Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Comparing Notes

Sometimes there really can be such a thing as too much information. When you have a support group, whether it is online or email or meeting physically or all of the above, you meet a lot of women who are also going through infertility treatments. This is great--you don't feel alone anymore, you have a community of women who hands-down "get it" from personal experience, and you can get advice or be calmed down or pumped up at vital times in your cycle. What's not so great is the tendency to compare notes with other women's cycles. Comparing can be helpful, such as if you want to know possible side effects of new medications and someone can verify that they had the same symptoms. Or if you want to survey others for tips on how to manage your first self-injections. But comparing can also be a little destructive.

Everyone's cycle is different--and even your own cycle from attempt to attempt can be wildly dissimilar. Everyone's bodies respond differently to different medications and there are varied protocols depending on diagnoses (or lack of diagnoses). It is just about impossible not to try to compare your cycle to everyone else though--especially people who got pregnant in their cycle. It becomes obsessive--were you on the same dose as the lucky lady? The same number of stimming days? The same number of follicles? How about estrogen levels? Are yours too low or too high compared to the successful women? Are there more people you know who had Day 3 transfers or Day 5 transfers that got pregnant? Is having a Day 3 transfer a bad sign for your embryos? So-and-so had a Day 5 transfer and they got pregnant, maybe I'm not getting pregnant because I can only make it to Day 3... How were you feeling in your two week wait? What was a pregnancy sign and what was a side effect of the progesterone shots? Were you crampy? I'm crampy! Is it period cramps or implantation cramps? Did you start spotting? When? Maybe if I don't start spotting by that day it means I'm pregnant. WAIT! Someone else started spotting and it was implantation bleeding...she was pregnant! It can drive you absolutely bonkers.

I have kept a journal every night of both IVF cycles, and refer back to the previous cycle to see what I was feeling at the same point in the current cycle. I didn't get pregnant last time, so I am looking to NOT feel the same way I did last time. However, last cycle was a very different cycle in terms of doses, number of embryos transferred, length of stimming, reaction to estrogen levels, etc. So can I really honestly compare the two? Could I feel totally pregnant and have none of the same feelings I had last time and still get a negative? Unfortunately, yes. OR I could have the same symptoms and actually be pregnant. Trying to make sense of all this data is dizzying. And add to it the community of women I know who have gone through this process or are going through this process and all of their data and it's even worse! It is hard not to feel like a failure if you only had 4 eggs fertilize and 3 viable embryos when you know people who had 18 embryos or 12 and had gads to freeze in a cycle like yours. However, there is the other side too--women who would kill for 3 good embryos because their eggs didn't fertilize at all or degenerated before they could attempt fertilization. It's a lot easier to feel sorry for yourself for not having a multitude than to feel grateful for having good embryos to begin with. In cases like these, the comparisons can help you gain a sense of perspective. They can help you realize that actually, you have it pretty good.

I am trying not to take into consideration other people's experiences too much during this fragile time--I am trying to listen to my body and look at the data from THIS cycle: not my previous, not my friends', not my cyber buddy in New Jersey, and definitely not the evil Google. I am grateful for my 3 embryos. I trust that one or two of them are listening to my loving internal whispers, coaxing them to stick around... and that is why I feel the way I do this cycle. Only time will tell.

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