22; IU Whyyyy

So long story short, I started testing early last cycle after the IUI, got a faint positive at 13 DPO, and it was gone by the next day. I’m almost sure that means I had a chemical pregnancy, which really blows, but at this point it’s not really as devastating as it may have been for me a year or two years ago. Sad but true.

The worst part, honestly, was letting myself get back into that cycle of obsession with testing. I’m not joking, I spent $50 going through four boxes of First Response Early Result pregnancy tests, willing my eyes to see something that was never fully there. I know this time I will test 12 DPO, so Wednesday, Dec. 18. But I am not letting myself do it before that. It’s too much heartache and stress, and I’m not doing it again.

I want to be positive/optimistic, but I’m just neutral. I told Josh today, in the exam room as we were waiting for the doctor to come administer our seventh and final IUI, that I felt like we were just burning money doing it today. I know that’s Negative Nancy territory, but I can’t help it. It has been three very long years, and the longer we keep doing this, the less attachment I have to it. I am relieved, in a way, every time it doesn’t work. I wonder if that means deep down that I don’t actually want children, and that scares me. Maybe I don’t, or am not meant to. And maybe this is the universe’s way of reminding me of that.

Those are the thoughts that go through my head a lot and have since we started down this path, but I’m not as sad about it as I used to be. When family/friends of ours with kids can’t do something because they have kids and we get to do whatever we want, whenever we want, I can’t hate it. I truly have a great life, and there is a lot to be thankful for. Would a child make it better? I’m sure. But I don’t feel like I’ll be incomplete without one anymore.

Anyway. This time around, I had a 17 mm and 14 mm follicle on my left ovary and a 17 mm on my right, which makes me happy. Both sides is what I was hoping for. Josh’s count was good, the IUI went smoothly. I’m crossing my fingers that this is the one, but if not, time to start prepping to transfer that last little embryo.

20; What’s Behind Door #8?

Before I get into my primary spiel, just a quick update on the medical side of things. Our clinic’s financial department approved the $1,500 biopsy fee for our embryo genetic testing as opposed to the $4,000, thank GOD. They have enough of my money so really, one less thing I have to fight is great. We need to pay it by Aug. 1, and then the actual testing cost at the lab they send the biopsied cells to is another $1,500 ($250 per embryo plus a $250 flat rate for shipping). So $3,000 total which…kill me, but it’s better than $5,500.

I went to Quest for them to draw blood for my roughly 38473482 tests yesterday, to check for potential chromosome issues in me that would prevent me from carrying a healthy pregnancy. Nervous to get those results back. Josh does his tomorrow — obviously not to check for things that would be an issue with pregnancy, but things that would affect embryo normality I guess, in a way where we’d have to screen them in a more in-depth and, you guessed it, expensive way. The doctor told us it’s rare for anything to come back abnormal, so I guess we’ll see. So far we’re ticking off all the bad “rare” boxes, though, so what’s one more, eh? #jaded #salty

Our short-term plan is PGS testing on our five embryos in August, September biopsy on my uterine lining, and then assuming we have at least one chromosomally normal embryo, transfer in October. Third time’s a charm, right? Or I guess I should say eighth, considering the five IUIs before we started IVF. Which brings me to the title of this blog post.

In my last post, I talked about how the only time I’ve really broken down and cried since finding out we miscarried for the second time was once, while considering the person I am now vs. who I was before we started TTC. I was sitting on our couch, staring at this beautiful collage of photographs from the trip we took to Europe in September 2016, which was the official beginning of our TTC journey. I went through and was pointing out to Josh how much effort I had put into the photos I’d chosen to include.

Excuse my reflection in the glass. I’m a writer, not a fucking photographer, aight?

The big spaces were for the landmarks from each city (Paris, Munich, and London) we visited that corresponded to these canvas wall art pieces we had made when we moved into our house. The squares at the bottom of each of the three sections were of food from each place. The middle rectangles were of both of us for the London section (thought technically it was from Disneyland Paris, whatever), me alone (France), and Josh alone (Germany), to represent our respective heritages.

