Perks and Deficits

Perks to Going Through IVF During a Pandemic

I don’t see children. I don’t see moms come in with little ones and babies for story time, because we’re not open to the public. I don’t see my nieces or cousins’ kids. I can largely avoid the longing that these encounters bring.

I don’t have to go to baby showers or weddings, where people will inevitably ask me when we’re having kids and I’ll shut it down in a way that makes them equally uncomfortable, but gets Belle talked about for the next five years.

I’m not spending my money on much, since there’s nothing to do, so I can make larger payments on the tens of thousands of dollars multiple rounds of IVF will cost.

Everyone is getting fat, so no one has noticed the bloating and larger breasts caused by the copious amounts of fertility drugs. We’re all wearing frumpy clothes, so no one has picked up on the depression.

I’m working from home about half the time, so I don’t have to pretend with my coworkers as much. I don’t have to answer as many questions when I am out. When the test is negative, it won’t be as noticeable when I’m gone for three days.

I don’t have to see Jake’s or my family. I don’t have to see the looks of sympathy or answer questions. I don’t have to hear more installments on why this is hurting Jake’s mom and sister. I don’t have to wonder if Jake’s aunt knows.

Deficits to Going Through IVF During a Pandemic

I don’t have enough to keep my mind occupied. I’m at work right now, with literally nothing to do. I have no programs to work on or outreach to brainstorm. I have no community connections to build. I can’t concentrate enough to read or listen to audiobooks most days. I sit and I think about the test being negative, whether or not I’m willing to try this again, for the cost, the emotional and physical toll, the fact that Jake is apparently incapable of following through with an agreement to keep his mouth shut about our test date. I slip and imagine a positive for a moment and I think about how much more devastating it will be when there’s only one line.

I have to avoid everything. I can’t watch movies and shows with babies and kids, which is basically all of them these days. I can’t watch kids’ movies or escape with Harry Potter, or I’ll start to cry because I won’t be able to share them with my own children, as I’d always planned. I have all the time in the world and very little I can do with it, for fear of triggering a prayer-filled crying jag.

I have to assume I’m pregnant, despite my fight to assume I’m not so I won’t be disappointed. I can’t drink more than one cup of coffee or get drive-through soda. I can’t have a drink to calm my nerves or take medical marijuana to sleep or calm my anxiety. I can’t go for long walks, because I might overheat. I can’t go shopping or out to eat or see the limited family and friends I might want to see, because I can’t get Covid-19 even more than if I’m not pregnant. I can’t do these things when the test is negative, because while I don’t know what or when the next step will be, I can’t risk delaying it over an extended illness or the hospital bills that accompany it.

My tolerance level is at zero. I cannot deal with the coworker who won’t back off or the book snob on Reddit. Both political parties tick me off and stress me out, but it’s an election year. I’m already beyond stressed, but oh yeah, we’re in a global pandemic. Everything my husband says and does is wrong or cruel.

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2020. Covid-19. Infertility.

Hopeless

I simultaneously feel like I’ve completely given up hope, but also that I’ll be absolutely devastated when this cycle is a confirmed failure. Everything I’ve read says we should have frozen our embryos, though our doctor seemed to think that wouldn’t change our chances in any notable way. He is a professor at a competitive medical school, so maybe there’s some merit? Regardless, everything online says it never happens the first time. I assumed we’d have a few frozen trials at least, but if we are indeed not pregnant, our only option is to start over in a couple of months.

This has been so much harder on me than I thought it would be… and as you can see, from my other posts, I never thought it would be easy. I used to watch A Baby Story on TLC, as a television addicted teenager. Then I’d watch John and Kate Plus Eight. The stars of these shows would occasionally give an overview of their fertility issues and ever since, it has literally been one of my worst nightmares to go through this. I did not have high hopes. Still, I’ve been in some level of pain and discomfort since the egg retrieval over a week ago. My ovaries are swollen and the progesterone shots leave my lower back perpetually sore. I’ve been nauseous and dizzy and I think I might have a very mild case of OHSS… or it’s just the side effects from all the drugs. It’s a delightful mystery.

