Morning of Day 7–this part of the trip is over

Here I am in bed after the roughest night of sleep, knowing that this part of the trip is over, but I am still able to smile. I am still able to hug DH with everything in me; still able to look forward to writing in this blog; still able to go to work (even though it is a festival of baby photos and stories of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood from co-workers and residents, every day); still able to feel relatively okay, even happy. Even relieved. Because I am tired of being sad. I am tired of living in a strained state of wanting. I cannot have what I want right now–end of story. I need to live. I want to live. I am very happy to say that I very much want to live.

What a thing.

Because I have been pregnant five times, and was pregnant anywhere from 4.5 to 9 weeks, I was truly surprised that my four fertilized eggs didn’t develop better. Two of them “arrested” at Day 3 (but they are still alive and could keep growing, theoretically). Two of them are much further along, but one is an “early expanded blast” with a rating of 1, and the other is 3BC—a stage 3 blast, with a C-grade trophectoderm, meaning that trophectoderm does not yet have enough cells for the lab to biopsy it for CCS. The embryologist I spoke with last night said that they are going to let those two embryos grow for one more day, to Day 7, to see if they continue to progress far enough along to be biopsied. “I’m hopeful for those two,” the embryologist said. When I probed what she meant by hopeful, she admitted that they don’t often grow embryos to Day 7, but since I have only two in the running, they’re going to do so and see what happens. She said, “We have had situations like this before. We’ve grown embryos to Day 7, biopsied, they’ve come back normal–we’ve even had a couple of pregnancies in those situations,” she said.

A couple.

When I got off the phone, I told DH: “It’s not going to happen.”

DH cried. He cried more and harder than I did. Maybe for him this was the first time he really allowed himself to accept the severity of our situation. For me—well, I’ve been accepting it in bits and pieces for two years.

But I did cry. I mourned the loss of being able to pass on my biology. “I have a lot of biological gifts,” I said. “I came into this world with such richness. I’m totally healthy, everything works properly, I’m intelligent, talented, attractive. I feel like I betrayed myself, in a way. I took all those biological gifts for granted. Took for granted that I’d be able to pass them on to my children. It’s so sad. I am the last of me. In me, I have the laugh and the smile of my mom, my grandma, and my great-grandma. How much of that is nature and how much nurture? We just don’t know. When you look at pictures of me with Mom, Ma-Maw, Great-Ma-Maw, you see the similarities in our smiles, in our faces—they live in me.”

But then I said: “But I know that, in the end, what we want is a relationship with a child. I can get over the loss of passing on my biology. I can get over my attachment to my kids looking like me, or having the same innate talents that I do, or being precocious in the way that I was precocious. I can let go of that security that comes with being biologically related to my kids. I’m not saying that it will be easy, but I can do it. I feel like I’ve been preparing for this moment right now for a long time. I’m so ready to move on.”

We talked about the next step.

First things first: We want to get married!

(I’ve mentioned in the past—DH is actually DF, dear fiancé, but I call him DH because that’s the IF lingo.)

I said: “When?”

And he said: “In the next couple of weeks.”

I laughed. “What?!”

He grabbed both of my hands, kissed me all over my face. “I’m serious.”

“Shouldn’t we wait until my bruises fade?” I asked, smiling. “But then again, your looks great right now, we might want to catch that.” (I tease him because he got an amazing haircut in Denver we both love, but he is quite lazy about his looks and lets his haircuts grow out for six months, into shaggy bowls.)

It was weird. I was sitting there on the couch with him, drinking my second gluten-free beer, and feeling okay. Actually feeling okay. It was hard for me to comprehend as it was happening, but I just went with it.

Then we talked about our options for starting a family.

I ended up having 14 follicles show up on my ultrasounds, 9 of which responded to stimulation. Of 9 follicles, 7 ended up stimulating to the proper size, and 6 were retrieved and were mature. 2 died during ICSI, and 4 fertilized. It seems to me that if we had a bunch of money, it wouldn’t be insane to try IVF at least one more time. But we can’t take the gamble again. DH’s parents gave us a big chunk for this one, but we ended up shelling out thousands of our own (DH’s savings, my credit cards), too. What is left of our resources must go on a surer bet.

We talked about donor eggs.

DH has been reluctant to talk seriously about donor eggs, and has voiced a good deal of reluctance, but I have been open to the idea from the very beginning. I’d like to get into this in more detail later, but for now I will just say that for me, it is important to connect with my child from the time it is an infant. I could give up pregnancy, but I don’t want to give up that very early mother-child bonding that happens. Adopting an infant is difficult, expensive, and precarious—we could invest in a birth mother only for her to change her mind after the birth. (I always picture myself as that birth mother—thinking I can give my baby to a couple, but then going through childbirth, perhaps holding the baby, and changing my mind. Yes, that makes complete sense to me.)

But last night, DH was the one who brought up donor eggs first. He said that he thinks that we should go that route, that he wants to, now.

