16; Seventh Time’s a Charm?

I am not awake or energized enough to think up a clever title, so oh well.

Our transfer was Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The embryologist picked a 4AA day 6 blastocyst to put in. Here it is, our hopeful future son or daughter:

My same friend from before thinks this one is also a boy because “He’s sturdy.”
IDK why I did this.
“COME THROUGH, 4AA.”

My doctor told me it “couldn’t have gone better,” and said he would be praying for us. The sweet nurse, who knows I’m a writer, made small talk with me about a mini haiku she wrote and said she’d been reading a lot of poetry and name-dropped Shel Silverstein, whom I know nothing about except that one book.

I confirmed they had done traditional/conventional IVF as opposed to ICSI — which results in boys more often than girls (I think the split is 56%/44%), and involves regular fertilization of the eggs as opposed to injecting a single sperm — and that was it.

Then Josh and I went and got Red Lobster (which seems to have become a post-transfer trend, if you count twice as a trend) and ice cream and mini cupcakes for later, and bought some new clothes because we are both too fat for most of our clothes right now, which may or may not have to do with our habits as of late including but not limited to the beginning parts of this run-on sentence. We told the baby they should be thankful that Cheddar Bay Biscuits were their first taste of the outside world, and that there’s more where that came from if they’d just GTF here already.

Butter pecan with Reese’s cups mixed in, because I know you’re wondering.

We also went to Carter’s to look at baby clothes, which Josh was hesitant about but then got on board after he saw a onesie he liked and said, “THIS ONE HAS BUGS POURING OUT OF THE POCKET!” It was adorable.

I feel like I have a million things but also no things to say. Truthfully, this time doesn’t feel much different than the ones before, so in that sense I have nothing more to say. I hope more than anything that this is it for us, and I’ve already started thinking about how my due date (end of January) would be so nice weather wise and how it doesn’t interfere with family/friend birthdays and how nice of a bonus that is (as well as how I would juuuust make the cutoff for a non-“geriatric” pregnancy, holla). I’ve thought about a December baby shower. And I’ve dreamed about having a cute baby bump over the holidays for longer than I’d like to admit.

But the reality is that this might not be it, as much as I want to believe it is. Every little twinge in my lower abdomen (and they have definitely been happening off and on) sends my mind racing until I remember I had cramping with the first transfer and it didn’t lead to a BFP. I haven’t given up, but my heart just doesn’t have the capacity to hope in the way I did when we first started this journey. Even if I see two lines this week, I don’t think I will even be able to be excited until we level up from the last time I got pregnant, in the form of seeing a heartbeat. And if we get to that point, I know I will LOSE IT in the exam room because I start crying every time I think about that scene in my mind.

The balloon Josh brought home for me the night before the transfer. ❤

I try and be thankful for what we do have — each other, and our present and future together — but it’s not easy sometimes. It’s hard to meet two women who are going through IVF the same month as you, see them succeed, know the success rate is 60-70% and not think, “Well, I guess the 1 out of 3 statistical failure is going to be me.”

It’s not fair for me to tell myself these things, and I’m trying not to compare, because these women went through hell too and I am SO happy for them, truly. But this has been our seventh fertility treatment, and that has weighed heavily on us. Figuring out how to toe the line between hope and rationale (and successfully existing among other humans) is something I have always struggled with and will probably spend the rest of my life trying to wrap my head around.

Luckily, I have the greatest support system in my husband. And even without a baby, we have learned throughout this process that we alone are enough.

15; The Final Countdown

In true me fashion, the first thing I did today after learning my progesterone levels were adequate and ready for my body to receive an embryo was Google “What is an ideal progesterone level for a FET (frozen embryo transfer)?”

The first thing I found was a study that said anything over 20 ng/ml showed decreased live-birth rates and increased pregnancy-loss rates. I have a level of 38.1! Hooray! So of course, I break down in tears and call my doctor. Nurse calls me back and assures me they supplement their patients with MORE progesterone if their levels are under 20, so I’m choosing to take that plus my lining looking solid at my appointment this morning as a good sign.

