Our Story, Part 4
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
If you are still here reading our infertility story, thank you, and sorry for the extended break from writing. Like you’ve seen in our story so far, life happens and sometimes breaks are the best cure and motivation to trudge on. So here we go, lets continue on with the next chapter of our story to build our family.
After our 6 month break from all things baby related, we felt ready to tackle the next big hurdle in our path. This time there were no unexpected pregnancy surprises or last-minute Hail Marys. This time we committed to and dove straight into the big, scary world of IVF. We found ourselves sitting back in the same office where we had nervously sat two pregnancies prior discussing our options. We filled our physician in on what had transpired over the last year and a half, and we quite easily decided together that it was time to move forward with IVF. Since we had already met years ago, before our unexpected pregnancies, for a consultation and lab workup, we were able to get things moving quickly and jump into the next part of IVF. For us, this was ovarian stimulation (stims) and egg retrieval. This is likely the process you envision when you think of IVF with all of the medications, needles, and ultrasounds to check on ovarian response. It is no doubt time consuming and cumbersome, but for me, and I can only speak for myself, it was not near as difficult as I thought it would be, and it did not come close to the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss.
We were extremely fortunate that our stims and egg retrieval process was pretty textbook and did not include any unexpected roadblocks. On egg retrieval day, I woke groggily from the procedure to our smiling physician telling me that it was a success, and we had 17 great looking eggs to work with. We left the procedure feeling pretty confident that we were getting closer to having the little family we had been hoping for. I took my swollen ovaries home and laid around for the next 24 hours while waiting on a call from the embryologist to update us on how many eggs fertilized. We didn’t have any reason to be particularly nervous about this step because things “looked good” on both my end and Adam’s end for fertilization to be successful and status quo. Like the rest of our story so far, however, it was not status quo. My stomach dropped when I answered the phone and heard the embryologist say “Well Jessica, I have some good and bad news. I’m at a loss for why this happened, but there was a pretty poor fertilization rate, and I do not have an explanation as to why. We were able to get 10 eggs to fertilize though, and now we will wait and see how many grow to embryos”. I hung up and felt the anger and pessimism creeping back in that I had fought so hard to keep at bay. Naively, selfishly, whatever you want to call it, I wanted our IVF journey to be perfect and without any speedbumps. I was about to learn though, that that is rarely ever the case for anyone, and it was not going to be the case for us either.
I let myself stew for a day or so about the unexplained poor fertilization rate, and then I pulled myself, at least half way, out of the moody, hormone induced funk I was in. I tried to focus on the fact that we still had 10 little chances at having a family. The next four days felt like an eternity as I waited to hear how many of our 10 tiny embryos grew to day 5. Day 5 is a big milestone for embryos as that is when they typically can be successfully frozen and later transferred. Despite the poor fertilization rate initially, our embryologist encouraged us that the 10 eggs that fertilized looked really good, and he was hopeful that we would end up with about 4-5 embryos continuing to grow to day 5. I tried really hard to cling to his encouragement, but in the back of my mind I could not stop thinking that if there was some unknown reason for poor fertilization, then it would likely lead to an unknown reason for poor embryo growth. Although my thought process was negative and predictable, it wasn’t wrong. By the time my phone rang on day 5 with the embryologist’s number, I was back to my usual ball of nerves. Once again, I heard the phrase that no one wants to hear when I answered the call and the embryologist said “I don’t have great news. Unfortunately, only two embryos continued to grow and made it to day 5”. I felt so defeated and so mad at my body for once again failing to have a normal outcome. I told Adam the news and asked him to spare me his optimism about how we still had two embryos and two chances at a baby. I wanted to wallow in the bad news for at least a few days, and that’s exactly what I did.
After feeling sorry for myself for a few days, I shifted my energy back to being worried. Although we were fortunate to have two embryos, we still had to wait and see what genetic testing would show. Our physician, embryologist, and both Adam and I knew that the odds and statistics weren’t great for us. We had already lost two babies to two different and random, fatal genetic conditions, and now we were having an unusual IVF experience. Based on our infertility and pregnancy history, I think deep down we all prepared for the next results to be quite a letdown. Although we were on edge about what the genetic testing would show, we put on a happy face, like we had done so many times before, and headed back out on the road for more golf and more surprises.
To Be Continued.