All of this is to say nothing of the emotional trauma of feeling like my body is killing my only surviving embryos, like I’m going to let everyone down, like it’s never going to happen. It’s also to say nothing of the cost. Jake is determined to try again, but I’m not entirely sure where he’s going to get those funds. The plan is to put down another thousand dollars on a new date, after we get an official negative, and then… figure it out. We’ll likely be starting a new cycle around the holidays. Zetus lapetus, 2020 is the worst year.

I’ve tried to stay out of the online infertility community. It’s bleak, at best. But I do know that there are many women who spend their two week wait pretending that they’re pregnant and refer to it as “Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.” I don’t know why anyone would get their hopes up like that. I’m already planning next steps and I’m a week away from my pregnancy test. I’m dreading the news, so much. Jake will have to tell his parents that the $8,000 they gave us was completely wasted. I’ll have to tell my Gramma that there won’t be any babies any time soon. I won’t be able to get out of bed for several days. The depression is the worst. It wastes so much time. At least, once it’s a confirmed failure, I can take as much medical marijuana as I like, to dull the pain. All my life, I’ve yearned for parents, like everyone else has, and never gotten them. Now, I get to yearn for children, like everyone else has, and never get them.

I’ve looked into other options, like sperm donors and private adoption. Jake’s not ready for donor sperm, though, and private adoption costs more than trying this two more times… so I guess that’s what we’ll do. I’ll continue to drag my feet through this process, entirely expecting heartbreak, only to be knocked off those feet anyway, when it happens. Next time, we’ll freeze all.

It’s over.

It’s over. I made it through my cycle, without a Covid-19 cancellation resulting in our losing everything. It was a real possibility, considering we signed a form stating that we knew this could happen, if certain conditions were met. These included Jake or I showing symptoms of Covid-19 or someone in the clinic staff contracting it. For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking my temperature several times a day. I’ve taken leave from work and worked from home to avoid even that exposure and have only been to the store a handful of times. Jake even spoke to his supervisor about making arrangements to ride alone in his truck until the retrieval was complete, since rural city workers aren’t big on masks.

My ultrasounds went well, from the start. I seem to have responded nicely to the medications all along. On Friday, I upped my Follistim from 150ml to 225ml and added in a unit of Ganirelix, a fun new medication with a really dull needle. Were I interested in perusing r/IVF, I’d have known this, but since all of those stories are from 42-year-olds on their seventh cycles, I’ve been avoiding the doom and gloom. I only discovered the delight of a dull needle when Jake literally couldn’t pierce the skin the first time. I started icing the area after that and dubbed my injections Stabby Time.

I went for another ultrasound on Saturday, where I learned that I looked like a creature from a sci-fi movie. I had egg sacs. It was weird and gross and uncomfortable… and apparently a really good sign. I got to repeat this process on Monday, when I was told I had 10 follicles on one side, 17 on the other, and that Jake could administer my trigger shot of Pregnyl at precisely 10:00 that night. There was no Stabby Time yesterday, a nice reprieve, because if all goes well, we’re looking at daily intramuscular injections of progesterone until 10 weeks of pregnancy. If I’m not pregnant after the transfer, then it’ll be two weeks of needless shots until I discover that fact.

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I didn’t sleep well last night, my ovaries feeling as though they were the size of walnuts and my anxiety resulting in my waking up at 5:30, unable to eat or drink anything. I had to be at the clinic at 8:00, with the actual procedure scheduled for precisely 9:00. Jake waited in the car until then, when he had to give his semen sample in the masturbatorium. It would be an understatement to tell you that it was awful. At one point, as I sat in the bed talking with the anesthesiologist, Nurse Shakey Hands apologized profusely for the third try to start an IV, when I have great veins. I assured her it was fine and stared straight ahead thinking about the fact that I was waiting to have my vaginal walls pierced with a large needle twice, terrified and alone in a pre-op room, because pandemic precautions forbade my husband from being by my side. The blood that was literally spurting from the back of my hand was the least of my concerns as I prayed a silent mantra for the doctor to retrieve plenty of eggs, so I could potentially never have to do this again. 

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The last memory I have is putting my earbuds away and pausing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, wondering if I’d ever get to read those books to my own children, and speaking to the doctor about the procedure. Then I woke up, petrified and wanting Jake, but knowing he couldn’t be with me. My stomach hurt and I had to use my inhaler, I was in such a panic coming out of the anesthesia, but the doctor told me they’d retrieved 21 eggs and were optimistic that I’d be able to have the ideal Day 5 Transfer.