The transfer is tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. and honestly, up until now, I haven’t thought about it even a fraction as much as I have my six previous treatments. Yes, folks, this is lucky number seven. My nerves have been low. I have been very que sera and laissez-faire about it (for me, at least) literally until 4 p.m. today, when I Googled as I had never Googled before and tried unsuccessfully to muffle my sobs as I spoke to the IVF nurse over the phone.

I talked to Josh over Google Hangouts during this spiral while he was still at work and he told me I needed to be brave. I argued that making a decision based on convenience isn’t brave, it’s ignorant. He said the bravery comes from letting go, or something, and I said that’s naivete. He sighed loudly (probably) and told me the only thing that has made sense in the past hour and a half: “Let’s not argue.”

At this point, there is really nothing else I can control aside from how I handle these next 18 hours and how much trust I put in my doctors and my nurses, and it’s hard to do that. After six failed treatments, it’s really hard to trust anyone, even myself, even though it’s not any of our faults.

I was talking to my therapist a couple of weeks ago about this whole process and I realized that 99% of our sessions over the past couple of years have been about me trying to have a baby. It made me think about how I want to raise a child — i.e., to know that they are an important part of the world and special and loved, but that they need to work hard and that they are not the center of the universe — and I realized how I’ve been living my life so opposite of that. My entire existence the past two and a half years, for the most part, has been about becoming a parent, and I want to be so much more than that even if I do finally get to become a mom.

I want our kids(s) to look at us and see whole people who model something to be proud of. I want them to feel like an integral part of a bigger purpose, not the entire purpose. I know parents so often say their children are their entire lives, and as much as I want any child of mine to know they are the most important part of my life, I don’t want them to think they are the only important part, and I have been doing a bad job of living that way myself. I want a child to come into an environment Josh and I have created because it was borne out of who we are as individuals and a couple, not out of a fake version we want to present as a child.

It really has made me, deep down, realize that if we don’t have kids, I’m going to be OK. We absolutely would want to adopt, I think we would just need some time to grieve this part of the process. And for a while I felt so guilty about that, but I don’t anymore. I think of anyone (especially people who have had biological children and therefore have no business commenting) having the nerve to tell us the right/least selfish way to do this and I laugh, because you don’t truly realize the gravity of something you can lose until you’re on the edge of losing it yourself.

For now, I’m just going to keep my thoughts positive, resist the urge to have “one last drink” for the 329248th time this week (don’t judge me), actually do my IVF meditation tonight, and try very hard (again, for the 329248th time this week) to find a mental balance between what is and what could be.

12; The Dreaded Two-Week Wait (Or Maybe Just One Week?)

So from this point forward, I’m making my posts private for a couple of reasons. I will unlock them eventually, but…the truth is, I want this part to be my own. And Josh’s, of course. It’s such a personal journey and I want to share even this part with the world eventually, but for now, it’s for my eyes only.

I’ll get to the specifics but both reasons have to do with the fact that we went forward with the transfer. Holy hell. Which means I could be pregnant right MEOW.

Don’t ask me why I used this GIF. Just know it’s my favorite GIF of all time and let’s move on. Also, I have no idea who I’m talking to since I literally just said this post was private.

So YEAH. Let’s back up. We learned on the Tuesday after our retrieval (Feb. 5) that all nine embryos were still looking good past day 3, which we were floored about.

But even then, we decided against the PGS testing (I covered the reasons why we might do that in my last post) and instead to do a fresh transfer this past Thursday, Feb. 7. Ack!

Right before transfer, listening to the waiting-room video for the 764th time

So we went to the clinic Thursday and learned that so far, four out of our nine embryos had made it to blastocyst stage and were good for transfer! YAY.

My doctor was very pleased. I thought he would pat me on the back but he did not. I think he patted Josh on the back or shook his hand, which…rude. I was RIGHT THERE. With no underwear on.

