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.
Zetus lapetus, online parents are the biggest martyrs. Note, I did not say “parents.” I know plenty of parents in real life who give realistic and not wholly negative portrayals of their day-to-day life, but online parents seem to be a different breed. Article after article exists about how hard everything is, regardless of all of the modern-day conveniences available to us, such as curbside pickup and online ordering. You can double the negativity for parents of multiples to the extent that I’m not even sure how they have time to write these woeful tales if they’re sooooo swamped and stressed out.
In all fairness, this is not a new phenomenon, so much as a a readaptation of an old one. Since college, I’ve noticed the competition to see who’s busier and more stressed. While I was going through a divorce, working two jobs, and starting grad school, I was also reading about my former French professor’s struggles of teaching and taking her kids to frigging cotillion and still making time for yoga and her latest cleanse. The competition wore me out then and it wears me out now. Yes, the biggest offenders have always seemed to be mothers, constantly comparing the stress of being the SAHM of one child, married to a wealthy oil man, to my generic spaghetti rings and 15 minute leg shaves between jobs, before ultimately staying up until 3:00 a.m. to finish a paper for my MLIS. Everyone struggles and if you have the ability to complain online, you do not qualify for the medal for struggling the most and neither do I! We live in an extraordinarily privileged society and all we do is complain and compare!
I get it. People need to vent and the internet seems to be the primary outlet, but does it have to be the sole commentary and forever a contest? Why are women always competing over who has it hardest?!?! I haven’t even had my babies yet and I’m so tired of all of the warnings from parents (mostly moms) about how difficult my life is going to be, because they have kids and they know, most of which are limited to online, because I can’t leave my house until I get the vaccine. Thanks for the tip, Microsoft Clippy, but I’m not an idiot and I don’t expect any of this to be fun for a long time. Having two newborns at the same time is undoubtedly going to be exhausting and expensive and stressful, but I get to have babies and there is no way that that will be more emotionally, physically, or financially draining than back-to-back rounds of IVF during a fucking pandemic… and if I’m wrong, what is the point of talking about it?!?! Maybe taking care of two newborns will be harder than spending days in bed imagining a life with no children, somehow scraping together thirty thousand dollars to try, or leaving work early to get progesterone shots in the ass every day for ten weeks, knowing it might all be for nothing. If that’s the case, maybe some words of encouragement and positivity might be more helpful than warnings and horror stories.
Quite frankly, if you got to have the children who are giving you such headaches, in the free and fun way, I really don’t want to hear about how tough it will be, because you can’t tell me how it compares to what Jake and I went through to get pregnant. You can’t imagine seeing your husband, who hasn’t cried since his senior year, get misty-eyed when he tells you there might never be babies. You can’t recall putting up the Christmas tree and picturing all the years of watching other people’s children open gifts, while you have none of your own. You can’t fathom a future without sick babies. bed time fights, disastrous family vacations, weird Halloween costumes no one understands, talks about dealing with bullies, sitting through those horrible class plays and concerts, and hearing your child say they hate you for the first time. No one realizes that couples going through infertility aren’t just thinking about all the good things they might miss, but the bad stuff, too. It’s every possible parenting scenario that’s made us cry, because we might never have it. Maybe that’s why, of the surprising number of couples who’ve struggled with infertility that I know, I’ve not heard a single pessimistic comment and the rest usually shut their traps, when I respond with “Better than no babies” I’ve had enough negativity around this pregnancy and I’d really like it if everyone would disperse from the line to say “I told you so” that seems to form around every new mom.
Jake and I had our first ultrasound with my OB on January 7th, at eleven weeks and two days. It was the first one he was able to attend and it was wonderful for him to hear the heartbeats and see them moving around, since he hadn’t gotten to be a part of pretty much anything, beyond payment. When I asked when we’d be able to tell gender, the doctor verified that we wanted to know and told us she thought they were both boys.
I felt terrible, because I found myself upset, no matter how hard I tried to get excited. I knew how much Jake wanted a boy, but I just really wanted there to be one girl, not just so I could have a daughter, but because I wanted to pass my Gramma’s name (my middle name) on, before she dies. She’s 86 and we’re in a pandemic. While I knew she’d prefer a boy, as she’s always favored my brother, I still wanted her to have that. After we sent off my bloodwork, to check for trisomies and verify gender 100%, I researched how accurate such an early guess could be and overwhelmingly found that it was really too early to tell. Since the doctor had seemed so certain that one was a boy, I just hoped that perhaps the other guess was mistaken. Eleven days after that appointment, I received a call that the trisomies results were negative and we were having two girls.
