I spent a big portion of that time convinced I'd never experience a pregnancy. I certainly never thought if and when I did get to experience one that it'd be in the middle of a global pandemic. But now, on this side of it. the fact that I GET to be safe in this little ol' apartment with Rick and Lupe while feeling this baby kick me non-stop feels like I got the best early Christmas present e v e r. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of COVID worry and What will life look like after this? anxiety floating around here, but silver linings.
I've started writing about our infertility experience, especially the IVF part, so many times. At the end of the day everything that has come out sounds dramatic and sad, and ultimately that's not how I want to present the story. Because while it was sad and so crushing, it was a fight through which we fought hard to keep some light shining. It was a big life lesson. And (perspective!) it also wasn't as even close to as bad as things that go on daily around this big Earth, and maybe wasn't even as bad as life storms we may face later. That's not an invitation for something crazy, Universe...
I have read so many accounts of couples going through IVF and how traumatizing they found it to be. The needles, "stabbing" yourself, the endless ultrasounds, etc. I am NOT trying to discount anyone's feelings, but that wasn't our experience at all. In fact, moving forward with IVF was probably the least traumatized we had both felt in almost a year of other infertility treatments. We felt hopeful again. We felt like we were making a positive step towards finding out something--whether it be an answer to the unexplained part of our infertility or the joy of a long-awaited positive pregnancy test. With each injection I felt like physically I was truly doing the most I could to prepare my body for the egg retrieval and eventual embryo transfer. With each monitored ultrasound and bloodwork visit we got to see the progress of the injections, how they were actually doing something, and how my body was responding. And of course we tried to make jokes with the whole Freddie getting to stab me with needles multiples times a day thing.
The first full day of injections
**I realize lots of people don't care about the ins and outs of making a baby via IVF. That's great! You don't have to. Once we decided to move forward with IVF (and really any fertility treatments we tried), I headed straight to the internet hoping to find as many blogs or accounts of it that I could. So while yes, I am writing down all this for my brain dump and journaling purposes, I'm also writing this to share just in case someone else going through IVF or any other treatment stumbles across it and can use it for a brief period of calm.**
Our first injection was on the evening of November 13. I had been monitored for several weeks up to this point. We were out eating dinner, expecting to get a call telling us to start injections that next day; however, we got a phone call telling us to start that night. We frantically got a prescription for a few syringes and needles sent to CVS so we could get started. This whole, "Wait, then GO!" process repeats itself a lot during our IVF weeks--lots of waiting and monitoring, followed by phone calls informing us something needed to get done QUICKLY, and our frantically trying to get it done. Repeat repeat repeat.
In the following two weeks, Nurse Rick did most of the injections. I finally got up the courage to start doing some myself since, you know, we still had to work and weren't always together during injection time. Two weeks of injections in public restrooms, our parked car, backstage during theatre shows I was working, and several more appointments later we had a date for our egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Everything ended up happening on Thanksgiving week which was a big hit in the head to show us how grateful we should be for what we were going through.
Thanksgiving Day--we were right smack dab in the middle of the egg retrieval and the embryo transfer. As of this day we still had four growing embryos.
