Anyone who has traveled along on this journey knows that it is one of constant readjustment of expectations. I began when I was 28 years old and my expectations were high. I figured that we were both healthy and pregnancy would come to us easily. Dropped the birth control and started to casually attempt making a family. Things were lighthearted and easy. A few months in and I started to get a bitt more serious-maybe there was some talent to getting pregnant? So, I started tracking my ovulation. When I got a positive OPK, I asked my husband if we were serious about making a baby because we needed to have sex, um, now-what do you think his response was? A few months of tracking goes by and we still have nothing, so I bring it up to my OB/GYN and thus the infertility roller coaster of adjusted expectations began.
I am now 7 years out. I have had 3 IUIs, 1 fresh IVF cycle, and three FET cycles. When we met with our RE that we now see, expectations were high as we moved into the IVF side of things. It was going to be a breeze based on my age, eggs, hormones, and his sperm. Four cycles later and we have no answer as to why I can’t carry a baby to term.
After having gotten two positive pregnancy tests-one chemical and one that resulted in a miscarriage at almost 7 weeks-I tried to go into our last two transfers with realistic expectations. Coming off of the miscarriage, I waited six months before I tried again. The pain was still very real the day of the transfer and I knew I wasn’t really ready to accept an embryo and a chance at building a family. I practically broke down into tears at the acupuncturist because I was so afraid of what the results might be from the transfer. I couldn’t prepare myself for a chance at loss again. Being that it was way too late to back out of the cycle, I was less than an hour away from the transfer, I had to see it through. Walking down the same hall that lead to the room where my D and C took place, anxiety was high. It didn’t much matter that instead of going straight to the room where the D and C happened, we took a right and went into a different room. The feeling of sadness as I walked to have my baby removed from my womb where I couldn’t even protect him from harm was stronger than the feeling of hope for my next two embryos who were about to be transferred. The transfer resulted in a negative pregnancy test, followed up by a consult, and readjusted expectations, but hope because of options.
This cycle was different. I had enough time to work on my grief from my loss and was in a different head space. It would have been my baby boy’s first birthday and the fact that I had been pregnant didn’t sink me to the bottom of despair; it floated me to the height of hope. I had taken my three months of acupuncture in preparation as one day at a time. I didn’t allow myself to get too far ahead of what was in front of me. I didn’t have thoughts of doubt, of what if this one fails too, of negativity. I didn’t get so far ahead of myself to think of baby names or nursery design either. I worked at living in the moment as much as possible, meditated with guided imagery, and stayed calm.
As I got my protocol for the transfer and made the call to the pharmacy for my meds, I felt an excitement to be starting a new cycle. My hysteroscopy, taking place in the same part of the practice where my D and C happened, did not trigger me to sadness. I just really wanted to get through it so I could get that much closer to the day of our transfer. I headed in to my blood work and ultrasound appointments with a positive attitude. I was excited and hopeful, but not too hopeful. My expectations were realistic, but I didn’t dwell on the statistics.
July 23rd would have likely been my son’s first birthday, or at least close to it if he had arrived around my projected due date. This thought did not sink me; instead it gave me the feeling that good things might come, but I was also aware that this round too might not end in a positive test. I, again, took it one day and one moment at a time.
The two week wait wasn’t filled with trepidation or too many hopes. I did not project to brining a baby home and I didn’t project to hearing bad news on the other end of the phone when I got the results back. Even though I knew I’d receive my test results on my 35 birthday-fully aware of where that put me on the charts of IVF statistics if we had to try again, I worked at not getting ahead of myself. I didn’t think about what like would be like as we adjusted to being parents and I didn’t think about what life would be like as we adjusted to being child free. I was just present in moment. I took my shots like a champ and meditated nightly with my FET guided imagery program. The soothing voice lulling me to restful sleep, only to wash, rinse and repeat the next day.