I want to, too. Soon. As soon as possible. I know it doesn’t happen overnight, and I want to begin the research, consultations, appointments.

We talked about whether or not we should try again naturally, while we’re researching donor eggs. We are leaning toward not doing so, although it will be difficult to quiet my biological drive. Crazily, even after five miscarriages, my biological drive is still very loud and overpowers rational thought. It doesn’t help that I’ve read countless stories of women who have been through exactly what I’ve been through and went on to conceive naturally, sometimes twice! We decided not to make a decision about this right now. It’s too soon, and we need advice. I’ll ask Dr. Schoolcraft what he thinks—my guess is he’ll say no, don’t try.

Then DH got out two of our guitars, turned on garageband, and asked me to freestyle a song. I sang about the resident at work who just lost her husband of 58 years, all the details of going to visit her in her room, and hearing about her love.

During the two hours or so I was able to sleep last night, I dreamed that DH and I lived on a farm. We had horses, cats, dogs, a garden, a million houseplants. It was a happy dream.

There was life all around us, and we were taking care of it.

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11 Comments

  1. ADM

     /  January 24, 2013

    I’m so terribly sorry. I have been thinking about you a lot and hoping like crazy that yesterday would bring good news. There’s nothing to say that will help, but I’m glad to read that you and your DH are willing and able to think to the future. Yet, so much of what you write here strikes home, so I understand that looking forward also comes with the kinds of regrets you mention here. The being “the last of you” is something I feel often these days. I’ve never doubted that I would love, unconditionally, our future children regardless of biology, but it’s still hard to let go of that part of the equation. We are thinking, if we can get into the right financial and emotional head space, of seeing if our RE can connect us with someone who might want to do egg sharing. The cost of IVF will be very difficult for us on our salaries and given that we’ve spent the last year supporting two homes in two states, but I’ve heard of couples doing this “sharing” process to help reduce the expense and my partner is willing, in theory, to donate some of the eggs we collect. It’s a difficult thing to contemplate, but it helps me tremendously to be able to see options in the future. Like you, I’m so ready to be done with the grieving, the treatments, the monitoring, the anxiety of waiting to see results of tests, ultrasounds, etc. I want to be at the stage where we have a baby, children, etc. And I am beginning to realize that “sacrificing” the biological link has the best odds of getting us there in the near future. Anyway, know that I’m thinking of you and hoping you continue to think to this positive future, regardless of what happens with your fighting, determined little embryos. XO from CO.

    Reply
  2. Jenny

     /  January 24, 2013

    Regarding “I was truly surprised that my four fertilized eggs didn’t develop better”. Getting pregnant often has nothing to do with the quality of the embryo. You may have a poor quality embryo and get pregnant with it just to miscarry a couple of weeks later. Your uterus may be very receptive to embryos even of poor quality. I suppose this may have been going on with your miscarriages judging by Day 6 outcomes.
    I have an inversion on chromosome 9 affecting embryo development and have done 8 IVF stimulation cycles. All my normal embryos are BC grades and lower. I have never had “A”s in grading. I keep on miscarrying with normal CCS tested embryos. Although normal, Schoolcraft told me BCs were no good for transfer.

    Reply
    • I didn’t realize that your situation could happen—does that situation fall into the 5% margin of error for CCS? I’m so sorry you’ve gone through eight cycles, and miscarriages, too. Does Dr. Schoolcraft have any advice as to what your next steps are?

      I just talked to CCRM lab. Three of mine made it to blastocyst but all were poor quality and unfit for transfer. I didn’t even ask what the stages/grades of the three ended up being today. We are going to have three of the four tested (one is untestable, as it arrested at Day 3) for chromosomal normality for a thousand dollars (not seven)—we’ve never had any of our pregnancy losses tested so we figured we should at least get that much information out of this experience. But from what you are saying, they could possibly come back normal and that wouldn’t mean they would/could have been viable pregnancies.

      What is an inversion on chromosome 9? Can you explain it to me?

      Reply
  3. I wish we lived in the same place so we could meet for a coffee! But I guess this is the next best thing. I feel that we are similar in a lot of ways, and are going through similar stages. Thank you so much for all of your kind and thoughtful words. I am sending so much warmth and support your way, too, as you navigate these strange waters. DH and I are thinking of the shared DE route, too—at this point, we can’t afford to pay for much. From what I’ve heard it is a common route, and I have confidence that we can prepare for all that that entails. Yeah, I think at a certain point we need to start thinking quite seriously about *our* mental health—yours and mine, you know—and what will help us attain motherhood via perhaps the most expedient path of least resistance. Adoption does not seem to be the path of least resistance to me. DE—it still seems kind of bizarro in my mind, but when i think of it, i also get this nice sense of relief, a feeling of security. a feeling of maybe being able to plan our future soon, a feeling of being able to enter a phase of development I’ve been blocked from for years. Ahhhh. Yes, and as you say, a release from the anxiety of treatments, the grieving of miscarriage!! We freaking deserve that!! (I think your email address appears on the back-end of my blog—do you mind if I email you my phone number sometime?)

