17; Let’s Try This Again

So this is blog post #17. Seventeen is a lucky number for me. It’s my birthday (March 17, 1985). It’s the day Josh and I finally admitted we had feelings for each other (Sept. 17, 2010).

Sept. 17 is also my half birthday, and the day we flew out for our European vacation in 2016. The one where we started trying to conceive. The one that was over two and a half years ago, when we were excited but nervous af to be jumping in full force to try and start a family.

Sept. 17, 2016. Right before our flight to Paris.

May 17 of this year, just a few days ago, was the day I got to go see the musical I have been waiting to see since in was announced as something that might EVENTUALLY come to Broadway: Anastasia. I cried. I smiled. I hoped it would be the first musical my baby got to “experience” in the womb.

Before the tears.

The first thing I thought when I looked at this photo was, “I look pregnant,” because the way the front of my dress is sitting and the way my hands are placed makes it look like I have a bump. The fact that I’m on the higher end of any weight I’ve ever been doesn’t help, but my friend’s mom saw this picture on Facebook and told her the same thing: that I looked pregnant. But she said it nicely: “Because she’s glowing!”

I don’t know about that (although I guess the lighting was decent), but there may have been some early truth to it anyway. Because two days later, just about four days after my 6-day embryo transfer — or, as we on the infertility message boards like to abbreviate it, 4dp6dt — this happened:

Fi. Na. Fuc. King. Ly. Squint — it’s there!

And the next day, this happened:

NOW WITH MORE WORDS.

And eventually, this happened (I’m cutting back, I swear, I didn’t even test today):

#notsorry

I truly thought that even if I got a positive, I would not get it as early as 4dp6dt. That’s when the braggy girls on the Glow app got theirs, and if the past two and a half years have taught me anything, it’s that no part of this journey is going to be straightforward or easy or “normal” for me. But there it was. To most people, it would’ve probably looked like a negative. But to me and Josh, who have been staring at these tests for WAY too long, we knew better.

Speaking of my husband, we had agreed to test Sunday night, but I woke up that morning and he was at Home Depot and I decided I wanted to do it right then. I was shocked when I saw a second line. And he was coming home fast, so I did what any sane person would do on a Sunday at 11 a.m.: didn’t bother to put pants on.

Then I pulled out a UCF onesie I’d bought to surprise him and stuck that and the positive test under the pillow on his side of the bed, and texted him to ask him to come upstairs and help me make the bed. Not unusual since 1. I have only not made my bed a handful of times in my adult life, even on a Sunday, and 2. I am very lazy on the weekends.

I also went back and forth about whether to record him and decided against it because he hates being recorded and I wanted a genuine reaction more than I wanted a video, so here are a couple of blurry after shots after we hugged and cried and all that.

The happiest.
Still happy but also probably yelling at me for taking pics.
The hesitant-faced posed shot. (We made the bed RIGHT AFTER.)

Initially, we put all anxiety and worry aside and went to brunch, where Josh had his “first Dad beer” — his words, not mine. And I had my first “mom coffee” (a.k.a. decaf, because I’m going to be paranoid for a while if not this entire pregnancy. Also j/k I started on decaf long before Sunday).

First “Dad” beer, whatever that means.

Since that day three days ago, we have gone back and forth between giddy excitement and being nervous as all hell because we don’t want to get our hopes up again just to have them ripped from us. But we have been trying to let ourselves be excited. We’ve told a few close friends, and our parents and siblings and my grandma.

They’re all extremely happy but, understandably, some are hesitant to get too attached to the idea. Which we totally get, but it kind of sucks too — like an indirect way of saying, “Heeeey that’s great and all but let’s see how it goes.” Pessimist Jen thinks, “Just one more thing we have to sacrifice,” but I can’t blame them. I really can’t. This has been a process, and “Omg surprise, we’re pregnant!” has never been a thing for us. At least, not between us and the people we are closest to who know already. So I’m hoping it all smooth sailing from here, and that the genuine, pure excitement comes soon.

My beta blood test is Tuesday, May 28. That’s six days from now, so I’m really hoping my HCG levels are off the charts by then. My tentative due date is Jan. 31, 2020, which is cool — no family or close friend birthdays too close to then! I’ve been joking that I hope the Saints go to the Super Bowl and win and that the baby is born that day (Feb. 2), because how cool would that be? Ten years after their first Super Bowl win, too. Come through, Drew Brees!

IDK why this got into a conversation about football, but…we’re taking this thing one day at a time for now. My back is killing me today. My stomach felt sour af yesterday, and I’m starting to feel pretty tired already. But I welcome any and all pregnancy symptoms. I just want to see a heartbeat from this little rainbow baby in a few weeks. That will make it all worth it.

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.