When we first met our fertility doctor I liked him immediately: he had kind eyes, a messy desk and wore scrubs to the office; he seemed like the type of doctor who was good at his job, but didn’t take himself too seriously. Working as a nurse I meet a lot of physicians and I’ve become pretty good at figuring out what type of doctor they’re going to be rather quickly- the eyes, the desk and the scrubs were signs he and I were going to get along just fine. That is until he calmly stated “You two are so lucky you’re carriers for SMA.” And I instantly thought ‘Wrong call Meghan, this guys a moron.’
Obviously Dan and I both feel tremendously blessed and lucky we discovered our SMA carrier status prior to conceiving, but lucky to be carriers, I wasn’t so sure about that. That is until my doctor explained after reviewing my medical history and both of our physical exams he could say with almost 100% certainty Dan and I would never have been able to conceive naturally. Without going into medical details (let’s be honest, I’ve shared enough) he told us, in his professional opinion, that we would always have had to do in-vitro.
What he meant by his comment is that our carrier status saved us from what would have probably been years of trying, and failing, to conceive.
Dan and I had been trying naturally for 10 months prior to me meeting with my physician and every month that passed without a positive pregnancy test was disappointing for me. (Full disclosure: I took a pregnancy test 7 of those 10 months, if my period was 2 days late I was convinced I was pregnant.) I remember vividly a trip to Target where I anxiously called my older sister from the parking lot, I was 100% sure I was pregnant and I was worried because a few weeks prior I had a little too much to drink at a family party. I was hysterical because I was sure I foolishly harmed the hypothetical baby growing inside of me. She calmed me down as I walked through the store telling me everything was going to be fine and then cheered me up when, once again, the test was negative. It seems irrational now to think I had actually been in tears because I was convinced I was already failing as a mother, but wanting something so badly and failing to have it makes you a little neurotic.
I think I speak for a lot of women when I say there is nothing more disappointing than wanting to conceive and not being able to do so. Every negative pregnancy test feels like a personal failure. Every single pregnant woman you see feels like the enemy. Where I work they play a lullaby through the entire hospital when a baby is born, those 15 seconds of music feel like a personal taunt. You become so obsessed that it feels like you cannot go anywhere without seeing someone who’s pregnant and another person asking when you’re going to start a family. (One thing you never notice is someone else walking around with the same sad eyes and bloated belly of infertility.)
After receiving our diagnosis as SMA carriers we still had to wait almost a year to begin our first IVF cycle, mostly due to the complexity of PGD testing. To date we have been unable to do an embryo transfer (that’s for another post). So this has been two years of my life and it feels as if I been struggling with infertility forever. Now I understand what my messy, scrub wearing physician meant: our carrier status saved us a lot of time, stress, money and what would have inevitably probably been heartbreak and disappointment.
Now here is something I need to say: if you’re someone who was not as lucky, if you’re someone who suffered years of failed attempts at conception whether naturally, or with interventions like Clomid or IUI’s I cannot speak to your pain. My heart hurts for you, but I have no idea what that suffering feels like. Our carrier status gave us a quick answer and sure it was not the ideal answer, but I think any answer is better than the unknown. I’ve spoken to other patients in the waiting room at the fertility clinic, I’ve nodded sympathetically as they shared their horror stories of the years they’ve spent, the medications they’ve tried and the countless number of failed pregnancy tests they took before starting in-vitro, but I will never understand their pain. If you’re one of those people, I consider you a warrior and you have my utmost respect and love.
So now, I (mostly) agree with our physician: Dan and I are lucky to be carriers of SMA. Being carriers put us on the IVF fast-track, and although it caused its own share of disappointments, it’s given us a plan, and being the Type-A person I am, I appreciate a clear plan. I am thankful we had answers after less than a year of trying to conceive. So in a weird way (and on a bad day) it’s helpful to remind myself that maybe we are “So lucky”.