    Reply
  4. ADM

     /  January 25, 2013

    I’m actually finding increasing comfort in our new plan and much of it comes from seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, an avenue for moving beyond the anxiety and grief. And my partner has damned good DNA from where I sit: smart as hell, beautiful, and with the kindest soul one could imagine. And she was one gorgeous baby! So I keep telling myself there are lots of things to gain by making this move. The loss of “me” in the equation is not insignificant and I do still mourn that loss, but I’m working very hard to see what is to gain from the new plan. Now if only I could be 100% that using her eggs is going to work, then I honestly think I could move full steam ahead with much less hesitation. Oh, other than the money. Ugh. That is terrifying, of course. Still, I recognize that she has age on her side and also I can’t help but hope that the universe wouldn’t be so cruel as to curse us both with bad eggs/chromosomes. And we are both so ready to move on from this as best we can. To finally have the family than might help us heal after this long, difficult two years. As for emailing me your phone number, absolutely. I, too, suspect we have a lot in common. And this journey can be so lonely that it’s helpful to find a sympathetic soul who truly understands the complicated intellectual and emotional highs and lows of miscarriage, fertility treatments, etc. Perhaps we can find an even better substitute for coffee than blog comments!

    Reply
  5. Jenny

     /  January 25, 2013

    Inversion on a chromosome is when a piece of the cromosome flips 180 degrees around and inserts itself in the opposite direction. It may happen on any chromosome, not just 9. While it may have no clinical significance for you as an individual, as in my case, it may affect your offspring resulting in subfertility and poor embryonic devepment. I don’t know if you had your karyotype testing done yet but it would reveal this kind of re-arrangements.
    I did my cycles with 4 different providers and all had similar outcomes. Dr Schoolcraft suggested I moved onto DE.
    I know Schoolcraft doesn’t transfer poor quality embryos even though they may be normal. This is because your chances of having a m/c with normal but poor quality embryos are much higher than ending up with a viable pregnancy. I know other providers who do. I also know there were exceptional cases when people insisted on transferring poor quality embryos from Schoolcraft and still got successful pregnancies.

    “5 percent margin of error”? Error in what? The embryos are normal so there is no error in that respect.

    Reply
    • I said error because I thought CCS didn’t catch the inversion and that was in error. But it sounds like I am mistaken.

      Yes I did have karyotyping done and it was normal test result for both me and DH.

      I’d never heard of this before, of Schoolcraft and the poor quality normal embryos…wow. In my case the embryologist did not even give me the option of freezing and repeated “None of these will be transferred,” several times, and I was like, “Okay–no argument there,” wondering why she kept repeating it—but now I understand that some women might insist on it. I feel a little uncertain now, especially if any of them come back normal in two weeks. It’s a little unsettling because of course Schoolcraft would want to keep that miscarriage percentage way down for the sake of the study’s statistical outcomes and would not want to take the chance. (And of course not having a miscarriage is easier on the woman.)

      At the same time, in my case, after five losses, even if I find out there are normals among the three, I won’t assume that I’d have been one of those exceptional cases if I’d only insisted on transfer.

      Anyway, thank you for the new information.

      Reply
      • Jenny

         /  January 25, 2013

        CCS indeed doesn’t catch inversions but the fact that you have an inversion does not mean you would miscarry. I myself is a carrier of an inversion and was born perfectly normal. Inversions may slow down embryo development leading to poor quality. So having an inversion in an embryo doesn’t mean you should not transfer.
        I think Sch. Does not transfer poor quality embryos because research shows they have either limited capacity to implant and high rate of miscarriage. I don’t think statistical results are the topmost consideration for him. I also don’t think it is fair to give patients false hopes and take their money while doing so. Also, C grade is boderline for transfer. So, your embryos may have had letters D in them making them untransferable.

        Reply
  6. Chris

     /  February 16, 2013

    Jenny – can you tell me more about the chromosome 9 inversion? My husband has it and I have had several failed ivf. The geneticist said that it is considered a variant but that a couple of studies link it with fertility problems. Dr. Schoolcraft pushed CCS but as you mentioned they cannot test for this inversion and like you, my husband is normal. I am now worried that maybe this is causing our problem (when all along they have bee pointing to egg issues).

    Reply
  7. I keep obsessively rereading this post. I get my blast report tomorrow–terrified. I wish I had your ease with the compromises of DE.

    Reply
    • Yeah, now those compromises are nothing, are cake—I’ll be glad if I somehow manage to become a mother at all, before age 45. The game keeps changing. I guess I never quite realized how lucky women are for whom donor egg works! I didn’t realize how little I was giving up by going the DE route until the DE route, too, was jeapordized. But it’s a process, and everyone has their own pace, and it’s absolutely nothing to judge yourself negatively for if DE is not as easy for you as it is for others. Our boundaries are as unique as we are. I’m sorry for your terror about tomorrow. It sucks so freaking much. Hang in there, friend. I’m thinking of you tonight.

      Reply

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