But even through all that, the one photo that stuck out to me was the second from the bottom, on the left side — us in Salzburg, which was the only big part of our trip that was almost completely impromptu. We went there for a single day on a suggestion from one of the waitresses in an Oktoberfest beer tent, since it was a two-hour train ride away and we didn’t have anything planned for our last day in Munich. So we thought why not?

O hi, Bavarian Alps and old FitBit and dress I don’t fit into right now.

This is not only my favorite photograph from our trip, but it was taken on my favorite day of our trip and during my favorite moment — right before watching the sunset over the Alps at the restaurant attached to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, where we sipped wine and just hung out for like two hours. Watching Josh find peace sitting high above the world and looking around and taking countless pictures (something he doesn’t do often) and telling me he was thankful I’d persuaded him to take this trip, even though he’d initially had reservations, was everything. Truthfully, if I knew what I did now about how much fertility treatments would ultimately cost us, I might’ve been hesitant too.

But the biggest thing I think about is how this moment was unplanned. And it turned out to be my favorite moment — me, a type A person to the point that my (multi-page) wedding-weekend itinerary is still a running joke among our poor bridesmaid and groomsmen friends, almost five years after our wedding. And it also made me realize a few things about life that, if you’re like me, I think you just can’t really understand until you live them, like how to find patience — true patience, not tourist-walking-too-slowly-on-a-narrow-sidewalk-in-front-of-me patience — and let go of things you have no control over.

I look at the girl in these photos and see so much anticipation for the next chapter of life. Someone who armed herself with the key to all the big milestone doors along the way well in advance, dotting every I and crossing every T to make sure when she got to the BABY door, the key would slide in and turn without much resistance. High-school and college graduation, financial independence, health, a decent amount of travel, marriage (I had to wiggle that key a little, admittedly) — you name it, I was able to achieve most of what I wanted through hard work and perseverance and just being a generally good person. The person in those photos knew that preparation was the answer and, in turn, the key to all those big life-milestone doors.

The person today, who’s a few years older, a few years wiser, and a few notches sadder, doesn’t feel that way. Not completely, anyway. I feel like I had the right key and it unlocked the BABY door, but something unexpected happened: Another door appeared just a few feet in front of it instead of giving me a 9-month-long hallway to make my way down until I reached the next door, MOTHERHOOD, which I had the next key for tucked firmly in my pocket. There was no middle key, that I knew of, but my focus was so zeroed in that it seemed I missed some piece of information that everyone else picked up except for me. And I’m still figuring out what the label on this next door says, because it’s like it’s in a different language or code that I’ve been working on cracking for the past two years.

A door at the Salzburg fort with creepy puppets behind it. Don’t ask. Also, floral flats with a floral dress? WTF, Jennifer.

Another issue? The BABY door I came through slammed behind me, which I was used to with all the other doors I’ve passed through in my life because I was always moving forward. It was never an issue. But the problem now is that even though these doors have little windows in them, they feel soundproof. So I sit here and look through them and pretend to be happy, both for the people still behind the BABY door and already past the second mystery one, but I can’t be a part of either of those groups because Josh and I are perpetually trapped in this limbo room.

The first group, we’ve left behind. We don’t party anymore. We don’t do things that people without kids do, not really. And on the rare occasions we do, we don’t get the same satisfaction anymore. And then we have friends with kids whom we’re happy for and we love their kids, but we can’t fully care. Because when you can’t have kids and you want them, the last thing you want to do is be around someone else’s kids all the time. And even if you did, you’d just have to sit there and pretend to care when all they’re doing is talking about their kids, even during the rare occasion when said kids aren’t around.

I was talking to my friend about this a couple of weeks ago (who, incidentally, just had her second baby, who was with her at the time and snoozing like the angel he is) and told her what happened, and she said she sometimes struggles with being the person she was before children and wants to change that and tap back into her independence more in her hobbies and things like that. She listened and sympathized and then did what any good friend does: She told me, in so many words, to love myself, and encouraged me to try and be the person I was before I started trying to have a baby because that person is enough.

