I have hesitated to type these words on so many occasions. A hundred “what ifs” have kept me from sharing our story.
What if people struggling with infertility don’t want to read another “happy ending?”
What if I can’t articulate this well?
What if people think I’m just offering a polite platitude?
However, one big “what if” compels me to write today.
As I laid in bed this morning and watched the look on my husband’s face as he felt our baby move for the first time, I couldn’t help but think- what if sharing our story brings hope to others?
Then, my friends, no matter what… it will have been worth it.
I know that there is someone out there right now, searching every hashtag on social media and combing through every tag on every blog out there. They’re searching for some hope.
I know because I was one of them. I spent so many nights searching for someone who was experiencing what I was experiencing. While I never found a situation just like ours, I did find hope in hearing from others who were walking this road too.
So, if you’re trying to get your mind and heart around this hot mess of infertility or if you’re just up against some serious odds in life, I humbly submit to you our little story of IVF.
If you’re a newbie to what in-vitro fertilization is, allow me a brief explanation.
You get on a bunch of drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.
Amazing doctor surgically removes eggs (called retrieval).
Amazing embryologists and super cool petri dishes allow for sperm and eggs to meet.
Embryos are made.
Embryo(s) go back inside your body (called transfer).
Hopefully, you get knocked up.
That’s the deal more or less.
Of course, if only things could be so simple. Soon after we decided to commit to IVF and hopefully tell my barren womb to get over itself, we found out that there were some complications for me regarding one of the hormones essential for successful egg growing, the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH).
At our planning appointment, our doctor clued us in.
“Well, I do remember there being some issues with your AMH levels, so let’s talk about that.”
(calmly thumbs through my file)
(eyebrows go up, throws head back)
“Oh, wow. So, that is probably one of the highest AMH levels I’ve seen in 20 plus years.”
Awesome. Normally, doctors consider high AMH levels to be in the teens.
My level was in the thirties.
What this meant for us was a “long and slow” stimulation cycle. Because of that AMH level, we had to be super careful not to stimulate egg production too quickly or I was very likely to hyperstimulate (imagine your entire abdomen filling with fluid) and the whole thing would be a lost cause. This meant 16 long days of stimulant drugs.
It also meant 16 long days of me scouring the internet to see if this had ever worked for someone with such a high AMH level. I didn’t find too much encouragement. Instead, what I saw was lots of “normal” IVF patients whose meds had them producing double-digit follicle (the thing that holds the egg) numbers.
“It’s Day 7… we have 24 follicles!”
“It’s trigger day… we have 14 follicles!”
Two days before the surgery, I only had 9. I was happy for them, but I was a little sad for me. I doubted that our story could have the ending I wanted.
Then, on the day of retrieval, I awoke after surgery to my husband’s smiling and ever patient face. The doctor came in to tell us that they were only able to get 4 eggs.
“That’s it?” I said to my husband once the doctor left the room. Again, I doubted.
Here’s what you need to know about why I was so disappointed.
Once those eggs hit the petri dish, only about 60% of eggs will fertilize. So, in our case, that would mean that only 2.4 embryos would be created. After that, the doctors need your embryos to make it to 5 days old so that they can be frozen and transferred at a later date. I was not a candidate for what they call “fresh transfer” (aka when they put an embryo back into your body at the end of five days) because of that stupid AMH level. Well, only about 40% of embryos make it the five day mark (Oh, and then you have to hope that the embryo will “stick” once it’s transferred so that it can grow into a baby). So, for us, that meant statistically speaking, we had gone through all of this for .96 of an embryo… aka NONE embryos.
It was so difficult in the hours immediately after surgery to believe that this could happen. My heart was breaking, and of course, when my normally Patty Positive husband started saying things like “Well, let’s not count ourselves out yet. And maybe if it doesn’t work, we can try this again,” it felt like maybe I was foolish to have ever hoped that this would work.
They called the next day.
“We don’t usually see this, but all four eggs fertilized.”
Whaaaaat. We couldn’t keep ourselves from the emotions that overcame us at that moment, and somehow, it was then that I realized that literally ANYTHING can happen.
That thought both terrified me and excited me. It was still very possible that no babies could come from all this, but it was also very possible that it just might work. To this day, I can’t explain it, but something swept over me in that moment and I could just feel God winking at me and being all “Stay cool, girl. I got you either way.”
I decided that day to live from that promise. I decided then that no matter the outcome, I was going to be full of hope.
Five days later, we got another call.
“Three embryos made it to the freeze. We can’t believe it.”
Shut. The. Front. Door.
And now, here I am, 23 weeks pregnant with the first little one that made it to the freeze.
And let me tell you, I’ve still been worried. I’ve still stressed over the baby and whether or not we’d hear a heartbeat, see a heartbeat, make it through the first trimester, make it through the second, and so on and so on.
What I lean on in those times is this: from a strictly scientific statistical perspective, this shouldn’t have worked.
It did anyway.
That gives me hope for more than just this pregnancy, for more than just this baby, for more than just my family. It is a powerful reminder that there can be hope in each and every person’s story.
In so many aspects of my life, I’m so often tempted to think about the odds in front of me. I look at what is stacked against me and think “nope.” But when I look back at all of the things in my life that should have piled up to a great big NOPE and ultimately didn’t, that’s where I see hope jumping up and down, waving its arms wildly back and forth at me.
So, if you’re out there and you’re in the midst of this ugly, messy walk called infertility or any other ugly, messy walk, I can’t promise you anything in terms of outcomes. You already knew that. What I can promise you is that life looks better when fear and doubt are behind us and hope is leading the way.
Being full of hope isn’t the solution to every hard situation we face, y’all… but I’m learning that it is always, always the solution for our hurting and wandering hearts.