For those of you interested in the nitty gritty of it all (for those of you who aren't, feel free to skip ahead ;)): They retrieved 22 eggs. Mother Hen Em up in the house. The day after the retrieval I got the call that 19 of those eggs were mature. They fertilized all mature eggs; however, only 4 fertilized "normally." For the five days after the egg retrieval you typically get a call every day or every other day updating you on the progress of the embryos: how many are remaining, and how it looks to move forward. They usually like to see the number of embryos gradually decline (which is normal) so our sudden drop right off the bat from 19 fertilized to only 4 growing embryos was a little worrisome. Usually the embryos grow for 5 days until what's remaining is considered a blastocyst. There are lots of options one can take from this point--the most common is freezing the # of embryos you have on day 5, having them genetically tested, and then doing a frozen embryo transfer during another cycle. We had already been planning on going straight into a fresh transfer (no freezing or testing), and since we had the sudden drop in growing embryos our doctor encouraged us to keep with that plan and transfer an embryo as soon as possible. There was talk of not waiting until day 5 to do an embryo transfer and instead doing one on day 3, but we ended up waiting. Out of those 4 remaining embryos, 2 made it to the blastocyst phase! That was such as relief of a phone call to receive. One little embryo is currently frozen, and the other is this growing kicking human inside of me. We went back in for the embryo transfer on November 30. They gave us a picture of our little 4A-B embryo (the coolest part in all of this, in my opinion, is having the picture of our embryo) and then we waited our turn. We both got to be in the room for the quick procedure. They used an ultrasound to guide them as they transferred the embryo. It usually makes a little bubble once it's in and that was so cool to get to watch on the screen as it was transferred. Even though I was high on some good relax-your-uterus sedatives. Freddie says seeing the bubble was cool ;)
Lil' embryo Weiss
Pops Rick and Mom Em waiting for the embryo transfer
The most fun part begins next: the booty shots! Insert your favorite song about butts here. Up to this point all the shots were in my abdomen. Now, in addition to the ten-day wait to find out if the embryo implanted and I was pregnant, we started the lovely progesterone-in-oil shots. If this round worked and I did become pregnant, we would have to do these nightly backside shots through the entire first trimester. If this round did not work, we would stop the progesterone injections the day of the pregnancy blood test. At the end of this (our last shot ended up being on Super Bowl Sunday) we clocked in at doing 32 injections leading up to the egg retrieval and then 68 PIO injections. 100 shots later, here we are.
Had a few guest nurses shoot me up throughout this whole process
The thought of a ten-day wait seemed so daunting (and, looking back, still does), however life does this funny thing in which it doesn't stop, and the wait was over before we knew it. Since we knew the date that we would be finding out the news (December 10!), we both decided to take half days so we could be together when we got the phone call from the office. I went in to the doctor at 7a for bloodwork and then went to teach until lunch time. We usually got lab result calls around 2p so that's what we assumed would happen for this. I had only taught one client that morning when I noticed I had a voicemail form Emory. Deepbreathsdeepbreathsdeepbreaths. I ran outside to listen to the voicemail. It was our doctor herself calling because she "wanted to be the one to share the good news with us!" I still have that voicemail saved, and I like to go back and listen to it every now and then because !!! Through shakes and tears I called Freddie who immediately thought the worst since I was crying. Once I got out the whole "I'm pregnant!" part his response was, "Holy. Shit." Word, Freddie. Word.
Now let me be sure to say this: had our first round of IVF had a different outcome I can't say I'd have the same "this wasn't so bad!" outlook on it all. Who knows. I still have so much anxiety and fear about if and when we want to try to have more than one child. I'm so glad to be on this side on our journey with our first child, but the thought of doing it all over again with no answers and no certainty (and no infertility insurance money left) makes me want to scream. So, instead, let's leave it here for today.
The day we graduated from our fertility clinic + our 8 week ultrasound
I was recently talking to a maternity nurse on the phone, and she was recounting our infertility days and asking if we had a good support group that helped us then and is currently helping us now through pregnancy. That just might be the part in all of this that's the most overwhelming to both of us. The amount of love and support and prayers--from close friends and family, but also just from people who had been following along and sent us some good vibes along the way. My mantra through a lot of this was, "This isn't okay. But Freddie and I--we're more than okay." And we were and we are. We've got each other. We've got this web of love and support, and now we're going to have this baby and tell it about how it's got the best group of humans in its life.
Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it? When you're in the middle of some crisis or some hardship, the last thing you want someone to say is, "It's going to be okay." Or, "You'll look back on this one day and it just might make sense." (actually it's always the last thing you want to hear, but we can save a post on toxic positivity for another day) But this is kind of the ebb and flow of life. The storm comes and sometimes it stays WAY too long, but eventually it is blown away. Only eventually to come back around with some new fun to throw your way. Once the storm passes, and you can see the 6 inches of space in front of you more clearly, things usually do feel better. They do feel like they're going to be okay.
I will forever and always be so grateful for modern medicine and how we were able to financially make this round of IVF happen. I try so hard not to take these days of pregnancy for granted, and instead focus on the true miracle and privilege of it all. So as not pretty as our story was, it was kind of beautifully messy in its own twisted way. Baby Weiss, you're already the best thing and we cannot wait to tell you that in person every single day.