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.

Day 5: Day of Transfer

Before Transfer

I’ve been crying on and off all weekend, petrified that something happened to our embryos over the last two days, torn between a single embryo transfer and a double embryo transfer, devastated at the thought of the embryos not taking and my body killing our children. Morally, ethically, and scientifically they’re alive to me. I’d have all seven of them over time, if I could. It’s not up to me, though. Whether or not the transfer takes is entirely out of my control. I can eat healthier and drink more water and cut the caffeine. I can pray exhaustively, until I’m in tears. That’s… pretty much it. Whatever will be, will be, and I have it on good authority that these things rarely happen on the first try.

defeated-gif-4

Also, if my husband tells me one more time that I shouldn’t stress out, because it’s really bad when trying to breed cattle, I’m going to punch him in his useless testicles.

After Transer

It’s over. The process was… quick, to say the least. I thought I’d get the chance to sit down with my doctor and discuss our embryos, but I didn’t see him until I was naked from the waist down. It turns out, only two of the seven made it to Day 5 blastocysts, one in excellent condition and the other in good condition. Since we thought we’d have some to freeze, we’d already decided on transferring two, and since Jake was in the car, we didn’t get the opportunity to reevaluate together. My knee jerk reaction was to go with what we’d already agreed upon. Going through all of this without Jake is so awful, every step of the way.

The procedure itself was awkward and painful. Women talk about how it was enjoyable, but my ovaries were so swollen, I found it to be anything but, especially with five people looking at my vagina. I tried to show Jake the ultrasound on video call, but he couldn’t really make anything out. For that matter, I could only tell that the little white dots were embryos when the nurse pointed them out to me. They gave me photos of the embryos, but I immediately asked them to put them in an envelope, since I don’t want to look at them unless I know if they’ve survived to pregnancy. Everything felt rushed and uncomfortable and then… it was over. I’ll either be pregnant or I won’t and there’s nothing I can do about it, other than to plan financially for a second cycle. I’ve agreed to do another, if Jake can fund it. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him and it’s not like I have an abundance of choices. Now, we wait.

Day 2

7 Embryos

3 A’s
2 B’s
2 C’s

One nurse who doesn’t know how to read an embryologist’s report.

giphy-5

I was devastated yesterday, when the nurse called and told me that we “only” had seven surviving embryos, because Jake’s sperm was so poor. I assumed that meant those wouldn’t make it, either, since I’m pretty limited in my knowledge of… embryology? Apparently she was, too, however, because when Jake called the clinic today, because his wife wouldn’t get out of bed, he was told that we were doing well with just under half of our mature eggs making it through ICSI. Our embryos hadn’t been graded yet, but they weren’t concerned that they’d die overnight. Meanwhile, I was Googling sperm donors and trying to figure out how we’d come up with another $15,000 to try again, between naps. I was certain we’d been through all of this for nothing and I was still in a lot of discomfort from my retrieval.

The nurse called me in the afternoon, however, with the results of the embryo grading. Apparently they never give A’s and we had three. Most pregnancies are from B’s and we had two. We’re scheduled for a Day Five Transfer and won’t hear anything else over the weekend.

f84f6a868429bc311d6837d8816b6109

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.

giphy-2

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. 

giphy-3

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.

giphy-4

Wrenches

I’m supposed to chronicle this “adventure.” That’s the point of this blog: to process my feelings and emotions, to eventually share it with others who are going through the same trials and can only find horror stories online, to show it to the children who might never exist. Yet, I feel like any reports I give could potentially jinx everything, when there are enough wrenches that could be thrown into this complex process. IVF has literally been one of my worst nightmares, since I obsessively watched A Baby Story on TLC in high school. IVF during a global pandemic… it’s like a Family Guy cutaway, at my expense.

I started my shots last Saturday, with 150 daily millilitres of Follistim and 1 unit of Menopur for the low, low price of approximately $4,000. Having grown up giving shots to livestock, Jake does the injections for me. I haven’t had a real aversion to needles since I was six years old, which is handy, since I also have to have blood work done every three days. I suppose the medication itself isn’t so bad. I find it nearly impossible to sleep, feeling like I’ve had a caffeine injection, despite only getting a few hours in each night. I feel like I did in grad school, when I’d go for three days straight and down enough Five Hour Energy to stop my heart. The doctor told me I can take Benadryl, though, and that’s helped… a little. I’ve had a couple of epic headaches and mood swings that could just as easily be attributed to the stress and fatigue. All in all, I expected much worse.

