarriage, I’m definitely not having a kid again. I don’t know. There was just something about it. I just didn’t want to do it. So I wanted to try to find a solution that would help me move forward with a little bit more certainty or something I don’t know and I just so happened to look into my health insurance policy and found out that our insurance actually covers fertility treatment.
Laura Birek: Wow. Which is unusual.
Shanna Micko: So unusual. When I was trying to conceive my first child, I did not have any fertility coverage. I would’ve had to pay everything out of pocket. This time around I’m on new insurance and it blew me away. I was like, that’s an amazing advantage and with my age and my history of infertility and all of this stuff, I’m like, I think I just need to explore getting help trying to get this next pregnancy going. Then I found out that this is something I didn’t know is that when you do IVF, nowadays what they can do is test the chromosomes of the embryos that you create.
Laura Birek: So you know whether they’re viable embryos before you get them implanted, right?
Shanna Micko: Yes, exactly.
Laura Birek: That’s huge. That must be pretty new, like within the last few years, right?
Shanna Micko: Yes, I want to say it is. I don’t know for certain how many years, but it’s a newer thing and that to me was the answer I was looking for.
For someone my age who wanted a family, who wanted to try to avoid a miscarriage again, I was like that could be my option and that coupled with the insurance paying for it, I was like, not all of it but a good portion of it, which was super helpful. I couldn’t have not have done this otherwise. I decided to look into that option. I’d say probably a couple of weeks after my miscarriage, I was calling my insurance. I’m like, what do I need to do because I know it can sometimes take a long time to get into a reproductive endocrinologist? Even if I wasn’t ready right that second to jump in and get pregnant, I knew it was going to be a process so I wanted to start that process.
Laura Birek: Totally.
Shanna Micko: Probably within a month or so I was in to see the doctor and start all that testing over again and even more detailed testing this time and get his opinion on what I should do moving forward.
Laura Birek: It sounds like the re-recommended IVF is the path for you then.
Shanna Micko: He said that at my age, I was 39 at this point, definitely IVF. He’s like IUI, don’t recommend it.
Laura Birek: Then you still have the risk. You don’t know if you’re going to have a chromosomally okay baby or embryo with IUI. It’s just luck of the draw.
Shanna Micko: Right. That is true. So I was totally okay with his recommendation and I forgot, my insurance wouldn’t even cover an IUI at my age either.
Laura Birek: Oh, really?
Shanna Micko: They actually required me to get IVF. I could have done IUI. It’s tons cheaper, but I would’ve had to pay for it out of pocket. Like I said, I know there’s no certainty in life and you can’t have complete control over things, but I was trying to do what I could to make myself feel better about having some sense of control or certainty or something around this process, which is I don’t know maybe that’s a weird way to go into IVF. I know that a lot of people probably don’t approach it that way at all.
Laura Birek: But you’re just trying to stack the deck in your favor. You don’t know what’s going to happen.
Shanna Micko: No.
Laura Birek: You don’t know if IVF is going to work, but you’re doing everything you can to make sure the odds are in your favor, to use the Hunger Games reference. Tell me about IVF. What was it like for you? How did you get started? How did it progress? I haven’t done it, so I don’t really know much about it except for what I’ve seen on TV.
Shanna Micko: Well, first of all, I just want to say I never in my life thought I would get IVF. Life is so funny sometimes. You just never know what you’re going to go through. It’s so odd, so I just kind of was going through it one step at a time, just like, okay. Well, here I am. I guess I’m just going to go with it and I was really surprised how quick the doctor wanted to just get started. He was basically like, where are you in your cycle? I was like, oh, day three or whatever. He’s like, perfect. Let’s just get you started right now. I was like, oh, let me think about it for a minute and this clinic is so great. They pair you with a nurse who takes the lead on your case and she was like, he can hold his horses. You can think about it and wrap your head around it and we can start next month.
Laura Birek: That’s nice.
