Settle in…it’s a long one
As I sit here, nine long years into infertility treatments, I am still perplexed as to how I’m still a functioning human. How did I get here? Have I been floating through time? How many miscarriages can one person take? And why are we still fighting to be parents? Who knew secondary infertility was a thing? A real bitch of a thing.
I nursed my daughter Logan for 14 months – something I am very proud of as a woman and as a working mom. Those 14 months were glorious – mainly because I loved watching my daughter grow, but also because the stress and anxiety about our next fertility move wasn’t looming over my head. After Logan’s birth I thought infertility was a distant memory. I always heard it was easier to get pregnant after you already had a child.
We had one last embryo on ice, but this one was different. As you remember, with Logan, we elected to use Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT). PGT examines embryos before a possible IVF transfer and is conducted for two main reasons. One is to determine if embryos have genetic abnormalities that can cause failed implantation and miscarriage. The second is to identify embryos with genetic defects that can result in a child with a genetic disorder. Logan’s embryo was determined to be “genetically normal”, but the final embryo was a “no call,” which means that we could not determine if it was genetically normal in advance of an implantation.
Why am I telling you this? Because it plays a major role in the next 3 years of my life.
In the summer of 2019, with advice from our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Justin and I made the decision to transfer the no call embryo. We started the transfer protocol of estrogen to thicken the lining and progesterone for implantation. Transfer day came and went without any issues. Logan was going to get a sibling! Everything went off without a hitch and 2 weeks later I got a positive test result followed by my 6 week heartbeat ultrasound. I was nervous, but I really didn’t think much of it, and why would I? Everything went so well with Logan, how could this be any different?
Upon arrival, my heart rate surprisingly began to rise. The Ultrasound Tech asked me to hold my breath as she measured the baby’s heart rate. She abruptly left the room to get my doctor and I knew something was wrong. My doctor came in and explained that the baby had a slow heartbeat and this pregnancy was likely going to result in a miscarriage. That word – “miscarriage” – will forever haunt my dreams. All I could do is continue with my nightly POI (progesterone in oil) injections and pray for a miracle.
That miracle did not come. And after three more weeks of grueling ultrasounds, all which showed the baby’s heart rate declining, it finally stopped. I can’t begin to describe to you how it feels to walk around each day knowing that the child inside of you is slowly dying. Putting on a smile at work all while wanting to give your life to save the one you are growing. I have 2 major memories from this loss. First, was watching Logan sleep one day, placing my hand on her back, and praying so hard for her heartbeat to fuel this baby’s. Second, I remember looking at Justin with overwhelming sadness in my soul and asking him, “how does someone come back from this?” He didn’t have the answer then and we certainly do not now.
- 1 in 4
- 1 in 8
- 1 in 10
Most people who know me will describe me as resilient. This single characteristic is likely the foundation for my perseverance to motherhood. The characteristic that drove me to actually WANT to do another round of IVF. So in the spring of 2020 we signed consent paperwork with CNY Fertility in Syracuse, NY to do our 3rd round of IVF.
Round 3 brought on a feeling of hope and excitement. And strangely, I was happy to be doing it again – I missed going to doctors appointments and being used as a human pin cushion. Our doctor’s at CNY had a progressive approach and I loved that. We also decided not to do PGT testing with this cycle. A regret I will forever bare.
CNY Fertility protocol included organ transplant rejection medication, Metformin for my PCOS and inflammation, steroids, antibiotics, and so much more. We flew up and stayed with my parents. (Syracuse is my home town. Go Orange!). We saw friends, went to monitoring appointments, had a weekend getaway to Buffalo to visit our favorite B-Low people, triggered in a casino bathroom (lol, yes, you read that right) and then had my egg retrieval. It was like normalcy was incorporated into our life-creating science experiment.
We ended up with 26 eggs, 15 fertilized, and 6 made it to blast. Those are great numbers for someone at age 38. This retrieval did however come at a painful cost. I developed Ovarian Hyperstimuation Syndrome (OHSS) and became very sick. It was a tough recovery but I was finally able to fly back home and regroup for the upcoming transfer.
One month later, back to Syracuse I went for the transfer. Justin was working so I had a wonderful friend do my nightly POI injections. You really find out who your true friends are when they leave their family each night at 8pm, drive through snow storms, and inject medicine into your naked booty with an 20 gauge needle. (Love you AZ). The transfer went great and CNY’s innovative transfer protocol which included lipid infusion, a HCG wash, acupuncture, and more left me feeling hopeful.
supplements I used during my egg retrievals
This loss was accompanied by so many different emotions. Not just sadness. But this time I felt anger. Jealously. Resentment. And guilt. Guilt for feeling heartbroken. I know there are couples that can’t have children. Couples that can’t afford IVF. I wanted to feel gratitude for what I DID HAVE but logic doesn’t help when you are dealing with pain and hurt. The focus was on giving Logan a sibling and nothing more. I also knew my body failed me again (even though a miscarriage is no ones fault). I wanted my body to do something “normal” so I decided to miscarry at home, naturally. Welp, that didn’t work either. After laboring on and off for 2 days, tissue still remained and a manual D&C was performed. So much for natural.
