I read a book a few weeks ago called “What Alice Forgot” about a woman who falls down at the gym and forgets ten years of her life. (I thought it was great, my mother found if very sad, I recommend you read it.) But anyway, Alice has a sister, Elizabeth, who for the past 10 years has struggled to have a child… obviously Elizabeth was my favorite character. At one point she is talking about her miscarriage and she says “Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you get a baby.” I think about those words often lately, a year ago Dan and I sat in a two hour IVF education session, we listened to success rates and statistics, but I really wish someone had said “Oh and guys just so you know: just because you do IVF doesn’t mean you get a baby.”
A year ago Dan and I made a decision to pursue IVF with PGD because we wanted to bring healthy children into the world. We decided to accept the physical, financial and emotional burdens that go along with in-vitro because we assumed those were nothing compared to the struggle of raising a child with SMA. We made a decision we were proud of and felt confident in.
And now we are here.
Here is a very interesting place. After waiting over eight months for our PGD to be finalized (it’s a lot of information, for another post) I finally got the go ahead to start hormones. Now some people share horror stories about hormones, I’ve talked to women who said they didn’t affect them at all, I was kind of in the middle. The injections did not bother me (nurse perk!) but after day 6 I was going to our fertility clinic daily for bloodwork and ultrasounds and by day 10 I was abnormally bloated, beyond tired and basically a ticking time-bomb of emotion. But it was all bearable.
The egg retrieval was on a Sunday. It was a dream, a little Propofol, a little Toradol, and a lot of sleep. I went back to work the next day and felt fine… that is until my doctor’s office called me Monday evening and the nurse exclaimed “Meghan! You have 13 fertilized embryos!” I cannot remember a time in my life recently when I have been so happy. In my mind 13 embryos was basically the IVF jackpot… better yet, the IVF powerball!
I celebrated those 13 embryos as if they were 13 tiny rewards for all we had been through over the past year. I met up with my mom and some friends and one of the ladies jokingly yelled “You get an embryo, and you get an embryo” like she was Oprah giving away cars. Dan and I sat at our kitchen table and talked about having 4 children (like I’ve always wanted) as if it could truly be a possibility. I looked back into the notebook where I keep a list of baby names and thought “I may need a few of you!” 13 embryos!
My fertility clinic called me the following Saturday as I sat on the couch with Dan watching Luther on Netflix (this is how we spend most weekends). I cannot remember the entire conversation, but it was something along the lines of “So we sent the DNA on 4 embryos for PGD testing, the other 9 embryos did not mature.” Um what?! No lady, this is Meghan. I had 13 embryos. What do you mean I have 4? It was never truly explained to me that because of the PGD the embryologist needs the embryos to mature further than standard IVF in order to extract the DNA for testing and that many fail to do so. I didn’t know that when I celebrated 13 embryos, but I know that now.
I waited 6 agonizing weeks for the results of our 4 embryos. And then my fertility nurse called and standing in an empty patient room at work I listened as she told me we had one healthy, carrier embryo. Two of the embryos had SMA and the other had degraded DNA (so they could not tell me what the SMA status was) and they would not safely tell us to use that embryo.
So now we’re here. With one embryo.
Do not get me wrong. One is better than none. One is a possibility. One could be everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I know I should be on my knees thanking any higher power that exists for this one embryo and I have. I am so overwhelming thankful we have this one embryo. But having one embryo also means we only have one shot at this working, statistically this embryo has about a 50% chance of resulting in a live birth. Seems like a lot of pressure to put on one little embryo.
I know many people will not understand why I mourn the loss of those 12 embryos, to them they were just cells, a science experiment, ‘they weren’t babies’. You’re right, they were not. But they were promises, they were our hopes and our dreams. They were the possibility of having little blonde toddlers in the backseat fighting over what Disney song we should listen to. They were a Christmas card I’ve always imagined with angelic faces smiling at you on the front and their ‘true selves’ pulling each other’s hair and pinching on the back. (‘Gold dress Meghan’ spent a lot of time thinking about Christmas cards). They were after school chaos, built in best friends and family car trips in an SUV bursting with beach gear. I know they were just cells, I understand that, but I allowed myself to dream of what those embryos could mean in our life, so I have to allow myself to mourn what they are not.
And now we’re here. Planning to transfer our one embryo. Praying and wishing this transfer works and we will be blessed with one, healthy child who I promise to spend the rest of my life being eternally grateful for. But I also have to keep reminding myself that IVF does not mean we get a baby. I’m walking a fine line of dreaming of all the possibilities this embryo offers, but also accepting that this journey may not be taking the path we expected and being okay with that.
Like I said: now we’re here and here is a very interesting place.