Yesterday was my birthday. It was also my pregnancy test day. I will admit that August 1st was more difficult than the other days in my two week wait. I really just wanted the test to happen already so we’d know, but I also knew that once delivered, those test results required an adjustment in expectations. If positive, I would have to adjust to the fact that carrying to term might be difficult or impossible for me. I also had to adjust to the fact that it could be a breeze and not to let the past predict the future. If negative, I would have to adjust to the fact that we weren’t going to be parents this round. I would have to adjust to the fact that we did have options, though those options meant more adjusted expectations.
I was anxious yesterday as I traveled the hour and 15 minutes to the RE’s office for my blood work. I took deep breaths, tried to distract myself with reading, jokes with my husband, and signing along with the radio. I tried not to think about what impact the results of the test would have on me, my husband, and our lives. Riding in the elevator, A. leaned over and hugged me. He said that no matter the outcome, things would be okay. I nervously nodded and took another deep breath as I stepped out of the elevator. I greeted the receptionist with a smile and took my seat in the waiting room, trying to focus on my book. I was wished a happy birthday by the nurse who did my blood draw and given well wishes for a positive outcome. It felt that a good outcome was possible.
We checked out and I took many more deep breaths as we worked our way back home. It being my birthday and the tax free weekend in my state, I wanted to stop at DSW for new shoes. I knew I was getting closer and closer to the phone call with my results as I tried on shoes. I checked my phone to be sure I had my volume up, even though I knew it was not on silent. My phone began to buzz with happy birthday wishes, many from friends who knew that I was getting results from the test and who tried to ask but not ask about the outcome. My search for a nude pair of heels became my sole focus and I meandered through the clearance section. Finally, the phone rang. Standing in the middle of an isle, shoe boxes opened around me, I took the call. I instantly knew the results. I could hear it in her voice.
I tried to sound positive and understanding as she explained that I wasn’t pregnant and that she was sorry. I had empathy for her as I knew that just as much as I didn’t want to receive this news, she certainly did not want to deliver it to me, or the many other women who had the same news I got that day. I also felt the twinge of jealousy knowing that there were also those women who got positive news that day and grew angry that I was not one of them. On all of the days of the year, I got a negative pregnancy result on my damn birthday.
Being that I was in public, I collected myself and while this may sound crazy, I continued to shop for shoes. My husband had gone to Costco and I was in many ways thankful that I had a chance to process the news and go through those initial emotions completely anonymously, as just another shopper in the store looking for shoes. I could adjust my expectations again and let the shoes console me. I ended up with four pairs.
What sucks about the results the most is that we still don’t have a reason for our lack of success. It isn’t like they can tell me that I will never likely get pregnant because of deformities, PCOS, or endometriosis. They cannot say that A. doesn’t produce enough or no sperm, that his sperm are shaped weird, or that they don’t swim well. We fall in that small percentage of people who have unexplained infertility. The decision to ultimately stop treatment falls on us, not on a tangible reason for our lack of success. To have been pregnant means I know that there is always a hope that I can be pregnant again, which means I always want to go back for one more round. There will always be that sliver of hope that makes me doubt stopping treatment.
Before we head to the post-IVF consult, I already know what my options are. I know that I can go through another fresh round-Attain owes us one last fresh round. That will likely give us a number of embryos. Two years ago they retrieved 18 eggs, eight of which became blasts. It would be easier to walk away if we didn’t have that last fresh round and didn’t have the opportunity to continue the process. I know that I can do a fresh transfer and then use the remainder for surrogacy. I have a friend who has offered to be our surrogate. We can jump into adoption, though scrapping the money together to be able to pay for adoption seems daunting at the moment. It could mean A. having to switch jobs and us moving. We live in an awesome college town, but the opportunities to be a working professional are slim. We would have to sell our home and move to his hometown. We could live child free, though based on our conversation home yesterday, I don’t think we are ready to not be parents in some way to someone.
I know that these are all opportunities and shouldn’t be seen as problems. I know that there are plenty of women who would rather be in my shoes with options than to be without options. I know it can seem that I sound like a whining brat. The thing is I just want resolve and I wish it didn’t have to come from what I choose. I wish it were completely out of my control. It would make the expectation adjustment so much easier.