I knew what a joy it was to be pregnant, give birth, hold that beautiful baby in my arms, and wonder what she was going to grow up to be. I knew heartache as I sat there watching my friends have 2 and 3 more kids. People assume that once you have a baby, you “get over” infertility and that the sting and pain of it is gone. This couldn’t be farther from the truth – secondary infertility can be just as difficult as primary infertility. The decision to say “I’m not going to pursue this anymore” is hugely personal, and there’s no one format for that.
But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Even with Covid looming…
We had 5 embryos left when Covid struck and clinics closed. While waiting for the world to reopen we had 2 of the 5 embryos shipped down to South Carolina where FCC could transfer and we could avoid the dangers of air travel. We transferred in the fall of 2020 and once again, at 6 weeks there was no heartbeat. Another D&C was performed.
Most people talk about the emotional side of miscarrying. Rightfully so. But as an IVF patient, financial anger plays a major role in the healing process. Conception for couples like us does not include a romantic night in. It includes cutting huge checks for reoccurring doctors appointments, dates with “wanda”, and consuming every supplement known to man. It includes romantic nights with 20 gauge needles and erratic hormone fluctuations. And all for what…the chance of falling pregnant followed by loss!? This is considered the true definition of insanity. And I guess you can call me insane because I jumped back on the saddle and decided to transfer again.
FCC stopped accepting patient so we flew BACK to CNY Fertility in NY (I mean….this story sometimes makes me shake my head and go “seriously Laura”) and prepared to transfer there. We used a injectable drug called Delestrogen this time to thicken my lining and it worked flawlessly. It was by far the easiest time I have had with FET prep…and I took it as a positive sign. A sign that good things were going to happen. And they did! I got a positive pregnancy test AND we saw a heartbeat at the 6 week ultrasound. This time it was different; it felt right.
Two days after our heartbeat appointment a strange feeling entered by body. It was a surge of cramping followed by the passing of clots and the pouring of blood. I raced to the ER and was admitted for testing. Low and behold, the baby had a strong heartbeat and was intact. I immediately scheduled an appointment with my OB and was informed that I had a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). Subchorionic bleeding is a sign of a related hematoma. While not considered a normal occurrence in pregnancy, hematomas aren’t unusual. I was put on pelvic rest and had to wait it out. I bled heavy for 4 long weeks. But that little peanut hung on and kept growing.
At 10 weeks we completed the genetic screening portion of our prenatal visit. I honestly didn’t think anything of it until 6:45pm on a Wednesday evening when our OB called from her personal cell phone. She began by saying she was so sorry but the genetic testing came back 96% positive for Trisomy 21, Down Syndrome. Our world, which seemed so bright and full of excitement, changed forever at that moment.
Without 100% certainty, Justin and I could not move forward with any decision so the next day we went for additional testing at Maternal Fetal Medicine. The ultrasound showed more complications, a very large Nuchal Translucency and more, thus, confirming our fears. We were now forced to make a decision for our family, for our existing child, and for ourselves. For us, as a couple, the decision to terminate the pregnancy did not come lightly but it was made quickly and unanimously.
I talk about it because I’m not embarrassed by my decision. We made the decision — other people may disagree with this — for the good of the family unit. And for the good of our lives and the child’s. Our decision didn’t come lightly, but we don’t look back with regret. Although I feel confident in my decision, I still suffer sadness. When envisioning that child growing up, it hurts my heart to think that he or she never got to be that person. But decision or not, the person I envisioned was healthy and thriving. And sadly, from conception, the life they deserved to have was never going to be a reality, regardless of my choice in how to proceed.
Infertility has taught me so much. I know that grief ebbs and flows. I know I am emotionally strong and even physically stronger. I know that becoming pregnant doesn’t mean I will have a baby. I know that I’m willing to give everything, just to have a chance. But mainly, it has taught me that my life is made meaningful in love; in love with my little family.
These lessons are hard won. The grief and pain are still here, but lessened with time. I have let go of my ideal and appreciate the freedom we are experiencing as Logan grows into a beautiful, smart, and independent girl.
Disclaimer to my readers: Please do not use this as an opportunity to voice your religious and personal opinions. Sorry, but I do not care.