We’ve officially made it to 20 weeks. I’ve been both dreading the anatomy scan and looking forward to having it behind us, petrified that something would go wrong and this would be the moment we received the Big Awful News. Yesterday, however, we saw the high risk doctor, a genetic counselor, and a sonographer to look over every centimeter of our girls and all looks good. That makes this my final post as the Belle of Infertility and I’ll be launching this blog and linking it to my main blog, belleofthelibrary.com. It’s been an awful ride and I can’t say I’ll miss it.
My hCG levels doubled properly, at 917.5, which means I’ve been scheduled for my first ultrasound on December 7th. I’ll be 6 weeks and 6 days. Here’s hoping for a heartbeat or two.
They drew blood this morning and on top of my five positive home pregnancy tests (two mid-range and three cheapies), the clinic has confirmed that I am indeed four weeks and one day pregnant… today. I have another appointment on Friday, to see if my hCG (413) is properly doubling and we’ll see if I’m still pregnant then. As much as I’d love to be excited and call up my Gramma and listen to her shriek, I think the most I can muster at the moment is cautious optimism. So many things can go wrong in the next eight weeks. I miscarried at 11 weeks, when I was 21. A friend and coworker miscarried at 10, after IVF. Another friend and coworker found out that her son will be developmentally disabled to an unknown degree, at 15 weeks, after three IUI’s. I’ve told Jake that, assuming all is well, I’m not willing to tell a soul until 16 weeks, when I’ll likely be starting to show… and that’s only because he vetoed my “Let’s just show up with a baby” idea.
On the one hand, I’m sad we can’t be normal levels of over-the-moon right now, like people who get to have babies the fun and free way. On the other, I don’t care about the “experience” of being pregnant. I care about having a healthy baby and a family and this part is just social media fluff… not that I’m on social media.
Don’t get me wrong. So many of my prayers have been answered. We’re pregnant, with six freezer babies… but there are so many more prayers to say. Like most Americans, I’ve grown so accustomed to disappointment in 2020. I can be excited at 12 weeks, when this year is over and I’m well into my second trimester. In the meantime, please, please, please God keep this baby or these babies safe and healthy and let me have an unremarkable pregnancy, ending in a healthy child or two.
Well, I did it. I made it through a second pandemic retrieval, on election day no less, just after an historic ice storm that caused the largest power outage in the history of the electric company. My power didn’t go out, risking my medication or the secrecy of my cycle, if we had to stay with family. I didn’t get Covid-19, nor did my husband, nor did any of the clinic staff, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the entire cycle. The most precarious part is over… and I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. I don’t recall this being so painful last time, but I had a meltdown, after coming out of anesthesia, because it hurt so much. It didn’t help, of course, that I had to go through all of this alone, with Jake waiting in the car. I cried for the hole in my vaginal wall, my engorged ovaries, and my overly stretched perineum, but I also cried because pandemic IVF sucks. However bad I thought this process would be, and I’ve considered it a literal worst nightmare for most of my life, I should have doubled it. Considering the global pandemic, it would have been more accurate to quadruple it. At least if we have to go through it again, it’ll be in July of 2021 and the Covid-19 situation might be a little better. As for this time, however, out of 30 or so follicles, they retrieved 22 eggs, they’re really worried about OHSS, and I’ve vomited twice. That’s all I know, for now.
Jake gave me my trigger shot last night and I feel awful. If Future Belle is reading this, as she prepares for another IVF Cycle, she probably doesn’t remember the intense discomfort of ovaries the size of clementines. “Discomfort” is the favorite word of all doctors, apparently, when I’d be more inclined to declare it “pain.” My entire mid-section feels swollen and my belly is bruised from three shots a day, sometimes four. I have over 30 follicles and look like a honeycomb on the ultrasounds. Sitting upright hurts. They put me on pills to avoid OHSS, because my estrogen is so high, so hopefully, after tomorrow’s retrieval, the pain will subside, but the primary side effect of said prescription is dizziness. The worst part, of course, is that this could all be for nothing… again. I’d do it a dozen times, were I guaranteed a family, but alas, there are no guarantees with IVF… one of the many joys of fertility struggles.
This cycle has been so different in so many ways… primarily the fact that we’ve told no one, other than my immediate supervisor, so I could arrange for the necessary time off. My branch manager is a dear, but she’s not great with confidentiality or privacy and I’d prefer no one at work know. As for everyone else… well, if things go as they did last time and this is a total bust, I’d just rather grieve alone, with no obligation to report to anyone else or manage their feelings.
I was considering not even recording my experience this time, as it’s been so wildly different, I can’t imagine it actually being relevant next time, but who knows what Future Belle will wish I’d tracked. Although the medication hasn’t changed and the dosages are similar, I’ve had a near opposite experience this time. Instead of energizing me to the point of wired exhaustion, I’ve just been completely and utterly drained, both physically and emotionally. I’ve had my lows, sure, but mostly, I’ve been unable to muster up any feeling at all. It is what it is and we may never be parents. Perhaps if I let myself truly acknowledge that, I won’t be able to go on with this process, because it sucks.
I trigger tonight, with my retrieval scheduled for November 3rd… election day. Zetus lapetus, this has been a terrible year. An historic ice storm hit last week, just after we started medications which must be refrigerated. The library was closed for four days and I spent every moment of them praying we’d keep power, and therefore water, because if we had to go stay with someone, we’d have to share that we were in the middle of another cycle. We were lucky. While the power flickered, we never lost it. Many people have been without for a week. Politically, this year is far more divisive than 2016 and I didn’t think that would be possible. As the pandemic hits new highs, tensions rise, along with our Covid-19 cases. We just broke our daily record, with well over 2,000. If there was ever a worst time to be going through IVF, this is it.
Well, for better or for worse, we’ve switched things up a bit, this cycle, and it’ll all be over soon.
It failed. Nothing to freeze. We start shots again in 17 days and I’m already falling apart.
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.
2020. Covid-19. Infertility.
I’m in this awful place right now, where I’m just dreading testing. I feel like it’ll be the final nail in the coffin. This will all be over and all of our money will be gone. Not only will that be devastating, but then I’ll have to inform the few people who knew what was going on, that it didn’t work. They’ll either be horribly disappointed on their own behalf, with secondary consideration for Jake and me, or I’ll become the IVF Failure story they tell anecdotally.
I’m so angry at Jake right now. I didn’t even tell my Gramma that the pregnancy test was next week. I told her that she’ll find out when I want to share, one way or another. Jake, after agreeing not to give his parents this detail, told his mother last week. Now his parents, substantial investors in our fertility, will be waiting for an update… as I’m sure will his sister, since his mother tells her everything. When the test is negative, Jake will have to tell them all right away, because they’ll otherwise assume it’s positive. I won’t even have a week to grieve and process, before everyone wants an update on our next steps or feels they should share input for how this effects them. That is everyone’s favorite topic, of course: how our infertility impacts their lives.
I don’t particularly want to consider that the test might be positive, but if it is, then Jake’s parents will assume as much, because he won’t tell them otherwise. Regardless, they’d demand to know, since they paid for over half of the treatment. His parents have no idea how this process works. His mother spelled S-E-X a few weeks ago. There was no reason to tell them we’d know so soon. He could have bought us a minimum of six weeks and now there’s even more pressure on me than I already felt. If we lose all of this money, it’s because my body let us down. When we lose our babies, it’s because I failed. All I wanted was a few weeks to process this before having to tell everyone and he took that from me. At this point, I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over.