The doctor’s plan to put several sperm samples together to use for a try at insemination had just run into a roadblock.
Enter plan B: In Vitro Fertilization
My wife and I had already been through the suggested informational sessions about IVF. We were fully aware of the gargantuan costs, the risks and the potential for tremendous joy or soul-crushing disappointment.
We felt we were ready to take a chance at letting medical science help us have a family.
At our initial IVF consultation, our doctor presented and intriguing option: Would we be interested in participating in a clinical study?
The study involved using something called “Tokyo IVF.”
In exchange for participating in the test and undergoing this method of In Vitro Fertilization, we would receive the treatment at a greatly reduced cost. (Like, a thousand dollars total for the drugs and the procedures. This is basically 5 to 10 percent of what IVF normally runs)
A little more explanation…
Traditional IVF works like this: Drugs are used to, essentially, shut down a woman’s reproductive system. More drugs are then used to kick that reproductive system into over-drive with the intent of stimulating the woman’s ovaries into producing as many eggs as possible.
Those eggs are extracted from the woman. The eggs are graded. The best eggs are then fertilized, with the hope that they will become embryos.
The remaining embryos are either transferred back into the woman’s uterus, or frozen if there are extras. With any luck, that embryo attaches, the woman gets pregnant and everyone is happy.
Tokyo IVF or Minimal IVF
As I understand it, Japanese fertility doctors have long believed that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to the production of eggs. This is the underlying premise of what is known as “Tokyo IVF” or “Minimal IVF.”
Rather than using drugs to make a woman’s body fire out embryos like a t-shirt gun at a basketball game, the Japanese believe in using some different drugs at drastically lower levels with the goal of producing only one or two high quality eggs. (The way it was explained to me was that traditional IVF encourages the body to release eggs that may not be ready for fertilization… while Tokyo IVF tries to ensure that the best, most usable eggs get used, even if you only get one of them).
There’s probably an interesting essay to be written here about how cultural differences extend to virtually all areas of life, even infertility (You know, Americans wanting to generally super size everything and “go big”… versus Asian cultures that focus on patience and appreciating the smaller things in life), but since this is an infertility blog I will spare everyone any armchair anthropological analysis.
Our doctor had reported to us that one of his partners had recently returned from Japan where he had seen this method work with much success. Based on this experience, our doctor was interested in doing the clinical trials necessary to determine if this was a methodology that they would want add to their practice.
So, the question that was posed to us: do we feel like being guinea pigs?
Let’s see. In the last 8 months we’d felt like failures as human beings because we couldn’t procreate by ourselves. We had felt embarrassment over our situation. And, we had felt angry at ourselves for not being joyful or supportive enough when friends and family members announced their pregnancy news.
So, we figured why the heck not add feeling like guinea pigs to the list.
The Tokyo Method
Within a few days of our decision to participate in the trial, we had signed the requisite papers to undergo the procedure and also appear in the pages of various medical publications, depending on the outcome of said trial.
My wife diligently took her course of drugs, five days worth of Clomid, in preparation for the retrieval of one or two eggs.
This would be our first experience with the egg extraction process. I can report (after four of them… with a fifth on the way) that they all pretty much go the same way:
1. Arrive at fertility clinic early in the morning
2. Nurse calls your wife back to the side of the building where procedures are performed, with instructions for you to stay put while they “prep” her
3. After about 25 minutes, you are called back to a small area where your wife is laying on a bed with an I-V in her arm and a shower-cap-looking-thing on her head
4. Next, the anesthesiologist comes in and introduces himself. You talk for a few moments and he double-checks if there are any allergic actions your wife might have to certain medicines
About the Mom at Last Featured Blogger
Television Reporter… Writer… Political Strategist; these are all positions I’ve held in my professional life.
In the last few years, though, some new titles have been added to the mix:
· Fertility-challenged 30 something American male
· Husband to an equally-fertility challenged wife
· Frustrated would-be parent
By way of this blog, I’m hoping that using some of the skills associated with the former… might help my wife and I cope with the realities of the latter.
I’m hoping that writing about the challenge of infertility might help us (and maybe even other couples) navigate through what has become an incredibly disheartening journey toward parenthood.