The problem with that is that the person I was before thought she would have a biological child someday, and the person I am now isn’t sure of that anymore. Not that my entire identity hinges on the idea of motherhood because it truly doesn’t and I don’t think it ever will, but I knew how to enjoy and be who I was before this because I knew that part of my life that was important to me — much more important than I even realized three, five, 10 years ago — would happen. Eventually.

Almost exactly 10 years ago. One time was enough, though.

I explained to my friend that I feel like once you unlock the next phase of your life, it feels like, for me, permission to breathe and settle back into your old bones — the ones that have kind of held you there the whole time, waiting for you to come back once you figure out the next thing. And I don’t know how to settle back since I haven’t figured this big thing out, for the first time in my whole life.

So now, in these next few months leading up to our October transfer (assuming we have a normal embryo in there), I’m working on finding out who I am outside of the assumption that I, one day, will have a biological child of my own. I truly don’t know that anymore, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. But now, over a month after learning we lost the second pregnancy, another breakdown hasn’t come. And I don’t think it’s going to. Which I don’t see as strength, really, because crying is OK, but I think it’s a sign I’m working toward getting to that life-without-kids or life-with-kids-in-a-different-way mindset, even if I’m not meaning to or even if I don’t completely understand it. And that’s all I can really ask of myself right now.

I’m in that group of people who love The Greatest Showman. I KNOW, OK? But I saw it right when it came out and loved it immediately so whatever. Anyway. I was on an outdoor run for the first time in literally months a couple of weeks ago, and I put “This Is Me” on to take me through the last couple of minutes. For the first time, I heard the lyrics in my own voice as they applied to this infertility journey and I just lost my shit. Thank God 1. No one else was around, and 2. I was wearing sunglasses. But I just felt those words in my bones and it felt good to feel something.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t know if this is all just some test of patience or willingness to let go or sanity or all of the above, but if it is, I just wish whatever powers that be would believe me when I say I’ve learned the lesson. Because while I’m OK most days, other days I feel like I’m screaming into the void, just waiting for someone else to pass through who will eventually remember where they left their key and give me a sympathetic nod as they leave. Because the one constant is that they always do. And right now, I’m figuring out whether to keep searching for my copy of that key to the mystery door or resigning myself to the possibility that I might have to start accepting that there is another way out.

19; Just You and Me, Babe

It’s weird going back and reading my last post. Underneath all my snark, most people might not see a real ray of hope, but God, was I hopeful. Not as hopeful as the first time I got pregnant, because after so much heartache, how can I really be? Up until now, over the last almost three years, every tiny victory along this journey has been directly followed by unimaginable heartache either in the form of a negative pregnancy test or a miscarriage or, even worse, a miscarriage followed by a surgery in which I had to sign a line reading “Mother” even though I might never actually become a mother. It’s like the universe is playing a cruel joke, daring me to be hopeful — giving me juuust a little more rope than last time with which to keep my head above water before reminding me that one chop means just as far of a drop down regardless of how much rope is dangling below me.

Such was the case last month, when Josh and I went in on June 13 for our second ultrasound appointment at 6 weeks, 6 days gestation. My doctor saw a bit of a bigger mass, but still nothing resembling a fetus, and definitely no heartbeat. He rooted around in there for a while too. The me from two summers ago probably would’ve been uncomfortable, but two years into my relationship with this doctor and his staff and I barely flinch during these ultrasounds, blood tests, etc. It’s truly a thousand times more uncomfortable to sit in the cold exam room, bottomless, and listen to the same woman on the TV screen explaining how IUI and IVF work in her maddeningly calm voice, reading from a script I can recite in my sleep by now. The worst is having to assure the staff when we experience a negative test, or a loss. At this point, Josh and I are so numb we feel like we are the ones patting their arms.

