Updated: Apr 6, 2021
When I last left off with our story, I mentioned that we were heading back out on the road with some unexpected surprises on the way, so let’s pick back up there. We left Arizona basically resigned to the fact that, given the way things were going in our journey thus far, we could pretty much consider our first official IVF cycle a wash. Despite our pessimistic outlook and bare minimum desire to continue with the structured IVF process, we agreed to follow through with our physician’s plan because we had already put so much effort and money into it to quit. What did the next step in this process look like? For us, it was driving to a random hospital in Jacksonville, FL in the middle of The Players week for me to have a minor radiology study and procedure done. This was to ensure that I was even a good candidate to proceed with the IVF process if, and big if, we ended up with an embryo to even transfer. What was supposed to be a fairly painful status quo study, turned into the most physically painful part of my entire infertility journey yet. I was beside myself in discomfort. I walked out of that Florida hospital feeling mentally and physically done. We drove the 30 minutes back to the hotel in silence as there wasn’t much else to say or discuss at this point in this process. I stared out the window at the unfamiliar Florida scenery passing by as tears streamed down my face from sheer frustration and pain.
I can’t tell you how any of the golf played out that week at The Players, but I can tell you that a couple of days after my extremely upsetting visit to the random hospital in Jacksonville, I received a phone call that would once again affect our whole life. Adam and I were out for a quick dinner at BJ’s Restaurant down the street from our hotel when my phone rang and our IVF clinic’s number popped up. Cue instant panic attack; without thinking, I jumped up from the table to take the call outside. I think I was so use to receiving bad news and phone calls, that instinct made me retreat to a space alone where I could try to shield Adam from the initial blow. I answered the phone with an audibly shaky voice and heard my physician say “Jessica, I have some news I think you are going to be very excited about”. Honestly, exciting news was an understatement. I stood outside of the restaurant, in a bit of a stupor, watching people and families file in and out while I listened to our physician say, “both embryos that made it to day 5 blastocysts came back genetically normal…do you want to know the sex?... you have a male and a female”. I wish I could say I just lost it at this point and jumped up and down screaming in excitement, but our infertility journey so far had robbed me of that innocent blissful joy so I calmly walked back inside to tell Adam the news. Despite my calm exterior, I was buzzing inside when I told him. I could see the shock and hope on his face, but like me, he tried to be diplomatic about it and we cautiously shared our excitement about the call.
For the first time in years, against all statistics, the results were on our side, and we were both in a bit of a state of disbelief. High off of the good news, we found a reason for the first time in ages to, excitedly and enthusiastically, move to the next stage of the IVF process. The next stage for us was a “mock cycle” where no embryo was transferred, but I went through the whole medication process, labs, and exams. This was to ensure my body would respond appropriately and be ready to accept the embryo when we did the actual transfer. Fortunately for us, our “mock cycle” went really well, and we were able to quickly move on to the official embryo transfer. Before we could proceed with the transfer, however, we had to decide if we were transferring our male embryo, female embryo, or both. This proved to be an extremely difficult decision involving numerous professional opinions as well as personal conversions, and a fair amount of tears. After discussing our options ad nauseam together, as well as consultations with our reproductive endocrinologist and maternal fetal medicine specialist, we decided to transfer both of our embryos and accept whatever the outcome may be. We really committed to our decision and agreed that whatever the outcome, this would likely be the end of our IVF journey as we were truly broken from the last few years. Feeling at peace with our decision, we put both embryos in and set off the very next day for another golf trip
Similar to the stimulation and egg retrieval process, the transfer process included multiple daily injections and medications to try to support the embryos and potential pregnancy. I found myself doing injections in all sorts of settings; airport bathroom, golf course, hotel room, the car; check, check, check, check. On the road, I often worried what housekeeping thought when they entered our room to clean, and they saw my medication setup complete with a sharps container busting at the seams. I worried each time we went through security at an airport that TSA might stop me and have me lay out all of my syringes, needles, and medication and “explain myself”, but they never did. Instead, I quietly told them each time that I had prescribed medications and needles in my carry-on, and each time they did a quick look in my bag and sent me on my way. Looking back, I worried FAR too much what other people might think about what I was doing, but that’s just part of infertility. It’s really a silent battle full of what ifs, anxiety, and fear, with a little bit of hope mixed in.