Husband, did look cute though, suited up like we’re in Stranger Things

The bab we ended up transferring was a day 5 4BB blastocyst, and the lab froze two 2BBs and one 1BB. You can Google “embryo grading” to learn what all that means, but basically the higher the number, the bigger the blast. 1 is small/needs more time to grow, while 5 is almost hatching and I think 6 is already hatched? I think it varies by clinic.

But the letters are the more important part. The first letter reflects the part of the embryo that will become the fetus, while the second letter grades cells from the part that will become the placenta. I think. Or vice versa. I’m too tired to Google it right now, but the point is ours looked pretty good — A is the best, but B is great too.

And they told us they were going to keep an eye on the other five blasts over the next day to give them more time to develop, so our hopes were high.

Right before the transfer. Objects in photo are smaller than they appear.

Keep in mind none of this grading reflects the chromosomal normality/abnormality. That can only be determined via PGS testing, which we may actually end up doing with the frozen embryos depending on how this goes and a couple other things, but that’s another post for another time.

So long story short, I basically experienced the pap smear from hell as the doctor threaded (IDK how to describe it less disgustingly) a catheter through my cervix and transported the little guy or gal up into my uterus. It was cool to see on the screen — a tiny white light in a sea of darkness. Kind of gave me a feeling of hope and made me forget six people were staring at my private areas.

Josh found the whole thing fascinating. The lab where they keep the embryos (right next to the exam room, for quick transport) is right next to a little door with a swinging window at the top with a shelf, like the kind grandmas put pies on in TV shows from the 1950s. He made a few jokes about that…later, when my feet weren’t in sky-high stirrups. He ain’t dumb.

Our little 4BB blast. My friend thinks it’s a boy because, and I quote, “He’s so squishy!”

So it went well and we took the rest of the day off. And then the next day, we got the call that not only did three more embryos make it to blastocyst stage, but all three of those are AA grade — the highest grade you can get, which made my control-freak self actually giddy. The sizes are great too: one 5AA and two 4AAs.

I almost cried on the phone when the lab lady told me. I still don’t know what to call her. Embryologist? Queen? Savior? And she was so nice, breaking down all the sizes and letters for me so I can add them to my crazy-person bank of information. That made a grand total of seven embryos: six frozen, one transferred. Lucky seven. I find joy in this.

Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling a good bit of cramping in my lower abdomen, which…I know can point to implantation so I’m trying to stay positive, but it can also mean my period is coming. The cramps for my period usually don’t start this early, but who the hell knows. Plus, I’m on those fun progesterone injections and I have no idea how those are affecting me, so it could be that too. I really am trying to be optimistic.

I have a blood test tomorrow to check on my progesterone levels, and then I believe they check for pregnancy five days later, so Monday the 18th. However…we will be testing for pregnancy with an at-home First Response Early Result test on Thursday night, which is Valentine’s Day. Which means we’ll either have the best or worst Valentine’s Day ever — half the reason we are staying in and cooking dinner instead of going out.

I don’t think he’s gonna top this epicness from 2013 anyway.

Now, on to the two reasons I am keeping my posts private for the time being. One, I want to be able to announce the news that we are pregnant if we are, in fact, pregnant and not have a bunch of people already know, because that’s no fun. We’ll tell our close friends and family members but that’s it.

And two, I told all my family in New Orleans — mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, grandma — that we opted for the two-step transfer, a.k.a. the PGS testing and frozen embryo transfer come April or May. I LIED THROUGH MY TEETH. I need to remember to lie to my mom next week sometime about how many came back normal, but I did this because we’re visiting for my birthday in mid March and I want to be able to tell them in person.

It’s going to be really hard to keep this secret for a month if I do end up being pregnant. But I think back to how overjoyed my mom was the first time and then how heartbroken she was when I miscarried, and I don’t want to put her through that. By then, we’ll have been able to see a heartbeat, and I’ll feel much more comfortable telling her.

The next time I write, I will know one way or another if this worked. Keeping all the fingers and toes crossed.