"The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only "I am sorry for your loss." But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feeling of a tiny hand that is never held?"
I don’t want to be schmaltzy or melodramatic – and I never thought I’d have a Bush quotation on this blog! – but I thought Laura Bush’s comments in her recent memoir summed up – so accurately – how I feel. And I cry every time I read it.
Matt and I had such high hopes for our IVF cycle. I tried to temper my enthusiasm but didn’t sleep Thursday into Friday – the day of our egg retrieval – and was giddy on the drive to New Jersey. During my ultrasound before the procedure they saw 22 eggs – 14 of them ended up being viable and I jokingly said they better be “big and juicy” and the ultrasound tech and I laughed. Everyone I came into contact (oh, those poor nurses, the embryologist, the two anaesthesiologists) heard me chirping way about how this was my first time, and I had lots of eggs, and everything looks good, right?! And then there I was in the procedure room, in stir-ups, oxygen in my nose, an IV in my hand, and the doctor walks in and says, “I’m concerned about your estrogen levels; they are at 900 and they should be around 1500,” and then I was asleep.
I love anesthesia. Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say, but I love the peace of it. I’m never nauseous or groggy afterwards - just rested. I always try to pinpoint exactly when I go under – on Friday I said with verve, “I can still hear you!” and they responded “Not for long!” and that was the last thing I remembered. I woke up and they were helping me into a wheelchair, and then into the recovery bed, telling me they extracted 14 eggs and I was happy - even with low estrogen (which affects fertilization) I thought some of those had to fertilize and heck, let’s go get some lunch, which we did.
On Saturday they called to tell me eight of the eggs had successfully fertilized and they were freezing four. On Sunday they called and of the four remaining, three were still viable at the two-cell stage. It was then I started getting nervous: why haven’t they divided any further? But our ET was scheduled at 9:30 the following morning, and we left at 7:30 to beat the traffic through the city and I joked about how I was going to run Matt ragged while I was on bed rest and how – if this all worked – we wouldn’t tell our child they came from a stork, but a petri dish (we find this endlessly funny), and with that we crossed the Betsy Ross Bridge into Jersey.
I received a call when were five minutes away: our eggs have not split since yesterday, and they were still only two cells, and they were not likely to ever split again. Our transfer was canceled. On the phone with the embryologist I was almost chipper – or at least pleasant. I motioned for Matt to turn the car around, hung up, and then cried. I’m not going to say I have it awful, because I don’t. I’m not going to say how horrible my situation is, because I know it isn’t. But I will say I sobbed – big, loud snot-filled sobs full of anger and frustration and worry, and didn’t stop until we were ten minutes from home. At first we said we’d go to work to take our mind off it, but as I started crying – staring in my closet at work ensembles –we decided we’d spend the day at home, exchange our Christmas presents, and just be.
And we didn’t lay in bed and wallow: we went out to lunch, mocked Oprah during her “Favorite Things” episode (we were particularly aghast one of her favorite things was a $120 can of popcorn and then $200 leggings – really?!), and made dinner. Work today has been harder: I could not smile or make chitchat through a holiday lunch. My head is heavy and I am exhausted. With one cycle in the bucket, we know we only have one left. We don’t know what this all means: will this always happen? How common is this? Can we change the protocol to combat this? What happened to my estrogen levels on that last day? Statistically, how viable are those four frozen eggs because it costs a hell of a lot of money to thaw them? I have so many questions but our appointment isn’t until January 7th. We are going to take the next month off. We first wanted to plow through – to be done with this whole process by early spring – but I’m tired and defeated. This process is dehumanizing: every other day I’m at the office, in line for an ultrasound, in line for blood work, legs spread, arm extended. My menstrual cycle has dictated our last six months. Every other afternoon I wait for the call with my blood results and next steps. Every other morning I drive the hour to the office. Every night and morning I take my oral medications, my shots. Hell, I’m beat.
Matt keeps saying we have each other, and I know that is so true, but that doesn’t stop me from every day wanting so much more.