If I’d been able to choose the genders of my children, or rather had taken the option, because that was a possibility, I’d have decided on one of each. However, always having wanted closer and more plentiful family relationships, I suppose it will be nice for them to be the same gender. They’ll have more in common and share more experiences… and I get to have two little girls. I’ve wanted a healthy, normal mother/daughter relationship my entire life, even if it means being on the other side of it. I get to break the cycles my mother created and be the mom she never was, to not one, but two, little girls. Those little girls each get to have the sister I always wanted, as well. I’m confident that I’d have been able to get there with two boys and was genuinely disappointed when I realized the boy that had been so certain wasn’t coming, but now that I’ve adjusted, I’m thrilled to be having two little ladies and just hope they’re strong and healthy and have no mental or physical issues.
Jake truly is the go-with-the-flow man he claims to be, though. While he never made me feel bad for wishing for a girl, he insisted he wouldn’t be upset if the doctor was wrong and has given every indication of honesty with that statement. The only drama we faced, after the big reveal/correction, was choosing names, as he’d decided over night that he didn’t like any of our previous choices. After weeks of calling them Mando and Grogu or Elsa and Anna, of debating and his vetoing literally every name in existence, we landed on two classic girl names with our grandmother’s middle names. They’re old, as is trendy, but have cute, modern nicknames. For the sake of this blog and the fact that I use only pseudonyms, I’ll refer to them as Violet and Scarlett, both of which were on the table, but ultimately vetoed, because we didn’t like the inevitable Scar and Vi. The actual names have the same number of syllables and sound good together, but stand up on their own. They don’t rhyme and aren’t themed (like colors or flowers). Naming humans is tough, but even that seems to be out of the way.
I’ve yet to share any of this on my main blog and I’m not totally sure why. For starters, I’m not telling the general population the genders until Easter, when we can tell our families, and a few friends read my blog. I did cave and let Jake have his Christmas announcement about the pregnancy (partly because I’ll be clearly showing soon), but he wants to share the genders in person and we’re hoping I’ll have my Covid-19 vaccine by then. It’s more than that, though. I’ve seen the ultrasounds multiple times, recorded them on my phone, so I could watch them later, watched my belly grow before my eyes, and still… I’m terrified that something will happen to my babies, a fear I hear never quite dissipates and I’d imagine that is even more true with IVF conception. So, I’ll keep it a secret from my readers just a little bit longer, since there’s no way I could have done so with anyone who has seen me in person.
We found out at seven weeks, that not only was there one strong heartbeat, but two. It wasn’t a total shock. It was an accepted risk, when we chose to transfer two embryos and I’m not sorry we did… at the moment. I’ve been through my ups and downs, my moments of remembering that I don’t like children and now I’m going to have two, of acknowledging that I don’t know what to do with one baby. Jake, in his confidence and ignorance, having never had children either, keeps assuring me we’ll be fine… and I suppose we will, but I’ve always been a bit high strung. I told my Gramma after our nine week ultrasound and she’s thrilled. I’ve told a couple of people at work, as well, because I’ve been so sick in the mornings, that I’ve had to keep calling in late.
At this point, I think I might want to keep it a secret from everyone else just a bit longer. I’m so worried something will go wrong and I don’t want to have to make the rounds to tell everyone about it. I just want my babies to be safe and healthy and I want to know that’s the case before telling everyone, but I think they might tell on me first. I’ve been getting really sick and I can already tell I’m starting to show. I suggested telling everyone that I’m just hungover and letting myself go, but Jake has vetoed that plan.
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.
It’s 5:15 and today was the first day I could take a pregnancy test, with doctor approval. I bought a two pack of First Response tests last week and it has been sitting unobtrusively under my bathroom sink ever since. The night before last, I could barely sleep, I was so anxious. I still feel pretty crummy. The progesterone makes me nauseous and gives me headaches and my abdomen is still swollen.
I spent the majority of yesterday planning for disappointment and the inevitable two days in bed that would follow. I attended the staff meeting, since the other would be offered Wednesday and I finished my weeding for the month, since the end of November sneaks up on you in libraries. We close for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and I don’t work the weekend. Weeding requires a lot of bending and lifting small amounts of weight (stacks of books), and it’s taken a toll on my body. My belly feels worse and I was exhausted, so I took two pregnancy approved muscle relaxers around 8:00, with plans to get a full night’s sleep and wake up to test at around 6:00, before Jake went to work.
I woke up at 4:30 and tried to convince myself to go back to sleep. Finally, I admitted that holding it wasn’t going to change the answer and now was the time to face the truth. Half asleep, I went to the bathroom, where I’d gotten the test ready the night before, peed in the cup… and promptly dropped it, spilling half of it all over the bathroom. I grabbed the test with my pee covered hands and tried to open it with my teeth, only to realize there was definitely urine on it, cut it open with some nail clippers, and used what small urine sample was left to test…
… and it was positive. I cleaned the bathroom before I checked the results and, at the sight of two unquestionably pink lines, I ran into the bedroom, turned on the light, jumped on the bed, and woke up a startled Jake.
Me: “It’s positive.“
Jake: ::hugs me and tries to pull me into the bed with him::
Me: “The perk of spilling pee all over the bathroom, when you take a pregnancy test, is that you have something to do while you wait for the results.”