The doctor seems pleased with my reaction to the medication, based on his response to the blood work and the ultrasounds. I’ve lost all modesty in this process, no longer embarrassed that my doctor is a dude. I’d show my vagina to a packed stadium if it would guarantee success. Regardless, he hasn’t had to change any of the dosages unexpectedly. He seems positive. I wish I felt the same way… maybe… I don’t know. Perhaps it’s best to be mostly pessimistic. I can always work backward from there.

I haven’t been going into work, expect for on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. I could probably work through all of this, were it not for Covid-19, the biggest wrench of them all; because although they’ve resumed treatment, any signs of infection mean a canceled cycle with no refunds for services rendered. We could literally lose everything. I’d rather take the leave, even if I miss the distraction of my coworkers. I’ve finished rereading most of The Sorcerer’s Stone and made some great progress watching The Witches of East End. I’ve walked a lot. The cat and dog are thrilled to have me home. I’ve been able to continue my programming from home, so I don’t have to completely drain the hours I’ve built up, in my nine years with the system. I still get to see my teens… through Zoom.

These are truly terrible silver linings.

giphy

Jake and I finally got the results of his urinalysis back. As a standard procedure, the clinic requires blood work and urine samples from both of us, to make sure we have no infectious diseases. I haven’t done anything to catch any, aside from have sex with my husband who once started drunkenly naming rodeos when I asked if he could name the women he’d been with… that is, unless someone actually named their daughter Pretty Prairie. The odds of Jake or I having had undiagnosed chlamydia or gonorrhea were mighty slim, but then again, so were the odds of his sperm count being in the hundreds of thousands. I’ve been sick all week at the thought that we might have to postpone, while he takes antibiotics to rid himself of his whorin’ days. I’ve been angry and hurt that I could go through IVF, my literal worst nightmare, which I fear is going to break me, but Jake couldn’t pee in a cup four years ago. Logically, I knew the chances of this being an issue were low… but it was a rough week and I don’t fully understand why they wouldn’t have done these tests weeks ago, when they put me on birth control.

I have blood work and an ultrasound in the morning, at 8:00 on a Saturday. They’ll tell me how much more medicine to order, if needed. They’ll schedule more appointments and possibly my retrieval. So… that’s where I am: in the middle of an IVF cycle in the middle of a global pandemic, hoping and praying I don’t get Covid-19 or a fever in the next week.

giphy-1

All By Myself

Our IVF start date is approaching… assuming this pandemic doesn’t shut everything down again. I see the doctor for blood work and an ultrasound on Wednesday, to verify the birth control I’ve been on for three weeks is working. Assuming my estrogen levels are where they should be, I’ll be starting my injections on Saturday. We’ve had nothing but good news, since the original devastation that we’d have to do IVF at all… and still, I can’t bring myself to feel any level of excitement.

giphy-9

I feel so ungrateful, knowing that many couples can’t afford to even try IVF, when we can afford at least two cycles, but I simultaneously feel utter defeat. My entire life, I’ve never felt… worthy or included, at least until things finally began to fall together in my late twenties. I met Jake, got a full time librarian position, bought a home. I felt normal and now I feel like I’ve been pretending this whole time. My comfort, contentment, and inclusion were all a lie, as more tragedy waited in the wings and I can’t bring myself to feel that this will end any other way. As the procedure nears, I’m not even optimistic, just… begrudgingly willing, for Jake’s sake.

Jake… I am petrified of disappointing him. He’s such a good man, a hard worker, emotionally stable. He’s supported me all throughout this wretched year and never once leaned on me, knowing that I’m just not capable of returning the favor right now… because I’m an utter mess. I don’t even know what he sees in me and the idea that he’d spend all this money, that he had in savings and investments before he even met me, and I won’t even be able to give him a baby in return… is absolutely crushing. I know he feels responsible, since we’re looking at male factor infertility, but it’s my life that’s never gone right. Things have never panned out for me, no matter how hard I’ve tried… and now they won’t for him. I’m Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic, watching her own curse destroy the man she loves and I am so sorry. I suppose the least I can do is take some hormones and see what happens, but… I just wish it were over. I’m terrified that everything will fall through, because Jake or I get Covid-19 or the CDC decides it’s not safe to get pregnant or my body isn’t responding properly to the medication. There are so many things that can go wrong in an IVF cycle and I’m going through mine in a global pandemic. 

Speaking of which, said pandemic calls for new rules, namely that I can’t bring anyone to appointments… any appointments. Not only do I have to weather this storm, I have to do it all by myself. I have to go in for my ultrasounds and blood work alone, but I also have to go through the egg retrieval, a procedure requiring anesthesia, the transfer, and even the final pregnancy test alone. My husband has to wait in the car for me to bring joy or devastation and I hate this. I can’t imagine life without children, but I’m not sure if I can do this. I’ve already miscarried alone once and I just… I don’t know if I have it in me to do so again or to find out that we wasted all this time and money and didn’t even get pregnant in the first place.

