Hillary and Ariel are a beautiful couple who reside in Portland, Oregon. Hilary and I first connected through Instagram over two years ago. After many months of sharing stories about our donor searches, pregnancy and then motherhood- we finally met in real life last Spring. I have only met a few IG friends in real life and I always get a little nervous that they won’t be what I expect or vice versa, but meeting up with Hil felt so natural. Like meeting up with a friend you hadn’t seen in ages- you just pick up where you left off!
Every conception story in the LGBTQ+ community is special because there is so much that goes into making a baby for us. Hilary and Ariel’s story is especially unique however, because they underwent both IVF and reciprocal IVF. Hilary started the IVF process almost two years ago to have their daughter, Carter.
This means that Hilary’s egg’s were harvested, fertilized with donor sperm outside the body and then implanted back into her uterus. Now, it’s Ariel’s turn! This time around however, they will use the remaining frozen embryos from Hilary’s original harvest and will transfer those embryo’s to Ariel’s uterus. The process of utilizing another woman’s uterus to carry embryo’s containing egg’s from a different woman’s ovaries is called reciprocal IVF, or RIVF for short.
Here is what Hilary and Ariel had to say about the process:
What brought you guys to IVF over other methods of conception?
We started our journey to conceiving with IUI’s, something that you may have heard of referred to as the turkey baster method. I was healthy and young so we thought that IUI’s would definitely work. After countless doctors appointments, a few different meds and lots of emotions we ended up with 3 failed IUI’s. With all the heartbreak that we had endured during this time we knew that it was time to move onto IVF where the odds of a pregnancy were much higher.
What is the process of egg harvesting like? How far in advance do you have to plan for your harvest? How often do we have to take medications? And what is the actual medical procedure like?
The process seemed so long at the time but really the entire process from start to retrieval only took about 5 weeks. When you’re in the thick of it and you just want a baby, everything seems like forever. Our retrieval started with testing for a few weeks to make sure that I could actually get pregnant – open fallopian tubes, good blood flow to my lady parts, etc. Once the tests were done we started meds. Birth control first and then injectable meds to stimulate my ovaries, produce mature eggs, and finally the trigger shot about 36 hours before my retrieval. The retrieval itself was pretty quick and painless. The aftermath of the retrieval was not fun for me.
I ended up with fluid in my abdomen (OHSS) because I over produced eggs – 44 to be exact.
The pain and the fluid lasted about a week or so and then I was back to my normal self.
How did you prepare for your first IVF transfer?
To get ready for the transfer I was on injectable meds for about a month leading up to. When people hear this they cringe but honestly the shots were pretty easy to do after having to inject for the retrieval. Fun fact, I gave all my shots to myself. I was too much of a chicken to have Ariel poking me, if I was in control of the needle than I could control the pain or so I thought. Another thing I did to prepare was acupuncture it was amazing and I really feel like it helped me calm down and put all my energy into getting pregnant.
What was your experience like taking the hormones? Was there a difference between the hormones you took for egg harvesting vs. the ones you took for the transfer?
The egg harvesting meds definitely seemed more intense than the transfer meds. While on those I would get weird hot flashes and at times felt nauseous. I don’t think that I was moody at all on either set of meds but my lovely wife might say something different. The biggest surprise while on the meds the bloat. I had read about it and knew that it could happen but it was still surprising when I woke up one morning and literally looked like I could be pregnant.
Did taking hormones impact your day to day life more than you expected? Did you have to do any special planning? Could you still travel?
The meds never impacted us, we’re pretty laid back people so we just kind of rolled with the punches of IVF. Even if that meant injecting meds in the front seat of our car before going into a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I know what you’re thinking, super sexy way to start date night!
It was pretty easy to travel with the meds. At first I panicked because we travel a lot and I wasn’t sure about taking needles through TSA. After reading a few blogs and asking the TTC community on instagram I figured out that you can take them, likely without anyone saying anything. I never had an issue but I carried a doctors note just in case.
How has Ariel’s RIVF been different from your IVF?
The meds are the same, the calendar is the same, the protocol is the same. I think that the biggest difference is that we have Carter. The first time we went through IVF we were constantly talking about it, thinking about it, etc. Since we have Carter we don’t have the time to dwell on it. Time seems to fly in between appointments which makes the process a little easier.
If you had to ballpark, about how much does a single round of IVF cost?
It really depends on insurance, the clinic and where you live. I’d say somewhere around $25,000. (Compare that number to IUI- HERE!)
If you end up having left over embryos, what happens to those?
Lately this has been a topic of conversation and we’re still not exactly sure. We will likely have a dozen or so leftover. The thought of tossing them makes me cringe. Eventually once were out of this phase of life I think we’ll be in a better mindset to make the decision on what to do.
Finally, for families hoping to start and IVF or Reciprocal IVF journey, where would you tell them to start?
I would start with finding a clinic in your area. Interview doctors and find someone that you’re comfortable with. Ask ALL the questions, even the ones that you think might sound stupid.
I hope this was helpful for any of you that may have had questions about IVF or reciprocal IVF. It’s a very different process from IUI in many ways, from the meds you have to take, to the transfer process, to the cost, IVF is a more involved process all the way around. Although the cost of IUI, may seem cheaper at first glance, ultimately it depends on how many trials it takes to become pregnant, which of course is something we can never guess.
Whatever you method you decide to use for getting pregnant, there are things you can be doing RIGHT NOW to get the ball rolling and speed up the process. And don’t forget to start looking for that donor!
And a BIG thank you to Hil and Ariel for taking the time to answer these questions! If you have any more questions about IVF or Reciprocal IVF, you can ask them in the comments below so others wondering the same questions can learn, or ask Hilary and Ariel directly. You can find them on instagram @gregersengals or on their blog at gregersengals.com!
As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments about this interview below!