He laughed and hugged me and tried to roll me over for a sweet moment, when he realized I was breathing hard.
Jake: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Yeah, I’m just…” I searched for the right words… “covered in pee.”
So, now I wait until Wal-Mart opens, at 7:00 cuz Covid, to buy ten more cheap tests and have my bloodwork tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I at least have two pink lines and Jake went back to sleep, just like a man.
A week from today, it’ll all be over. I’m not sure why my clinic seems to differ from the norm, but they test two weeks from retrieval, not transfer. I’m dreading the test. It’ll be the moment when we find out that, once again, this was all for nothing. The money, the shots, the plate I hurled into the sink when Jake touched my donut. The breakdowns, the days I spent in bed, the nausea, headaches, swollen everything, will all be for naught. My stomach still sports a large green bruise and I haven’t even had a subcutaneous shot in over a week. I’m tired and sick to my stomach all of the time and my uterus keeps twinging and I’m doing my best not to convince myself that it means something it doesn’t.
I suppose I’m just that much more hopeful, this time around, since this entire cycle has gone so smoothly, compared to the first. The doctor tried to discourage me from transferring two embryos, because he seemed confident one would work. I bought a test today, so I can take it at home and emotionally prepare myself for the official news from the blood test. I’ve even planned for when I’ll take it, knowing that I’ll have to call into work over a negative result. If I wait until Tuesday, when I’ve been given the go ahead to test, I can drink little to no water and test at lunch, since I’ll telework for the rest of the day and my Netflix Party program won’t require me to be on screen. If it’s negative, I just start my program and resume the catatonic state on the couch that sums up 2020, after informing my boss that I won’t be in Wednesday, after the blood test. I’ll have until 1:00 Thursday to recover before virtual DnD with my teens and if I’m still not up for it, I can cancel.
I suppose my new rhetoric is to try my hardest not to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst. I am just so tired.
This second cycle was entirely different from the first. Despite having more than twice as many fertilized eggs, out of the same number of mature eggs, I was dreading my transfer. I cried to Jake, that this was the beginning of the end. Once I entered that doctor’s office, (#alonecuzcovid), I’d learn the number of blastocysts and all hope would be lost. I’d transfer one or two if I could, but would surely not be pregnant and would have few, if any, frozen. If the changes we made didn’t yield different results, there was little to no hope that any others would and we’d be looking at likely pointless, undoubtedly financially, physically, and emotionally exhausting reattempts. Ultimately the limited, seemingly impossible remaining options to have a family would be all that was left to us and it would all begin with that fresh transfer. What can I say? 2020 has left me a little defeated.
When I went in yesterday morning, however, the doctor informed me that he felt like he knew what had gone wrong in the first cycle, as we had much better results this time around, with five blastocysts on day five. My progesterone also measured three times higher, since we’d been doing 1.5 units, because it was fairly low on day five, last time. Jake and I had planned to transfer two embryos, in the hopes of increasing our chances, and while I was torn when the doctor told me he didn’t think it was necessary, I couldn’t actually consult with my husband, so I stuck to our mutual decision. We transferred two embryos and froze the other three. Today, the clinic called to tell me that an additional three had made it to the blastocyst stage on day six and that they all rated BB. A full half of our mature eggs and over half of our fertilized eggs, had made it to freezing quality. So, no matter what happens in the next ten days, we have six frozen embryos to use in the future.
I’m not sure what we’ll do, if I’m not pregnant. We’ve discussed perhaps waiting until July, when we’ve paid off a significant portion of the zero interest credit cards we’ve used for this cycle and our health savings accounts are again available from work, to start another cycle. Frozen transfers cost around $3,500 and if we don’t get pregnant until one of our last embryos, or at all, we’d be looking at doing another cycle as early as 35 with no pregnancy or as late as 37 with a successful attempt on one of our last embryos. While we once discussed having three or four children, at this point, we’d be thrilled with two and even happy with one, though we’d prefer our children have siblings. If we wait to do any additional transfers, and instead do another full cycle, we could get that many more healthy embryos, while I’m 33 and potentially be able to have the preferred minimum of two children that we want. While an additional IVF cycle doesn’t sound like much fun, going through it in a different pandemic climate, knowing that we’ve isolated the problem, would make it much easier.
Naturally, I hope this transfer worked and that Jake and I can rejoice over a summer baby, but after the last cycle’s devastating conclusion, I’m trying to prepare myself and formulate a plan for a similar outcome. I feel better this time, both physically and mentally. I attribute that largely to the medication I was prescribed to prevent OHSS, the fact that we’ve seen that we can have better results, so if we do have to try again, we’re looking at better odds, and my overall avoidance of Reddit. The doctor seemed more confident, though of course he won’t give me any kind of concrete percentages. I’m paranoid that I’ll personally do something to prevent implantation and the words “can I poop after embryo transfer” are officially in my search history. Maybe it will work or maybe I’ll find myself in bed for two solid days next week… but if it’s the latter, I’ll have a plan.