Shanna Micko: He was antsy because he’s like, you’re 39. Your eggs aren’t the best they’re going to be basically and its time is just going to keep ticking, so why not just get started?
Laura Birek: Tick tock.
Shanna Micko: I’m like, yeah, I know it is easy for you to say because you do this all day, but this is crazy to me. I took a while to think about it and made the decision that I was going to start the next cycle. The first part of IVF I don’t know if you know is you prep for the egg retrieval, which is you put a bunch of hormones in your body via injection.
Laura Birek: Like daily? Twice a day injections?
Shanna Micko: Oh God. I remember.
Laura Birek: A lot. All I remember is that you were like, oh, I’m just like getting shots constantly all the time.
Shanna Micko: At least once a night, multiple medications. I don’t remember if I did it morning, night. But you do this for a while to deregulate your system and almost put yourself in like this fake menopause so that you can start from a baseline. I was taking Lupron. I think it was like an injection every day and then this process also involves a lot of transvaginal ultrasounds.
Laura Birek: The probing ultrasounds. The fun ones.
Shanna Micko: They want to check your ovaries and your eggs and your follicles and see where you are and a lot of blood draws too because it’s that coupled with your hormone levels and your blood. So this is all stuff I have put out of my mind. It’s so wild. It was like a year ago and it almost feels like a lifetime ago. It’s crazy to relive this. Anyway, then I started the stimulating hormones. Remember I did Clomid, which was a nice little pill last time. Well, that’s like jacked-up times a thousand this time around with injections that stimulate your ovaries and you do that for a while and build up as many follicles and growing eggs as you possibly can and then you get ready for the retrieval. You do a really big shot with a big ass, like two-inch needle in your butt.
Laura Birek: Great.
Shanna Micko: You have to do it at the exact right time because if…
Laura Birek: Oh, yeah. It’s like to the hour, right? You can’t miss it.
Shanna Micko: I think I had to do it at like 1:30 AM or something.
Laura Birek: Because you had the retrievals at a very, very specific time, right?
Shanna Micko: It has to be exactly 36 hours before.
Laura Birek: Wow.
Shanna Micko: I remember I went to bed and I think I set an alarm where Steve woke me up and was like, okay. Time for your butt injection with a very big needle that he helped me with and basically it’s like a surgery I went under. I was a Twilight.
Laura Birek: Is it laparoscopic? Where do they go through? I’ve never known the process.
Shanna Micko: I didn’t see the process because I was under. But from what I understand, they go in through your vagina and then from there, poke through into your ovary.
Laura Birek: Oh, wow. You don’t work with an incision.
Shanna Micko: No.
Laura Birek: Cool. So you go, you get probed and it sounds like you got enough eggs to work with.
Shanna Micko: We got enough eggs and then the next step was to fertilize them and then it was the waiting game. We had to wait five days to see how many embryos survived the end of day five because that’s when they can take a cell and send that off for chromosome testing. We were very fortunate we got plenty that made it to that round and after a few days, we were able to get the test results and I would say probably 60% or 70% of the embryos were not chromosomally viable.
Laura Birek: Wow.
Shanna Micko: This was really interesting to see.
Laura Birek: That’s so interesting.
Shanna Micko: How many did make it and you get the report on what the chromosome problem was for each one and stuff is really interesting.
Laura Birek: Okay. Now you’ve narrowed it down to the healthy ones and it’s time to implant.
Shanna Micko: I wish.
Laura Birek: Not implant I guess.
Shanna Micko: No, not implant. It’s called a transfer and I couldn’t even do that right away because part of my treatment is that the doctor found a pull up inside my uterus, which could have also been contributing to my problems conceiving, so I had to go into another surgery. A month or so after the retrieval, I had to go to another surgery and have that removed and so I had to recover from that then I could finally prep for my transfer. It was a long process and I was feeling glad that I jumped on it and got it all going when I did because it all ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be.
