After some long conversations with myself, I’ve decided to write this blog post series (I’m long-winded so it’s broken into a few parts) about a very personal aspect of my life.
To my husband’s complete horror, I am a very open and non-private person. But for the most part, I’ve been hiding a large part of the last 4 years of my life. Infertility. My goal oriented, Type A, overachiever personality makes me cringe at the thought of not being able to do something that seems so easy. After a year of trying without a hint of two little pink lines, I began to talk more to a good friend of mine who was open about her experience with IVF. After some tense months of conversation with Kurt, we decided to make an appointment to see a specialist at Shady Grove Fertility in Frederick, Maryland.
We went, we talked, we tested, and we were told it was me. “Unknown Infertility”. Talk about a Type A person’s nightmare. I came with the hopes of finding out there was something simple to fix and now had to try to wrap my mind around “unknown”. Our doctor decided to skip less effective methods like Clomid and IUI and head right for IVF Land. This meant me getting over my fear of needles and quickly. Our schedules were rearranged and we began to let our families know about this roller coaster we were about to board.
During this time, I was emotionally trying not to lose it. Still dealing with the word “unknown”, I was constantly reminded of how seemingly easy it is to become pregnant. One of my freshman students was obviously pregnant and trying to hide it. She comes from a poor economic background (self-proclaimed “trailer trash”), single chain-smoking mother who works at the local warehouse, baby’s father is an alternative high school graduate – barely, and she herself struggled in school. Please understand that I still talk to this student and share a bond with her. Because I was one of the first people that she shared the news with when she finally decided to come clean. Talk about a sucker punch of juxtaposed worlds. Here she was worried about life after having a baby and I was wondering how I was going to live my life without a baby. I knew it was a real possibility that this would never work.
One aspect of IVF that everyone struggles with is the financial planning. Two good friends have both taken out $30,000 loans to pay for their IVF procedure – we laugh about the cost of having a child versus a new car. Our insurance covers 90% of the cost of the procedure and for that I am forever grateful – a $30K loan is not even in the cards for us. It still meant coming up with a few thousand dollars to cover the co-pays, fees, and medication co-pays. The insurance coverage provides for 3 attempts – we have to have a live birth within those 3 attempts before we can try again. This means up to 3 children covered if we can have a live birth within those 3 attempts. In my mind, this became a game of chances with a real number attached.
The first cycle is a fresh cycle where my eggs are retrieved and fertilized. I felt like a damn fish – every morning for two weeks I would travel over 2 hours for an “egg count”. Bloated and ready to burst, my eggs were harvested and then fertilized. This meant going under for small surgery that involved needles and my ovaries (shudder). Kurt had been giving me shots in the stomach every morning and evening so you would think that some fun would be thrown in to the mix. Not for me – Kurt was given the fun part. Honestly, I considered the pain from the needles and the surgery my punishment for causing Kurt such hardship. Emotionally I was punishing myself for not being a good wife and giving my husband (who is an only child) the children that we had planned.
After retrieval surgery, our nurse came to tell us that they had gotten 23 eggs and would let us know how many fertilized and then went onto successful embryo stage. This number was a relief because it meant loads of chances for successful embryos. The recovery room wasn’t the most private so you could overhear the egg count numbers from the other couples – some had 3, others none. After days of daily phone calls to let us know how the kids were doing, we had 8 perfect AA embryos (even my embryos are overachievers). We elected to have the embryos cryo-preserved for future possible children.
After implantation, my hopes were high and I chilled out on the couch for a few days to make sure that the little guy stuck around. The photo of our embryo (it’s given after transfer) sat on the coffee table for me to use as a lucky charm. For the next two weeks, I didn’t drink beer or soda, ate like I was pregnant, and talked to Kurt constantly about life with this baby. When I learned two weeks later via phone call that the implantation was not successful and the embryo did not stick, I felt like an ass. All of that work, all of the money wasted, all of the family members that I had let down, and me thinking I was pregnant for those two weeks – what a complete idiot I was for thinking that my messed up body would work. Every one, every where was pregnant but I had to be the most rotten person to not even have complete freaking medical intervention work.
I know I became a nightmare and my relationship with Kurt was tense. It seemed like he was OK with not having children if IVF didn’t work and this made me fly off of the handle. I wanted to try again but I wasn’t ready and financial we had just taken a hit. Every time we spent large amounts of money, I envisioned that money going towards another cycle. Yet I still wasn’t ready emotionally. I thought this was my rock bottom. But just like that dream where you are falling and your stomach drops, things were going to get so much worse.
Alright, stay tuned for the next part. I promise there are some happy moments and the most awkward IVF story coming up!