My doctor told us to remain cautiously optimistic, but Josh and I knew. We probably knew after the first ultrasound, truth be told, because the mass looked nothing like the perfect little round yolk sac I’ve seen in countless ultrasound photos on Glow (just search “5 week 5 day ultrasound” and a bevy of options pop up — on Google too). After that appointment, we did remain hopeful, but we stopped making plans and resigned ourselves to just be patient for the next eight days. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

But then June 20 came and the doctor had to look us in the eye and tell us there was no heartbeat and the pregnancy wasn’t viable. Again. Which was what we knew going in, but still, a sliver of hope remained (even though our biggest hope was a yes or no answer, nothing morally gray — no “maybe”s.) My doctor told me he had been hopeful, and my biggest (silent) question was, and still is, “How?”

We said the only thing you can say when the last thing you want to do is break down in front of your doctor and his new assistant: “It’s OK!” And of course, it’s not. Nothing about this bullshit is OK, but Josh and I are both put-on-a-brave-face-and-scream-together-later kind of people, which is not something I would change for the world but can be difficult. It was extremely difficult last year. We barely made it to the car before sobbing incoherently, wiping our faces as best we could before going into Publix for brie, wine, and Reese’s Easter eggs.

This time was different, though. We got my prescription for misoprostol, the miscarriage pill that didn’t work for me last time (more on that in a bit). We immediately agreed we would be getting margaritas at our favorite Mexican place down the road. And then we stepped out in the pouring-ass rain that had been only slightly less insane when we left our previous appointment, and we went and we had margaritas, tortilla chips, and guacamole for dinner while a tornado watch was in effect.

Thank GOD this was strong — as was its successor, a (smaller) mango variety.

That Saturday, June 22, I took the misoprostol, and I swear to God the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse exited my body that night. Every time I thought it was over, from about 8 p.m. until 1 a.m., it was not over. It was not truly over until about 2 a.m., but during that time period, Josh and I re-binge-watched the first season of Stranger Things and ate a huge crab feast that helped put me in better spirits (figuratively) and wine that help put me in better spirits (literally).

Not pictured: Hazelnut M&Ms (BOGO, thanks Publix!), more wine, and a glitchy heating pad.

The next morning, we slept in and met Josh’s brother Jeremy and his wife Jess and some friends for brunch at a place in College Park that, bless them, made the strongest mimosas I’ve ever had. You had to go up to the bar for refills, and I watched this angel pour roughly 2% juice and 98% champagne in my glass. I told her she must’ve known how much I needed it. She winked and said, “I got you, girl.” Indeed.

So tipsy I didn’t even care that there was no A/C. Probably why they make the drinks strong.

I still haven’t really cried about it. I’ve had a few moments where I’ve felt angry and I’ve come to a pretty serious realization about my “now” vs. “then” persona and self regard which I am realizing as this goes on is too long to include in this post, but I will in the next. I honestly don’t think the big cry is coming. I think it was the other day when I sobbed to Josh about how infertility really feels, and that’s the analogy I’ll go into in the next post. Josh told me I “should write a short story” about it, which…we’ll see how it looks in blog form first.

The great news is that when I went in for a follow-up last Monday, June 24, the doctor gave me the all clear — meaning it looks like, fingers crossed, the misoprostol did its job this time. He said my lining was still very thick, but then starting the next day I got the period from hell that is just now finishing up, which I hope means things are back on track or will be soon. I’m still getting positive pregnancy tests, but I think that’s typical. I’m going to test every few days with the cheap strips just to make sure the line is getting lighter. It’s a strange feeling to hope for that when I would normally hope for the opposite. But then again, nothing about this has been normal.

As for next steps, the doctor wants us to each take a series of blood tests related to recurrent miscarriage since this is our second, to check if we have chromosomal abnormalities in our own bodies that might be affecting the embryos (Josh) or the ability to carry a baby (me). He also does want to do a biopsy on my uterine lining, in September, to check for inflammation that could be hindering fetal development. We’ll be doing our next transfer in October.