As the week went on post transfer, I took that little bit of hope and put it towards my undercover “peeing on a stick” addiction. This led to me staring at a positive pregnancy test in a hotel bathroom days before I was told I would be able to see one. I didn’t tell Adam right away, I needed to be sure, so I bought more tests in every single brand so I could take them and compare all the lines. If you’ve been through infertility, you likely are familiar with the obsessive process that goes on with analyzing those little lines, and you’ve probably had “line eyes” at some point in your journey. Line eyes or not, all tests said the same thing, and I was definitely pregnant. The transfer was successful. Right away my mind raced with different scenarios; were both embryos nestled in there? Is that why I got a strong positive so quickly? Would things progress? Would my HCG go up appropriately? Would I have bleeding again?
There truly is never a guarantee or any point in the process where you can feel secure or confident, and this part of the process wasn’t any different. Fortunately, the tests remained positive and got darker as the week went on. Unfortunately, an hour before we boarded a plane to the next stop, I went to the bathroom and saw the faintest drops of red. I tried so hard to remain calm and not jump to worst case scenario. I had been told that IVF pregnancies were at a much higher risk to have some harmless spotting, and I held on as tight as I could to this knowledge. In fact, I felt a sense of calm and serendipity on the flight as I looked out the window and saw two vertical rainbows right next to each other, coming out of dark clouds, and going down towards the ground. I nudged Adam to look and said, “wow, maybe this is our sign that both of our embryos are going to make it”. I took a picture and video of the beautiful phenomenon. I thought that it would be a really cool story to tell and picture to show if things somehow turned out best case scenario, and we had our perfect little boy and girl at the end of it.
The very next day, the sense of calm was replaced by the far more common feeling of panic when the little bit of spotting turned into a lot of blood. There I sat in another bathroom, in another hotel, feeling absolutely wrecked. In a matter of 24 hours my entire optimistic outlook had shattered as I just knew that that much blood could not be considered normal, IVF pregnancy or not. Like so many other times in our journey, I was told there was nothing to do but wait and see what the HCG levels would show. We got back home a few days later, and I went in for my first HCG lab draw. I was terrified of what it would show. I was shaking when an email popped up from our nurse at the clinic with the results, but when I opened it I saw “Jessica your HCG is ___!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. The level was not only good, it was great. Relief flooded through me, and my hope grew that one, or possibly both, of our embryos was still safely on board. We had to wait a couple of days to test again and ensure that the HCG levels were rising appropriately, and to our absolute delight, that next email result was just as good as the first. Things were definitely progressing appropriately despite the continued spotting and intermittent bleeding. We went ahead and scheduled our first early ultrasound for a week later where we would find out if our little baby or babies were growing.
The whole week leading up to the ultrasound I was a ball of nerves, mostly excited nerves but also some pessimistic nerves thrown in. By the time I got to the clinic and was on the ultrasound table, I was beyond nervous though. I was nearly twitching uncontrollably from tension and anxiety. The last few ultrasounds during previous pregnancies had been extremely traumatic, and I was terrified that this one would be the same. The room was silent as our physician, nurse, and Adam and I stared at the screen. Right away there was a little tiny baby nestled in, growing appropriately, with a pulsing heartbeat. I’m pretty sure there was a collective audible sigh of relief in the room, and the mood rapidly lightened up as the ultrasound continued. A quick look around revealed that just one embryo had implanted and hung on. The reason for all of the blood remained a mystery. Our physician said we could never know if both had initially implanted or not. Either way, we left the office and drove home laughing about how despite all of the manipulation involved in IVF, we were like any other couple now wondering if we would be having a boy or a girl.
If you know us or follow us on social media, at this point you are probably deducing that we would soon find out that our tiny miracle embryo is now a spunky little girl named Maddox, and you are right. Looking back at that moment on the plane with the rainbows shining down from the storm clouds, I realize that it was, indeed, a serendipitous moment. That was my baby girl, my double rainbow, my fighter, and the calm to our storm giving me a small glimpse of the beauty that was yet to come.
The rainbows as seen from the plane. Taken by Jessica Hadwin. Spring 2019.
The End (for now).