One Little, Two Little Embryos
You know its fiction when a petri dish of embryos is just laying on a table, left alone in a room with a person who isn’t a doctor. Still, I love that Friends took on the surrogacy and infertility topic, and later on the adoption and infertility topic as well!
My life completely changed for the better three years ago yesterday. I will always consider October 24, 2013 to be one of the happiest days of my life, though I didn’t know it 100% at the time. In the moment, 10/24/13 was certainly a day filled with hope. It was also a day where I felt strangely confident, even after 5 straight years of failures. Part of me just knew on that particular day that a long struggle was finally ending, and a joyful journey we had been waiting so long for was about to begin.
On Thursday, October 24, 2013, Mike and I walked into our fertility clinic prepared to undertake our seventh physician-assisted fertility treatment, a FET (frozen embryo transfer). After our first daughter’s easy, natural conception back in October 2005, we were shocked when we went to create a sibling for her and it just refused to happen. We tried everything including charting cycles, Google, natural remedies, Clomid, Google, 5 IUIs, Google, an IVF, Google, and now, a FET. We had decided to transfer 2 of the 8 remaining embryos from our failed IVF the month prior (where I ended up pregnant for about 5 minutes with a beta HCG of 9.5). There was a risk of conceiving twins with a double embryo transfer, but frankly I was tired of it all and wanted the best possible odds for success, so we went for it.
For the past 5 years, Mike and I never were given a definite explanation for our fertility issues (other than an incorrect diagnosis of PCOS for me by our first doctor whom we dropped after 5 failed IUIs and a craptastic bedside manner). The only diagnosis we were given was “unexplained secondary infertility.” Which explains…..NOTHING! (Though I’m sure my “advanced maternal age” of 36-at-the time wasn’t helping matters). For me, not having a definitive reason for this no-second-child-conceiving-madness drove me more crazy than if one of us had an actual condition that prevented pregnancy. I’ve never felt more frustrated after receiving “normal” results from medical tests, let me tell you.
Sad News in the Waiting Room
Our monitoring clinic office was only about 20 minutes from our house, but the office where complex procedures went down was 2 hours away in Fancypants, NJ. After getting S7-at-the-time on the bus, Mike and I drove down to the clinic. We knew the drill:
- Check in.
- Get moved to a different room.
- Wait some more.
- Get called in to change into scrubs (Mike) and gown (me).
- Get settled on the cot (me) with IV (me, again).
- Wait again.
- Speak to Embryologist (like, the coolest job ever.).
- Wait a bit longer.
- Go to the procedure room.
- The transfer occurs.
- Lay on the table for 15 more minutes to let the embryos marinate or whatever.
- Get dressed.
- Head home to freak out for 9 straight days.
- Go to the clinic for a blood pregnancy test.
- Wait for the call, while legitimately losing your mind from the anticipation.
- Receive a phone call with wonderful or devastating news.
- Celebrate or mourn.
In-between steps 4 and 5 this time, while sitting in one of the waiting areas that day, Mike and I received the startling, sad news that his grandmother had passed away that morning. She was 93 years old, but we still were surprised to hear the news. I mean, just a month prior, my husband, then-S7, and I had visited her at home and she seemed pretty ok! Hearing the news of her passing was definitely unexpected, and not in a good way.
Upon receiving the news, Mike and I sat in silence, each of us not knowing what to say. The hope of what was about to happen was clashing with the sadness of what we just learned, rendering us both speechless. All of a sudden, and I don’t know what possessed me to say it, I remember turning to my husband and saying, “I want to give the baby your grandmother’s name as her middle name.”
I had no idea the FET would be successful, or that we would have a girl at that moment. Or maybe, on some level, I did.
The transfer went smoothly. The only medical snafu was that when the embryologist went to defrost 2 of the 8 embryos we had in storage, one of them died right away and had to be discarded. As a result, the doctor had to defrost a third embryo, and all was well. So, instead of having 6 snowbabies, we currently have 5. I’m not sure what we will end up doing with them, though I know I won’t destroy them. I just couldn’t. One day, perhaps, we will adopt them out. We will know when it is time, once we are sure we are done having children (which at age 39 (me) and 40 (Mike), is looking more and more like the likely scenario).
After the transfer, we went home, and I stayed in bed pretty much from the rest of the day Thursday until Sunday. I returned to work Monday and tried not to think about the two little embryos hanging out in my U until the following Saturday, November 2, when the blood pregnancy test was scheduled. I took it easy and tried not to get stressed, and took not a single home test, because bottom line- I was too chicken to do so after so many failures.
On November 2, 2013, I drove down to NJ for a blood pregnancy test because it was Saturday and the local office wasn’t open. And there was no way in hell I was waiting until Monday. 2 hours there and 2 hours back for a 5-second blood test was totally worth it to me to know the results 2 days earlier. So I woke up early, drove 2 hours, gave blood, drove 2 hours home, crawled into bed, set my alarm for 11 am, and took a nap to make the time go by faster.
Not long after I woke up, the phone rang. The nurse greeted me and then said….”You ready?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Congratulations!” she said to me.
A beta HCG of 5 or higher is pregnant. 25 or higher and the odds are more in your favor of success.
My beta was 576.
Mike was pretty sure we were having twins- two girls was his prediction as we are pretty sure we don’t make boys (haha).
6 weeks after the happy news, I thought I miscarried. At work. Walking my 4th grade students to special down the hall. After I called in a teary panic from the wonderful school nurse’s office, Mike picked me up from work and drove straight to the fertility doctor’s office. I had been there already once that morning, and the doctor wasn’t able to detect a heartbeat, so I wasn’t too optimistic about the results of the forthcoming exam with no heartbeat earlier and now, blood cresting every-which-where. Honestly once the blood came that day, I thought it was over. Again. But this time it would be in a more heartbreaking way than ever before.
Thank GOD we were wrong. On the monitor that very day, even as blood continued to spill forth, I saw an amazing sight-S2’s heartbeat. I knew right then that this little one was going to be quite a fighter. She was going to make it.
I’d have a few more bleeding scares during my pregnancy, because why not? I went on modified bedrest at 32 weeks, as I could barely walk as well. All genetic testing came back normal, thankfully. Mike and I also found out we were having another girl, which was a big relief to then-S7, who threatened to lock herself in her room and never emerge should she end up with a brother.
Regarding delivery, I was hoping for a VBAC, however it was not to be. At 40 weeks 3 days with zero dilation and nary a hint of labor, the doctor told me it was go time. Since I had a previous section, that meant I another C-section was in the cards, as inductions cannot be done after a previous C. I thought I’d be disappointed, but I actually didn’t care at all. I just wanted my baby.
On a hot Tuesday in July, 2014, she finally arrived.
Completely healthy, a 9 apgar.
9 lb 1 oz of kickass fury. I love her to pieces.
And yes, we did end up giving her Mike’s grandmother’s name as her middle name.
For further reading on my secondary infertility journey, click here for an article I wrote on the subject for Redbook Magazine.
Also, click here for an article I was interviewed for that was first posted on seleni.org, but also ended up in Psychology Today.