Oh, and guess what? He wants us to retroactively PGS test the embryos for chromsomal abnormalities — a procedure I wanted done in the first place and was convinced not to do, and now costs a $4,000 lab fee as opposed to a $1,500 one. He told us science is always changing, which is fair, but there is a study that came out between February and now that had him pushing for it considering our situation. It addresses the reason we made the decision we did — the fact that there was conflicting evidence about whether the cells the embryologist pluck out to test from the outer layer of the embryo, which becomes the placenta, accurately reflect the normality of the inner portion, which becomes the fetus. We were terrified of throwing out embryos that could actually be normal, or abnormal but self-correct in the womb. But this new study took hundreds of discarded embryos, tested the inner portions, and found that the same abnormalities were reflected almost 100% of the time.

I get it. Things change. But here’s the thing.

The very nice yet firm email I sent, and my doctor’s very polite response.

Do I know whether this means he’s going to discount the entire $2,500? I don’t. But we’re going to push for it because it’s the least they can do. Although they did send us a sympathy card, which was very sweet.

For now, I’m trying to focus on the positives of not being pregnant, aside from being able to again imbibe alcohol, which I’m actually trying to limit. I am committed to losing weight again. I weighed in at 152 lbs. this past Saturday, and I’m aiming to be back around 130 by the time of our next transfer in mid-October. I’ll be able to go to Halloween Horror Nights, which I look forward to every year. We have more time to save money for my maternity leave. I don’t need surgery.

I can eat salads again and am not craving carbs 24/7, though it’s still not great. I can run. I don’t need a nap every afternoon. I have control of my body again, and amid all of the emotional upheaval…I am thankful for that.

18; Beta-and-Switch

This post is really late and I apologize. The truth is I’ve been spending most of my time feeling bad about craving pretty much only junk food and then eating it anyway, leading to me feeling worse. I ripped my slightly too-small lace underwear trying to pull them up really fast tonight.

3.5 servings per bag, you say? Challenge accepted, Cheetos.

Why, I can hear you not asking? Because Josh starting come downstairs as I was finishing up a 20-second pee with the downstairs bathroom door open, because HE WAS UPSTAIRS so I left the door open. We will never be the people who are OK with seeing each other use the bathroom. It mortifies me to even think about it. There is just something so vulnerable and weird about watching someone sitting on a toilet. But damn it, I didn’t feel like closing the door because again. He was upstairs.

That was not how I envisioned this entry beginning, yet here we are. HELLO. So I had my beta tests on May 28 and 30 and the results were fantastic — about 1,235 on the first go and 2,210 the second. They’re supposed to double every two to three days, so they looked great. My numbers around the same point in my first pregnancy were much, much lower, so seeing that gave me a lot of hope. In fact, at first I was worried the embryo split and I might be carrying multiples, but the nurse assured me that they were just strong numbers and not a red flag for twins.

I didn’t have any bleeding for the longest time save for a tiny spot that was likely from implantation until last Tuesday night, June 4. It wasn’t much — maybe like a light period, and very brief — but given my history, I contacted the doctor and he said I could come in the next day. So of course, we did. And…

Haupt Bebe! Maybe!

The doctor said nothing looked worrisome and that the gestational sac was sitting in a really good place in my uterus, whatever that means. “I’d be worried if it was over here,” he said, pointing more toward the middle? I think? I don’t know, but I do know I don’t need to know what would be worrisome. Been there. Over it. But then again I ask a million questions, so he probably just assumed I would want to know. He’d usually be right.

He also wasn’t sure if that little mass inside the gestational sac was a yolk sac (which I think is usually more round) or a fetal pole/beginning of an embryo or what, but there was definitely something there. He had to poke around and zoom in and out a lot to find it, though, which worried and still worries me. Tomorrow we go in to try and see a heartbeat. I’ll be 6 weeks, 6 days, where I was 5 weeks, 5 days for this first ultrasound.

This is the point we got to last time, and I’d be lying if I said my nerves weren’t through the roof. The 7-week appointment is where my doctor didn’t see any growth or a heartbeat (I think it was 7 weeks, 3 days), and I can’t help feeling like this will be the same deal. It feels like a video game I’ve been playing for years that I threw the controller down on a specific level and didn’t have the balls to work to get to that level again until now. And there’s no saving, so if I fail, I have to start from the very beginning again (I’m looking at you, original Super Mario Bros.).