I feel so trapped… and forcefully abandoned.

One Year

The standard requirement for fertility testing is to try for one year without pregnancy. After twelve attempts, the situation finally warrants further inspection. Why? Why one year? Jake and I are in our thirties and want more than one child. Why were we required to try for a full year before finding out if we were going to have problems? We’d have wasted even more time and just started this journey. To whom can I send an angry letter?

I Will Survive

They say that God never gives us more than we can handle… and without fail, I want to punch them in the face for their ill-timed platitudes amidst tragedy.

tenor

As sure as I am that I’ve literally never found these words comforting at their time of utterance, I (begrudgingly) find the sentiment to be objectively true. It was true when I was 8 and my parents didn’t realize I’d become the smelly kid and had few friends. It was true when I was 12 and my mother’s rages became increasingly frequent. It was true when she left my senior year. It was true when I married and divorced a sociopath, which means that, by extension, it was true when he burned down our house and killed all of our pets, when we were repeatedly evicted/asked to move, and when I lost a baby. All of that made working two jobs and attending grad school a breeze and I suppose it must be true now. I have always survived and will continue to do so.

Surviving, however, doesn’t necessarily mean thriving. IVF is a harrowing and potentially heartbreaking process. Sure, we could be blessed with a plentiful retrieval and many healthy embryos, achieving pregnancy on the first try… or we could spend tens of thousands of dollars, suffer a half dozen miscarriages, and never actually have a baby. The former sounds wonderful, but while I’m sure the latter won’t kill me, I’m also certain it won’t make me stronger. It’s been almost ten years since the most traumatic time in my life and in many ways, I feel like I’ve just begun to recover. So, naturally, I’m worried about how the worst case scenario with infertility treatments will impact me long term. What kind of person will I be? What kind of wife? Will I even be able to weather the unique stressors of adoption from the state, with what’s left? Will I be irrevocably fragile and broken? Will I spend half my years trying to recover from the next one?

I’ve spent the better part of my life wondering exactly what broke my mother. Was it being adopted… the death of her father… marriage to my father… her brain tumor… divorce? Was there one pivotal moment or did a small fracture spread? Will my own fractures from my early twenties, which have finally begun to heal over, crack? Sure, I can survive IVF, but what does the quality of life look like on the other side? Am I a mom, grateful every day for the diapers and tantrums I once feared I’d never have… or am I shell of my former self, too shattered to consider other avenues?

We have a start date, July 18th and I’m supposed to be excited… but how can I be enthusiastic, when I don’t know what we’re starting? A family? My downward mental spiral? The beginning of everyone’s disappointment in me when my body inevitably doesn’t come through for them? A series of miscarriages and lifelong debt?

200

I’ve gone back and forth over the last month, from hopeful and optimistic to insistence on canceling the whole thing. Ultimately, however, I know that if I don’t, I’ll always regret it. If my aunt and uncle, who had triplets via IVF, hadn’t been brave enough to attempt the procedure in the first place, those three humans wouldn’t exist and all the impact on the world they’ll have would never occur. If I can’t do this, out of fear of my own fragility, I might never meet destined children. I’ll just have to risk the possibility that I might be destined none and this is how I discover that fact.

I promised Jake that if he could secure the funding, I’d find a way to go through with this… and so I must. There are undoubtedly countless couples who would be happy to attempt IVF themselves, but don’t have the option. I should be grateful… but I’m mostly terrified that it’s all for nothing and I won’t be the same woman on the other side, even if I do technically survive.

How are they all making this worse?

We got our start date for IVF this month… on our three year wedding anniversary. I guess it’s good news. I was excited when the call came in, what with Covid-19 potentially delaying the whole thing indefinitely. If all goes as planned, I’ll undergo the final testing at the end of June and start my shots on July 18th. “If all goes as planned,” is a substantial caveat, however, when discussing a $30,000 procedure during a global pandemic.

giphy-2

Fortunately, Jake and I have been working, being paid in full, and still earning leave and benefits through lockdown. Unfortunately, that work adds up to about $80k pre-tax, so our IVF financing plans were contingent on accepting help from family. I asked my dad for money, and although he most definitely has a couple of thousand to spare, I’ve yet to hear back and no longer expect a response. Jake asked his parents for money, as well, but there seems to have been some kind of communication breakdown… unsurprisingly, since the Grangers are terrible communicators and my husband is by no means exempt from that generalization. While we’d like to be able to plan on financing through a private company that works with our clinic, word will remain out on that until the last moment. So, here we float in infertility limbo, good candidates for IVF, but not entirely sure if we can make it happen, while the people who are supposed to be providing love and support are somehow managing to make a wretched situation so much worse. 

