When I share with friends and family that my husband and I are having trouble having a baby, they often ask us how long we have been trying to conceive. Presumably this should be an easy question to answer, but for some reason for me, it is not. What counts as "trying"? Foregoing birth control like 90% of the world who gets pregnant naturally? In my mind, I cannot possibly be really trying until I have had at least 100+ injections, blood draws and ultrasounds. I'm not being facetious; I seriously cannot conceive (pun intended) of waking up one day, deciding to have a baby, having sex once or twice at precisely the right time and bringing home a little bundle of joy 9 months later. Such notions are crazy. In my mind, a little human can't possibility be brought into this world without the assistance of nurses, reproductive endocrinologists, embryologists, andrologists, billing clerks, acupuncturists and marital therapists.
For the sake of argument, I could say I have been trying for almost 3 years. For the first year and a half, I was convinced that absolutely nothing was wrong with my very fertile 32-year-old eggs. It just must be a scheduling issue, and well, if I could ever figure out when I was ovulating, all of our problems would be solved. I was wrong. Obviously we were just having a problem getting all the guests to the party at the same time, right? I refused to acknowledge the possibility that there just might be something medically wrong with my husband or me. I've never had a serious medical issue in my life, other than being a little too type-A from time to time, of course. I have planned and choreographed each and every aspect of my life. I have planned for best case scenarios, worst case scenarios and everything else in the between. Unfortunately throwing genetic material at a wall and seeing what sticks just doesn’t fit within the constructs that I have put in place for myself. Nevertheless, I have no choice. I have to accept that fate is not in fact in my control and that no matter how much I hope, wish and plan – it just doesn’t make a difference.
I have been through multiple IUI cycles, a fresh IVF cycle and a frozen one, yet have nothing to show for my efforts except for some sub-par seven day 2013 embryos. My husband and I refer to them as the “2013 embryos” because we are convinced that they are jinxed. You see, we’ve had a bout of bad luck. In 2013, we underwent multiple failed fertility treatments, watched my husband’s mother succumb to a terrible illness and said goodbye to our beloved 17 year-old tabby cat, Lizzie. A few days after Lizzie died, overwhelmed with grief, I visited an animal shelter against my husband’s wishes and adopted a kitten who I was convinced picked me to be her mom. A mere eight weeks (and $4,000) later we had to say goodbye to her as well because she was suffering from a rare fatal virus. Therefore, anything and anyone created in 2013 must be cursed and cannot be counted on.
So here I am in 2014. Getting ready for another 100 days of IVF. My doctor says that I should assume that my fresh cycle is going to get canceled and that my best chance at holding a chubby-cheeked bundle of joy is a frozen cycle a month or so thereafter. IVF is bad enough as it is – adding a second cycle – just adds insult to injury, at least if you ask me.
We have taken the requisite break. In fact, we literally traveled to the end of the earth. 15 Bhutanese monks prayed for us, the head lama blessed us and we forked over a fortune in offerings, not to mention Bhutanese junk food and liquor, as instructed by our tour guide. Trust me, we relaxed, just like everyone who is not fertility-challenged told us to do. Of course, we are the reason we are not getting pregnant. It has nothing to do with our biology. If I was a little less type A, didn’t work quite so hard, and finally drank the magic herbal tea that a cousin’s aunt’s friend recommended, then, of course we would have a baby by now, or at least so I am told.
Nevertheless, we are ready. The stars are (at least conceptually) aligned. Yet, the thought of being hopeful this time around seems ill advised. Last time we transferred two good quality embryos, but they didn’t make it. They disappeared as if they never existed at all. They defied the odds and failed to implant in the very fertile multi-striped lining that I had so carefully nurtured for their benefit. I was hopeful, made plans and none of it really mattered.
My husband thinks it is some sort of cosmic justice. He says that we can’t have a baby because we have been successful in other areas of our lives, both having had the opportunity to pursue challenging educations and rewarding careers. E followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a physician; I am a laywer.
Growing up I never felt smart and was terrified that no one would ever hire me, let alone marry me. I remember feeling this way beginning around third grade, which is pretty depressing. Yet, I was determined to pull myself up by the bootstraps and do whatever I could to ensure that I enjoyed at least a little happiness. This led me from high school to college, where I was determined to do well, if not by virtue of talent, then by sheer force of will. My sights were set on staying in Ann Arbor for law school; I applied to Harvard on a whim, not even bothering to ensure that my application was typed properly, most likely for fear of wanting something that I knew I couldn’t have. Everything changed when I started law school. It was the single most life-changing event of my life and a part of me believes that it may be why we can’t have a baby; life only hands out so many miracles and that was mine. Either that or the world is just not ready for the super awesome evil genius that E and I would create together, a theory that I have shared with E’s urologist who asked me whether I was asking theoretically or medically. I, of course, replied both and was not entirely kidding.
So, here we are, getting ready to go again, and all I can think about is what if we don’t even get one good quality embryo. What if we get a sign that we are destined to fail? What if this is the end of the road? I don’t think it is, but I can’t help but think that it is. I’m afraid to assume even the most modest of outcomes.