I don’t feel much different. Like I said earlier, I’m craving carbs a lot but that’s not new, and I think mentally I might just be using my pregnancy as an excuse to eat more of them. I feel kind of grossed out by the chicken I put in my daily lunch salads, but I’ve been eating it anyway and then regretting it right after. No real nausea or morning sickness yet. Just tired af, but that’s also nothing new.

Also been playing a good deal of The Sims 4 the past couple days. This little moment warmed my heart, aside from the fact that Sim!Josh was clearly thinking of the way to make the quickest exit possible.

Sim!Jen had her fourth daughter minutes later. Poor Sim!Penny.

Speaking of daughters, my mom keeps calling the baby by the name we have picked out for a girl. It’s very cute but I don’t know why she’s so confident it’s a girl. She says because Juneau women are strong and this baby made it, but I could make a case for Haupt men too (and women). My friend Katlyn says boy. I just want a healthy baby. And while my head says boy, every time I actually think of or talk to the baby, I picture a girl. Hormones. I tell ya.

Speaking of hormones, I started crying a little bit today when I looked at this balloon that has now been alive for almost a month — the balloon Josh brought home with him the night before our transfer to cheer me up because I was freaking out hardcore:

Down but not out.

There’s so much symbolism it transported me back to Mrs. Carlin’s 11th grade English class during poetry month or whatever. That balloon is so deflated, which is how I feel right now. Completely off the wagon with my eating. Worried about whether we’re going to see a heartbeat and, despite the outcome, what it will mean for us.

Deflated from years of trying to conceive and now that we’ve done it (hopefully successfully), looking inside myself and being like, “Oh shit, what did we do? Are we even ready for this? Was it a sign from the universe that we aren’t supposed to be parents and now I’ve thrown off the balance?!”

But this balloon is still standing after 29 days, and I’m still standing after almost three years. Granted, it’s in bigger pants that will hopefully only get bigger (but not too much!) over the next eight months. But if this is it for us, I honestly wouldn’t change anything about how we got here. We’re nowhere near ready. But at the same time, we are.

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.

13; Here We Go Again on Our Own

I’m going to apologize to the blog gods in advance on this one because I’ve had too many mimosas (champagne + Welch’s mango) and I can’t apologize to readers because this is going to be a private entry like my last one.

HI. It’s been over two months since my last post. When we last left our heroes, they were on a cloud of positivity and hopefulness and a few days later, they were smacked back down to reality with a big fat fucking negative pregnancy test, fun! So here we are again, waiting until our next step.

The good news is we only have to wait a few more weeks. Josh and I decided that if our fresh transfer didn’t take, we’d wait three months to do the first frozen one. I told myself I’d use those three months to get healthier and lose some weight and get myself in the right headspace. I think I did the latter thing? But I didn’t lose weight. In fact, I gained a few pounds, so that’s fun. Probably from alcohol. (Not really.) As soon as Josh’s brother and sister-in-law head home tomorrow, I’m going to buckle down for these last couple weeks leading up to our transfer because damn, all my clothes are already tight and I’m not even pregnant.

Getting a negative test really sucked. I felt the cramping and everything that made me feel like maybe that was it, and now I’m kicking myself a little for not doing the PGS testing on the embryos. Not REALLY because again, so much debate surrounding it, but I can’t help feeling like “what if.” Also, we learned that thawing and testing the frozen embryos will cost $6,000 so LOL no.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but if the next transfer doesn’t take, my doctor wants to do an ERA test. Which is basically a super painful, $3,000 ordeal where he goes in and scrapes a bit of my uterine lining to biopsy it and see if they’re transferring at the exact right time or if they need to tweak by a few hours or whatever. He is suggesting this instead of our suggestion of transferring two embryos for a third cycle, and I’m just like…IDK. There are debates about that test too and in case you missed what I said earlier, it’s three thousand effing dollars. I’m trying not to think about crossing that bridge unless I come to it but at this point, I just assume the non-baby bridges are the ones that are going to come. Which I know is terrible, but I’m just…tired.

