fertility · ivf · parenthood

“So, How Was It?” IVF Edition

Any regular readers of my blog — assuming I was writing regularly, Oops — will have noticed that I hadn’t posted anything between the blog last December about our first IVF transfer and the one this October about newborn-babying being a blur. Clearly, there were some interstitial events! So, what happened? My intention, as it stands at 6am next to a sleeping bebe, is to write a few blogs that account for IVF, Pregnancy, Labor & Birth, and, now, more on Life as a Family of Three (plus a cat, Stella would have me add). We’ll see how it goes. 😉

J and I were lucky (very lucky) to have been able to create and save 5 embryos from my IVF last summer/fall. We were very lucky with all the numbers, in fact, especially for a then 38-year-old cancer survivor and a 46-year-old dude man. The number of eggs I “matured” each month was high, the number of eggs collected to be inseminated was high, the number of embryos sent to the lab for genetic testing was high, and, finally, the number of embryos that came back chromosomally normal was high.

The whole thing is/was a bit boggling, honestly. Science was enabling us to bypass continued months of trying, and failing, to produce a healthy embryo, pretty much without our having to do… well, anything. Aside from, you know, months of shots (belly and bum, morning and night), pills, creams, blood draws, ice packs, heat packs, internal exams, external exams, “couch” rest, abstention, and more trips across the Bay Bridge in a few months than I’d made in several years — but, you know, aside from that!!!

Aside from that, J and I were able to check our email and have a video visit with a genetic counselor and our doctor and learn that there were 5 genetically normal embryos. 5 potential life forms. 5 potential chances for us to have a family (a larger one, that is, than us two). And 5 potential chances for us to fail. (And, please, I use the word “fail” extremely lightly.)

As you may have read in the blog post last December, our first embryo transfer did not “take.” And as soon as it was healthy to do so, we all tried again with the next embryo on the list. Though, it must be said, I still even now think about that one embryo, the one labeled and now so-named in my head and heart “Number 10.” Number 10 on our chart listing our “products of conception,” as the medical team calls them. It’s as hard as any miscarriage we’d had before, except that this time we knew the gender (or sex) of the embryo. We knew how it would present in the world were it carried to term as a healthy being. We (I) could envision it… could envision Her. And so, Number 10 remains in my psyche. But … she’s gone. And when I talk about her, I use euphemisms like the one I wrote above: “It didn’t ‘take.'”

So much is encapsulated in those three words. And because of that experience, and all the ones prior (See: Pee Stick Dance), I spent much of my winter holiday with J mildly(?) terrified. We went up to Lake Tahoe for the week between Christmas and New Years ’20-’21, ostensibly to ski. But, having just had a new embryo transfer and then several positive pregnancy tests, as J and I descended the ski slopes, every single jolt over the snow set off a shock wave of anxiety. Did I knock the embryo out? Did that wobble over the hill dislodge her from my uterine wall? Am I about to right now have a(nother) miscarriage?

I just couldn’t do it.

I told J that he could ski but I was going to stay in the rental apartment and watch bad tv and drink tea. With the snow falling outside the floor-to-ceiling picture windows, this was not an altogether unpleasant sequestering! Lucky, too, was I that I’d reached out to and begun to see regularly (via Zoom) a therapist who specialized in people facing fertility challenges. And grateful was I that I got to have a session (maybe even 2?) while we were up on vacation. I got to tell her how scared I was, how reluctant to even acknowledge that there was at that moment a bundle of cells oh-so-rapidly dividing and multiplying. How could I hold on to hope, to belief, when so much had happened to make such hopes feel … fruitless? So, yes, luckily I had a person to talk with about and through my fears. And, yes, luckily, I was able to get though to my doctor to talk about and through my questions. And, yes, luckily: She stayed. She took, as it were.

And now, she, Hannah Berlin, has thoroughly taken us. Over the moon. Into vast heartlands. To the edge of sanity, true. But:

She stayed.

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