Laura Birek: Something I was thinking about is that for me it took me about four months to conceive and then you have 10 months of pregnancy essentially. So that’s like 14 months of my life where I’m obsessed with every-minute detail of what I’m eating and what I’m drinking and whether it’s going to happen or not happen and all that stuff. For you, it’s years of going through that shit.
Shanna Micko: Basically.
Laura Birek: Okay. But you get to the transfer eventually.
Shanna Micko: It just reminded me that at the same time that all of this was going on, we bought a house, I got a new job.
Laura Birek: Oh, yeah. Then just still a few little things
Shanna Micko: We moved.
Laura Birek: You had a message “fire” next door to your apartment complex.
Shanna Micko: I had to run out of my apartment building at 5:00 AM because the building next door was on fire and blew out my daughter’s nursery window, which prompted us to buy a house and get the heck out of that neighborhood. That was literally all going on while I was doing this IVF. It was a huge, huge, crazy time in my life.
Laura Birek: Oh my God. It must have been a relief to get to the point where you did the transfer, like this is home stretch, right? Hopefully.
Shanna Micko: It’s the easiest part of the whole thing. I didn’t know what to expect and because I’m like, I don’t know. Are they going to put me under again? What is this? It was the easiest part. I just went in and went on a table and they just came in and they confirmed it was me and the embryos, my match, and put it in and I saw it on the ultrasound screen. He’s like, “There’s the embryo. It’s right there.” I was like, “That’s it?” That part was really easy. Of course, the waiting game. The two-week wait on that is ferocious. That was torture.
Laura Birek: Oh my gosh. So much build-up. The two-week wait when you’re just trying to conceive naturally is a freaking nightmare, to begin with. It is so stressful and I can’t even imagine with all this build-up.
Shanna Micko: I forgot to mention that getting ready for the transfer and while you’re doing it, you’re still taking more progesterone injections, taking tons of medication, estrogen supplements. Even though the actual transfer was easy, the buildup to it and the prep and the mental stuff, it was huge.
Laura Birek: I can’t even imagine how all those hormones must be fucking with your emotions and brain.
Shanna Micko: Well, it makes you feel pregnant basically. It was just like, you’re overanalyzing everything, right? I was like, oh my God. My boobs are so sore and my back aches and blah, blah, blah and this and that. It’s like, I must be pregnant and spoiler alert, the first transfer I did, did not work.
Laura Birek: So disappointing.
Shanna Micko: I was pretty bummed about that and they grade your embryos best quality to worst quality.
Laura Birek: What? I did not know that you have a grade system on your embryos.
Shanna Micko: I guess based on how the embryo looks under the microscope and how the chromosome test came through and everything. My plan was to just basically hide the gender of course, and just go in line. It was like, the best one, put that one in me first and that one didn’t take so my journey continued.
Laura Birek: Your A-plus student didn’t follow through. So how long did you have to wait until you did the next transfer?
Shanna Micko: I could have gone into it right away, but they suggested doing a thing called a mock transfer, basically. I did a whole other cycle of taking all those medications again.
Laura Birek: Would you know no hope of you know you’re not getting pregnant this time, so you just get all the fun side effects.
Shanna Micko: The point being instead of going in on transfer day to get a transfer, you go in and they scratch your endometrial lining and test it.
Laura Birek: Oh, that sounds fun.
Shanna Micko: I got an endometrial scratch. God, dang it. There’s so much involved in this. Oh my God, I completely forgot about all this and it basically tells the doctor is my uterus receptive on that day for transfer based on the protocol because some women, the reason the transfer doesn’t take is that their body needs a day more medication.
Laura Birek: It’s so precise. It’s amazing that it ever works when you hear all this crap. Okay. So they scratched your endometrium and what did they find?
Shanna Micko: That test I had to pay out of pocket. I was like, oh, man. It was like $700. Anyways, they found out I was receptive. I’m perfectly fine on that date. That was the right protocol. So then the next cycle I prepped again and we put in embryo number two and that one took.
Laura Birek: Yaay.
Shanna Micko: I couldn’t believe it.