I’m tired to the point where I’ve started duping myself into thinking I don’t actually want a kid, despite being giddy every time I see/hold a baby. I’ve started doing that thing a lot of us do when we’re younger and side-eyeing people with kids like they have no idea what the fuck they’re doing in life and are in for a world of pain and just bending to societal expectations, and trying to convince myself that I, somehow, got the long end of the stick here. I’m feeling like how Robin felt in that episode of How I Met Your Mother when she found out she can’t have kids and even though she had decided she didn’t WANT kids, it’s different when the universe makes that decision for you. When it’s no longer your decision, it castrates you a bit. And how I’ve been dealing with that is silently judging others for having kids and “ruining their lives” (obviously a complete bunch of BS). And the aforementioned mimosas.

The truth is Josh and I are at a crossroads in life where we don’t fit in with either side of people our age — the side who have kids (most of our friends our age) and the side that doesn’t want them but still has the option. And that is a hard place to be in. We don’t fit in with the kid people and we’re pretending to fit in with the non-kid people, but the truth is we are neither of those. And maybe we’re just trying to force ourselves into a box too hard, but all that has done is alienate us from everyone and now I’m not even sure how we’re supposed to get back. We’ve both been tempted to just start over elsewhere and with new friends (sad, huh?) but none of that will erase the fact that we want children. All it will do is make us friendless and as much as we have gotten accustomed to retreating into the shadows, the support we have gotten over these past couple have years has been a big ingredient in keeping us afloat. We might not say it very much, but we are thankful.

Right now, we are keeping ourselves busy with house projects. Josh has redone our floors and put in hardwood laminate both downstairs in our living/dining rooms and in my office, as well as our loft upstairs, and we have people coming to put new carpets in the three bedrooms next Wednesday. I have my baseline ultrasound for the transfer that morning, too, and then we’ll transfer one of our day 6 embryos (a 4AA or the 5AA) sometime between May 8 and May 17, depending on when my lining seems ready. And for now, our focus will be on getting that to stick. And probably doing the laminate on the stairs. And putting up a backsplash in the kitchen, and painting the kitchen cabinets white. Because why not? Distractions, gotta love ’em.

I realize I buried the lede here but today is the one-year anniversary of my D&C, which seems extremely surreal. I feel like it was both yesterday and a complete other lifetime, and that’s a testament to what a roller coaster this has been. It has honestly not felt like a whole year since I did the physical part, but the emotions seem like a whole other phase of this journey. It’s hard to explain.

One perk of my job is that sometimes people tell stories of their own that really resonate with me, and the biggest example of that happened recently when I interviewed Melissa Rauch, of The Big Bang Theory fame. She went through a miscarriage before having her daughter, who’s about a year and a half now, and she told me that when she was going through the hardest parts, she hoped that when she finally became mom that it would make the hard parts (sleepless nights, etc.) a little easier because she would remember how hard she had to fight to get there.

“That was my hope, that it would be one bit of silver lining from that difficult time, and I can absolutely say that is 100 percent true,” she said. “I haven’t taken one moment for granted, and I’m just eternally grateful for every moment — which I know every parent is — but I definitely think that struggle to get there really has just made me super present. I don’t take a second for granted.”

I think about this ALL the time, like I tell the universe in my own way that if I’m allowed to become a parent I won’t complain about the things new parents complain about. And it’s just really nice to hear someone who has been through it and come out the other side say that is how it happened for them.

Anyway. This is getting rambly but my point is that even though I feel alone, I know I’m not. Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend that I am.

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.

11; The Numbers Game

So we had our egg retrieval yesterday morning. But before that, Josh had to give me a shot in the butt on Thursday evening (to trigger ovulation) that was probably our most stressful interaction throughout this process yet.

