Trigger warning: Sensitive material about infertility below y’all. Also involves some TMI. Read with caution.
As some of you may know by now, I have been struggling with infertility for quite some time. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance which can cause infertility, irregular periods, higher testerone, unwanted facial/body hair, and make it harder to lose weight. All that coupled with the fact that I’m almost 37 has made procreating a highly frustrating affair.
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for 3 years without success. We have been working with a Fertility Clinic in NYC, and have already tried 6 IUIs (Intrauterine Insemination), with no luck. We had been wanting to do IVF, as we were told it was our best option at this point if we wanted our own pregnancy. The road to IVF has been fraught with numerous speed bumps. I frequently had ovarian cysts which could often take weeks to go away. I have had to have 2 hysteroscopies to remove polyps, which can be rough on the insides. I have high blood pressure and an overweight, something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I was diagnosed as Prediabetic and had to go on meds to help amend that as well as try to better my diet (My sugar levels were recently retested and I’m back at normal levels now). When we were finally given the go-ahead to give IVF a real shot, we were told our insurance covered exactly 0% of the treatments. IVF can cost upwards of $12k. We aren’t impoverished, but I’m currently a substitute school teacher and my hubby is an engineer. That’s hell of a steep cost!
So then we looked into doing IVF overseas. There is quite a market for Fertility Tourism as many countries overseas (Hungary, India, Czech Republic) can do it for about half the cost. We did a massive amount of research and I had to undergo numerous tests to even qualify for the Hungarian program we were interested in. Then we found out there was a partial grant available via the clinic here in NYC we’ve been working with, but it was only available until early September (we found this out at the end of July!). So we scrambled to get all the paperwork in for the application and we made it just under the wire.
Then, finally, after months and months of false starts and biological road blocks, we were recently able to do a full round of IVF. Only 1 egg made it to transfer (though 6 of 9 fertilized), and then the following week after my embryo transfer, I got my period a full 4 days before I was up for my blood pregnancy test. Just like *that*, our hopes for a baby went right down the drain yet again.
To be honest, I really thought I had prepared myself for this outcome. I read all the books and looked at all the websites that warn first time IVF rounds are not always successful and that it usually takes 2-3 rounds before it is successful.
But when my eyes looked down at that flash of red, my body clearly telling me in no uncertain terms: NO BABY HERE, I kind of broke down and took it much harder than I expected I would.
We’ve been trying for over 3 years and it’s so hard not to feel like a failure. Being pumped full of hormones for the past few weeks, of course, probably didn’t help
my emotional state. I cried all day tha first day. I was with my Mother on a visit and she held me and made me my favorite dish. I snuggled my husband later that evening when I got home, searching for solace in his gentle green eyes and big, all-encompassing bear hugs.
Since then I’ve tried to move forward. I didn’t really go into detail on my Facebook about what happened, only telling a small, select group of immensely supportive friends and family. This is unusual for me, as I’m normally a ridiculously open person. I’ll tell the random hipster dude on the subway sitting next to me my entire life story if I even get the whiff of a prompting (or even if I don’t). But this is something I needed to curl up with and feel out, to process on my own for a bit before speaking on it publicly for a number of reasons.
One of my reasons for holding back was that I was so ashamed of failing yet again. I’ve been fairly open with folks about the fact I’ve been struggling with infertility, since I feel the more women (and men) talk openly about it, the wider the net of support is cast for others who might think they’re going through it alone. But when I talked about having done a full embryo transfer, it felt like I let everyone down who was rooting for us. I felt like a letdown to my husband for not being able to keep our little embryo from floating away.
The other thing that kept me quiet, is that I know so many other people who have had far worse struggles than my own in this arena. I have known women who had miscarriages. Babies that were born dead. Women who were raped. Women who had to have abortions (this is in no way an anti-abortion rap. I am fiercely pro-choice!).
Women who cannot physically have children of their own, ever.
All that happened to me was that I was not able to get my embryo to implant. How can I possibly be so sad over something that was the size of a speck of dust that never attached to my lining? How could I ever compare what could be considered a minor inconvenience to the legitimate tragedies so many men and women I know personally have gone through? What is my problem?
But the truth is, no matter how small the loss might seem to others, it’s still a tremendous loss to me. I held the Petri dish my little embryo was put in. I watched the doctors put it inside me. I can remember when left alone for a few minutes after the procedure, whispering to my future child that was never to be to “take root little one, take root”. I avoided coffee for a week, took it as easy as possible. Prayed. Begged. Pleaded. Stuck Progesterone suppositories up my hoo-ha nightly. Dealt with incredibly uncomfortable cramps with only Tylenol (which never works on me) to ease them. I hoped against hope that my little embryo would stay.
And yet in the blink of an eye, with a flash of red, it was not to be. And with the loss of that one fertilized egg (no other eggs made to to the freezing stage), came the realization that not only am I still not yet a Mother, the thing I want most in the world to be; but that we will have to go through this entire painful, potentially heartbreaking process all over again (and not cheaply).
So yes, I was hiding behind silly Facebook quizzes and random songs and posts about how annoying necklace clasps are. And bit by bit, I am slowly starting to feel better while taking a break from fertility stuff for a bit to allow my body to heal. But make no mistake; I am still very much hurting. My head and heart are still reeling from what feels like a far larger loss than the one you all might see. It will take time to process. So many of my friends have had babies in the past few years. Even my next-door neighbor (whom I adore!) is expecting twins soon. There are kids birthday parties, and other look-how-they’ve-grown milestones on Facebook that I see every day. And I love all of them, love that my friends are living the parenting life they have worked so hard for.
But my little embryo has gone, and for a little while, it will be all I can think of, and not without wincing.
The ripple of a tiny loss has a tremendous impact even if you can’t see it. Even if I don’t show it, it’s there. Of course I will pick up, carry on, and shoulder the pain forward into a springboard; building momentum and eventually even actual optimism to try once again for motherhood. And I will be clever again. Quippy. Silly. Open. The whole Shannon gamut and all the oversharing that usually comes with it. But this week?
This week to I’m just deeply sad, and I need to mourn my not-so-little loss before getting back on that bumpy baby road.
What I gained though, in spite of the sorrow, is the realization that I have a tremendous support system in my friends and family. That alone will be what I need most to not only heal from this loss, but to try again when we’re ready. There are ripple effects from support too.