Laura Birek: Thank God.
Shanna Micko: I don’t know if I had just decided I wasn’t going to be optimistic because I just couldn’t get my hopes up anymore, but I had convinced myself that it did not take during the two week wait.
Laura Birek: If I recall, wasn’t there a thing where your insurance wasn’t going to cover another transfer too?
Shanna Micko: Oh, yeah. My insurance limits my treatment, so they would cover two transfers and two IVF cycles because I only needed one egg retrieval and they would only cover two. If I wanted to try again, I would have to go out of pocket. So I was kind of like, oh, please, please, please, please, please and the second time, pretty much the only thing I did differently and I don’t know if this is why I got pregnant or if it was just the embryo or whatever, but I did do acupuncture the day of the transfer. Did I tell you that?
Laura Birek: I don’t know if you did. I don’t remember you telling me that.
Shanna Micko: I decided at the very last minute I’m just going to. They offered this woman. I had joined a small fertility group on Facebook, like a subgroup of my mom’s group of wonderful women who had all gone through this stuff and a lot of people had mentioned that was helpful. So at last minute I was just like, fine. I’ll just do that and she came in and did a treatment right before I was on the exam table with needles in me for like 45 minutes. They came in, did the transfer and she came in again and did another treatment with the needles and I laid there for another 45 minutes.
Laura Birek: Wow.
Shanna Micko: I don’t know if that’s what helped. I have no idea. I don’t understand that.
Laura Birek: There’s literally no way to ever know, but there’s no reason not to. You know what I mean? It doesn’t harm you, so that’s awesome. That was approximately 32 weeks ago.
Shanna Micko: Well, it’s so weird too because when you become pregnant from IVF, you’re already like a week ahead because the embryo has already been growing five days.
Laura Birek: Oh, that’s right. Two episodes ago, I talked about how jealous I was that you were only going to 39 weeks because you have that planned C-section and now I’m even more jealous because you only have 38 weeks, but that’s super selfish of me based on how much other shit you had to go through. I retract my jealousy.
Shanna Micko: Tack on another 36 months of infertility IVF.
Laura Birek: I take it back and also you deserve those two weeks of reprieved, so any wins. That’s super exciting and you can’t take like a home pregnancy test. You have to just wait.
Shanna Micko: Actually, they never told me not to.
Laura Birek: Oh, really?
Shanna Micko: I thought they did.
Laura Birek: I don’t think. I don’t remember, but I didn’t because I didn’t want any false notions of anything. I just wanted to get confirmation and when I talked to my nurse on the phone and she gave me the news, she’s like you took a pregnancy test, didn’t you? I was like, no, I really didn’t. I had no clue. I thought it was going to be negative. It blew my mind. I was like at work in the parking lot, just like crying, like so happy.
Shanna Micko: Oh my gosh.
Laura Birek: I couldn’t believe it.
Laura Birek: That’s so exciting.
Shanna Micko: I don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious as I was that day waiting for that news. I’m going to cry right now.
Laura Birek: It’s so happy. It’s so exciting and I know I was trying to conceive at that point too and I think I was also in a wait. So I was like, maybe me too, and then, of course, mine didn’t take that month, but then it took the next month. So we ended up being pregnant almost at the same time.
Shanna Micko: That’s so crazy.
Laura Birek: But I remember I was so nervous for you and so excited. It was so great. Anyway, our episode is obviously going to be a little longer this week because of this, but I think it’s really for a great purpose because your story is super interesting and I’m sure there’s a lot of listeners who are either contemplating IVF or have gone through IVF.
If any listeners want to share their stories, let us know. Get in touch with us.
Shanna Micko: Definitely. Or have any questions.
Laura Birek: Any questions for Shanna, but thank you so much for sharing, Shanna. I love you.
Shanna Micko: Oh, thank you. I love you too.
Laura Birek: You’re a great friend and a great mom.
Shanna Micko: Thank you.