It would have been hilarious to be a fly on the wall in our living room as I lay face down on our couch, screeching about how he was directing the needle too high (he wasn’t) and then in the bathroom as I checked the spot he injected at over and over again. I then proceeded to call my nurse — she didn’t answer — and Google to make sure we put it in the right spot. Like it mattered, as it was already over. LONG STORY SHORT, it was fine.

So we showed up Saturday morning and I got into the robe and the hairnet and all that fun stuff, and I was already nervous as hell. So then the nurse messed up my IV a little. I saw so much blood. I started crying. She felt terrible. I apologized profusely later for making her feel bad because it didn’t end up being a big deal and I barely have a bruise but man was it stressful. It was probably my tense ass’s fault to begin with.

Proof I was being a baby.

So I went under and my doctor got *drum roll* 17 eggs. 17! Which is kind of my lucky number. It’s my birth date (March 17), the day Josh and I admitted we had feelings for each other, and also the day we flew to Europe, which was the beginning of our trying-to-conceive phase (when we got there, not on the plane). The latter two are Sept. 17, which also happens to be my half birthday. Hooray 17!

I’ll have 1/2 lb. of Boar’s Head muenster cheese with a side of solid embryo development, please.

There’s ^ a photo of a not-entirely-unlike-a-deli-counter device that Josh got to follow along with in the waiting room during the procedure, which was only 15 minutes long. He had no idea what it was for lollll but once the doctor told him they got 17 eggs he was like oh God, it all makes sense now.

We were over the moon at this number, all things considering. And then today they called us and told us of those 17, 11 were mature and nine fertilized. Nine out of 11 is an amazing rate of fertilization. We are both very happy, and I would like to thank DHEA for making our reality of getting this far a possibility.

Post-op happiness.

We should be getting another call tomorrow letting us know how many of those nine make it the next 24 hours, and then what the doctor predicts as far as how many will make it to day 3 (Tuesday).

Our ideal scenario is to have enough embryos to let them age until day 5 (Thursday), then either do a fresh transfer then or send them for PGS (chromosome) testing and do a frozen transfer in a few months…but we may skip the PGS testing altogether for a few reasons:

  1. It will add $4,250 to this first attempt. Yikes.
  2. There is a lot of conflicting data out there about the accuracy. The test plucks cells from the outer layer of the embryo and screens those, meaning it’s possible they aren’t picking up whether the nucleus/center of the cell — where the fetus grows — is viable. So those that come back abnormal could, in fact, be perfectly fine, and vice versa.
  3. There are studies that show for women under 35 (38 in some studies), PGS actually has no effect on live birth rate or miscarriage rate and could, in fact, lower the live birth rate. I’m 33, almost 34.

So we’re not sure at this point. We are hoping we know what the right decision is within the next few days. We do both know we want a baby ASAP but we’re also trying to be smart.

“Thank God the stim hormones are done.” – Josh, probably

Josh has done an incredible job taking care of me, supporting me in the ways I’m asking (or trying to ask — I struggle with directness) and encouraging me to allow myself to relax, which is something I’m very bad at. Last night, after shooting me in the ass again with a huge needle of progesterone (the first of many), he thanked me for putting my body through all of this.

It has honestly not felt as hard on my body so far as I expected it to, which I’m very grateful for because I know pregnancy is going to do enough of that. But I know this is a lot to go through regardless, and I’m glad he recognizes that. And that he’s up for doing the shots. He feels bad sticking me with a huge-ass needle, but as long as I don’t have to look at it, I’m fine. Bonus about them being in the butt.

Friday night, the night before the retrieval, we splurged and went out for Mexican. I kinda regret it because I’m still feeling gross from eating in a way I hadn’t for a month. But we each had our first alcoholic drinks — a sangrita (sangria/margarita lovechild) for me — and I regret nothing. I was definitely tipsy off of that one drink.

There was also this text convo from the bathtub afterward, which again was not my finest moment but here we are.

He hid the package after this.

Until next time…think happy embryo thoughts for us and future Bab(ies) Haupt.

(P.S. I hope both teams lose the Super Bowl. #GeauxSaints)