I read somewhere that IVF was a lot of hurry up and wait and I’m finding that to be very much true, likely more so in a pandemic. Although the number sounds good, I won’t know anything about the quality of my eggs, until tomorrow, when they call to tell me if they’re fertilizing normally. I won’t know whether we’ll have a Day 3 Transfer or a Day 5 Transfer until Friday. I won’t know how many blastocysts we’ll have until Monday, if we have any at all. At that time, I’ll learn whether or not we’ll be able to freeze embryos for future attempts. Until then, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the worst, most expensive and precarious part is behind me. From here on out, I can do nothing to change the outcome of my embryos’ progression. It is out of my hands and now… we wait to find out if it was worth it.

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Coping

I’ve noticed, recently, that blogs seem to have lost some ground to podcasts. Perhaps it speaks to the wider issue of our over scheduled lives. It’s easier to listen to something, while doing the laundry, than it is to sit down and read. Perhaps it’s just trendy, TikTok versus Vine, Snapchat versus Instagram. I’ve never been into trendy, and just Googled how to spell TikTok and Spachat, so I suppose I’ll stick to blogging.

Writing has always been a coping mechanism for me, as evidenced by 12-year-old Belle’s super cringey journals that I keep in my box of sentimental hogwash. So, naturally, when I found out that Jake and I were facing IVF or No Babies, blogging was my default… but I couldn’t decide what to write. I started this post on March 10th, during a high moment, when I was feeling hopeful and positive and actually had the emotional energy to write anything at all. Sharing that, though, seemed disingenuous, considering a few weeks earlier, I was an hour late for work, because I had a complete breakdown… sitting on the bathroom floor, crying and screaming so hard I couldn’t pull myself together to finish getting dressed.

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In a Disney movie, woodland creatures comfort you through infertility.

The weeks passed, however. Appointments were scheduled and rescheduled as I changed my mind on doctors and clinics, until finally my research culminated in a decision with which both Jake and I were comfortable. I spoke to the individual financing companies, who provide package deals through the clinics we were considering, and discovered that with male factor as our only known issue, we shouldn’t have trouble getting approved. I called my dad and tearfully asked for a couple thousand dollars… unsurprisingly never receiving an answer, though he definitely has it to spare. Jake traveled to his home state to tell his parents the news, both of us grateful that it would be better received since his biology was the issue. They wrote him a check for the $8,000 dollars his grandmother had left him ten years earlier and promised him $10,000 more when the time came. I set a countdown on my phone for my initial appointment with my fertility doctor. We might be able to do this IVF thing in July. I could be pregnant by the end of the year. I was feeling good.

Then… a global pandemic hit.

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I did everything right, y’all. After divorcing my psychopathic high school boyfriend in my early twenties, I vowed to make decisions that were directly aligned with what I wanted out of life. I lost a thousand pounds and taught myself to dress cute and wear makeup. I worked two jobs, while attending grad school online. I was responsible with my money, consolidating my debt and working on my credit score. I dated with a purpose and never even kissed any of those dates until I met my husband, despite the despicable pressure from my despicable friends to have one-night stands, when that wasn’t my thing. I worked my way up in an extremely competitive field, even spending a miserable year as a manager, before moving to a smallish town and rocking my dream job of teen librarianI married a good, hardworking, handsome, charismatic man, who is an excellent husband, and will be an excellent father. I overcame so much and now I have to be Infertility Girl?!?! As if that’s not enough, my options are now postponed indefinitely due to a global pandemic?!?!

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Getting pregnant is a plot device in my romance novels and teen shows. My 36-year-old cousin claims she got pregnant by accident, with father number three of child number three, in circumstances no one considered ideal, but I plan my life responsibly and I can’t do it on purpose at 32? I spent my grade school and middle school years listening to my parents fight over who got to take my brother and who had to take me, my high school years being physically abused and neglected by my mother, and now all I want is to be a good mom. Instead of doing it the fun and free way, though, I have to pay more money than we put down on this house and it might not even work! There are no guarantees that we will have a baby.

So, as for coping, I can’t even really say where I stand. My highs are almost as high as my lows are low. I’m excited and hopeful and angry and heartbroken. I’m all of these things a hundred times a day. Fuck coping and fuck infertility.