Laura Birek: All right. We end every show with our big fat positives and big fat negatives, our BFPs and BFNs for the week. Shanna, what do you have for us this week?
Shanna Micko: I have a BFP.
Laura Birek: Woo-woo.
Shanna Micko: It’s cool. It’s related kind of to what I was just talking about with my fertility journey, so I thought it’d be a good time to bring this one up. Recently in my mom’s fertility group that I had mentioned earlier, someone posted this article. It’s an Ask Polly article. Do you know her?
Laura Birek: Oh, I love her. She’s great. Such good advice.
Shanna Micko: Someone linked to an article she had written a while back two years ago in 2016. The title of the article is, “Why Do Women Obsess about Babies and Fertility.” The person who wrote in said, I have a question about pregnancy jealousy and she works in the fertility field and part of her job is to help go online on these forums and try to help women who are trying to conceive and she just noticed this pattern of women trying to conceive being anxious and peeing on sticks and being so obsessed with this journey and this process and kind of couldn’t understand it. Polly’s answer is so fucking spot on and so incredible. This article moved me to tears. Being someone who has lived through this and the way she gets to the root of why trying to conceive can become all-consuming for people and how we can look at these people in a different way, and not look at them as these little anxious women with their little TTC and their little acronyms and kind of judge them from a distance, but get in their shoes and think about how hard it is, how devastating it is, and how beautiful it is for someone to want something so bad that they keep going for it. Can we appreciate that and see the beauty in their pursuit instead of judging them for that?
Laura Birek: Oh, yeah. I totally want to read this.
Shanna Micko: My God! It validated what I’ve gone through for the last several years in my journey in a way that I have dismissed personally because I think even though I was one of those people going through that, I was also a person judging that process and judging myself for it and feeling stupid and less than that I couldn’t conceive and that I was struggling and that I had to be part of a community of people who peed on sticks every month. In the very end when she talks about let’s have some compassion, respect for these women who are so brave that they can put their hearts on the line basically and go for what they want endlessly, basically.
Laura Birek: Not just their hearts, their bodies. God, the stuff you went through is a lot. When you started this and read the question or summarized the question that they had written in, my immediate reaction was just, oh, fuck that guy. Are you a woman or whatever, because I’m just like, are you kidding me? Why are we so obsessed? Either you’ve never gone through it or you had a super easy time, you know what I mean? That’s a very insensitive question to me, but I also love Polly because my response would be like, “Fuck you.” Why? Because fuck you. Go away, but she actually does a really great job of breaking things down and taking the questions sort of seriously and not being just judgmental about it. You got to send me that. I’ll put it into our show notes.
Shanna Micko: I definitely want to. One thing she says is like, we’re not in control. These women aren’t in control of whether or not they can just have a baby. If you are lucky enough to be able to get pregnant and have a baby, that’s great for you, but it’s not something that’s in our control. I really love this article and I think anyone trying to conceive or who wants to have more compassion for people struggling would just really benefit from this article. I think it’s wonderful, so I will definitely share it with everybody.
Laura Birek: Awesome. I can’t wait to read that.
Shanna Micko: What about you? What do you got this week?
Laura Birek: I have a BFP. This week I went to a magic show.
Shanna Micko: Oh, fun. I love magic.
Laura Birek: I went with my friend Steve and Keri. Keri is the pregnant pharmacist we talked to a few episodes back, who is also very close to her due date. So we both went in as super pregos to this magic show and you had to get dressed up. It was at the Hollywood Roosevelt and you had to look classy.
Shanna Micko: Oh my God. Fun.
Laura Birek: It was actually really fun. We had dinner and then we went and we realized this might be the last time we really get to hang out before the baby comes, so we mean the most of it. So we show up in at this little hidden theater in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which the Hollywood Roosevelt is old school Hollywood Hotel right on Hollywood Boulevard where the Oscars were originally held and they say they’re the most haunted hotel in Los Angeles, which makes a magic show kind of fun because it adds its little spook factor to it spookiness. But the show was this magic show by this guy, Justin Wilman. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him.