giphy-3

I’m too exhausted to even try to unravel the Granger family social dynamics, but the short version is that, although Jake has shared every detail as we’ve received it, his parents feel “out of the loop,” now that we have a start date. There were supposed to be more tests or options, I suppose, even though the original semenalisis made it clear that there would be no more tests, because there were no more options. We were supposed to check out more funding sources, I guess, even though it’s clear my family won’t even offer emotional support, let alone financial support, and we’ve shared as much. Finally, Covid-19, fate’s ultimate fuck you, has devastated the country, with no exemption for the cattle market, so I’m not sure if Jake’s parents even have the money, at this point, regardless of whether or not they’re interested in giving it.

Memorial Day weekend was one for the books. We traveled to Jake’s sister’s house for lunch and to give our nieces the birthday gifts we’ve had sitting on a table since the start of lockdown. A decent day with family, however, spiraled into a heated conversation with Jake’s sister, about the lack of communication with his parents. “As a mother” she understands what my mother-in-law is going through. “As a mother” she can’t imagine watching her son struggle with infertility. “As a mother” she can’t imagine not having kids. Well, I must say that “as a mother,” she also doesn’t realize how it feels to hear people make our infertility about their feelings. I like Jake’s sister. She’s a hard worker and a devoted wife and mother. She’s a good, if sometimes preachy, big sister, which I understand comes with the territory. Neither she, nor my mother-in-law, are trying to be cruel, but exactly one person seems to understand that this is something happening to Jake and me, and that’s my grandmother.

I understand that my in-laws feel they have a stake in our future family, but we are the ones facing potential financial ruin to have something that comes free to most people. am the one with a best case scenario future of daily injections and a worst case scenario future of no babies. We are the ones potentially facing multiple disappointments and miscarriages, for the chance of having a healthy child. am the one who may have to weather the horrible experience of my body tearing apart my child, again. Ten years ago, I bled my unwanted baby out onto a Spiderman beach towel, all alone, and I’m petrified of reliving that experience with the raised financial and emotional stakes of having prayed for said child. So, while I get that other people are entitled to their own feelings, I simply cannot bring myself to care.

giphy-4

I have to concede that Jake’s family deserves some credit, however, for having any feelings on the matter. No one in my family even calls to check on my well-being, aside from my grandmother. Oh, they all know about our circumstances and plans. I’m sure they’ll want to partake in baby showers and newborn snuggles, too… you know, the fun stuff that’s not listening to me cry my eyes out during the entirety of an hour and half car ride home from a holiday weekend, because I don’t think I have the emotional fortitude to do this, whether or not the finances come through.

It’s not enough that I have to lick my new wounds, y’all. I also have to tend to the old ones, the ones left over from having never been anyone’s priority in my entire life. My phone sits silent without even a text of concern from my own family, regarding a situation that’s legitimately the worst thing to ever happen to some people. That’s not even true for me, though. Infertility is unquestionably not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but I guess none of my family were there for those things, either… except for my Gramma. She was my literal shelter from my abusive mother growing up, taking me to spend the night with her more than once during her daughter’s rages. She comforted me through the miscarriage, the dead baby, and the divorce. She cosigned on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, floated me to payday as needed, walked my dog when I couldn’t get home between jobs, and brought medicine to my apartment when I was sick. Now, here she is, talking about taking out a loan to help Jake and I financially, reassuring me that God is not trying to intervene in my becoming a mother like my own. I feel like she and Jake are all I have… and that’s more than I’ve had in the past, because Jake.

Despite the poor communication skills, Jake has been wonderful, as he’s let me sit on his lap and cry, because I really thought my father would come through with some financial help. He’s held me as I’ve insisted I’m not going through with IVF at all, that we should cancel everything. He’s shared in my excitement on my good days and brought me coffee, when I’ve refused to get out of bed on my worst ones. He takes my moods as they come and he never makes me feel bad for them. He doesn’t need me to be strong, nor does he need me to make him feel like the hero by being weak. I’m so lucky to have him and I worry that this process, if it doesn’t end in healthy children, will make me resent him, take him for granted. Still, I’d rather go through this with him than skip it without him. He’s my best friend and I wish I were better at handling this, that he didn’t have to always be the one with his shit together… but I’m not. I can barely go to work some days, because I can’t imagine a life where I don’t get to give Jake children… where I don’t get to fix what my parents broke for the next generation. Everyone but my Gramma and Jake sucks, but I still don’t feel worthy of the blessings I have in them. This is awful and confusing and I wish I could fast forward time by two years, because somehow, everyone else in my life has managed to make this miserable experience even worse.