Shanna Micko: No.
Laura Birek: He has a show on Netflix called Magic for Humans. I actually hadn’t watched it. Steve and Keri had watched it and that’s how they knew about the show and they got the tickets, but I showed up without any idea of what was going to happen or his style. Of course, we show up. It’s this lounge theater and they walk us to our seats and there are four like bar stools that you’re leaned up against a wall basically.
Shanna Micko: Oh, no.
Laura Birek: Keri and I look at that and we’re like, is there anywhere else we can sit? They were like, oh, crap. I don’t know because people paid different prices for different types of seats and we kind of cheaped out. We didn’t cheap out. It was their expensive tickets already, but we didn’t want to pay more for the front center. Thankfully, they found us two seats in a booth, so we totally abandoned our husbands and went and sat in comfortable chairs and left them to sit on this side but we had regrets either.
Shanna Micko: No way, man. Take advantage.
Laura Birek: But the show was just so good. He’s such a good magician. It’s not like big set acts. It’s not like David Copperfield where you’re making like trucks disappear or anything. It’s all like very close-up magic, sleight of hand. It’s like 80% standup comedy and like 20% magic, but it’s great. It really brings you in.
Shanna Micko: Oh, fun.
Laura Birek: It was so fun. Then I went and watched the Netflix show. It’s called Magic for Humans and that is my real BFP because obviously, not everyone can make it to the Hollywood Roosevelt to see this short-run magic show, but you can watch Magic for Humans on Netflix and it’s just delightful. He’s super relatable. I think he’s probably about our age. He’s in his thirties. He seemed to be a dude from Los Angeles who’s like, wearing jeans and just being casual, doing street magic, but not in that super cheesy or juicy way the way like I don’t know…
Shanna Micko: David Blaine.
Laura Birek: No David Blaine’s situation. No, Chris Angel. It’s like he’s just talking to you and then he makes things appear out of midair and you’re like, what? How did the hell did that happen? So I highly recommend it, Magic for Humans by Justin Wilman and the other cool thing was that after the show, he greeted everyone as they were leaving and we took a picture. I’ll post a picture of that on our Instagram. He had mentioned his wife was pregnant and obviously, he saw Keri and I and he was like, “Oh my gosh. Congratulations you two,” and asked when we were due. It turns out that his wife and I basically have the same due date. I think it was one day apart.
Shanna Micko: What?
Laura Birek: I was like, oh, cool. He was really excited. He was like, I’m having a boy, too. We wanted to talk pregnancy stuff after the show. Well, you got a whole line of fans.
Shanna Micko: Maybe he should come talk on our podcast about being a dad-to-be.
Laura Birek: I found his wife’s Instagram and it’s very delightful and pretty. She also made a post about being type one diabetic and being pregnant, which I think is super interesting. Maybe we’ll reach out to her, see if she’s willing to come on the show, but go watch Magic for Humans. It’s really fun. The only sad thing I’m sad about is that I didn’t save it for maternity leave when I need to stream lots of TV while breastfeeding.
Shanna Micko: Oh, true. Maybe I should save it for next month.
Laura Birek: I think you should. Anyway, I think that’s our show.
Shanna Micko: It is. Thank you so much for listening, everybody. I appreciate it.
Laura Birek: Thanks for listening.
Shanna Micko: We would love to hear from you. If you have anything you want to share with us about your pregnancy or your journey, or if you have any questions for us or for me about trying to conceive or infertility or IVF, please drop us a line.
We’d love to hear from you. Laura, where can they find us?
Laura Birek: We are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at BFP Podcast, and you can also join our Facebook community while you’re there, and we have a website, bigfatpositivepodcast.com
Shanna Micko: Big Fat Positive is produced by Laura Birek, Shanna Micko, and Steve Yager.
Laura Birek: Thanks for listening, everyone. Bye-bye.
Shanna Micko: Bye.