Sunday, April 3, 2011

Miracle Stories

Everyone knows one. People who have been trying for years, who have been told that they will never have children without assistance or never have biological children, period...and then POOF! Pregnant when they least expect it. Usually it's a friend of a friend, or a distant family member, or a friend of a distant family member, or another patient at your clinic that you've never met but is touted as the "hey, you never know!" story by reception. These stories are meant to buoy you up, to give you hope where it seems there is none. They are well-meaning, but sometimes difficult to swallow.

The miracle story lends credence to the "just relax" -- these very, very lucky people all got pregnant when they weren't thinking about it anymore. They got pregnant when they were between cycles, when they were trying naturally (or just not on any kind of birth control). They got pregnant when they had taken a break from treatments to decide what to do next. They got pregnant when they started the adoption process and had made what peace they could with the inability to conceive a biological child without significant cost financially, physically, and emotionally. They got pregnant after adopting a child and building their family a different way. They got pregnant after having children with donor material. Every one of these people finally conceived when they weren't in the middle of the highly invasive, highly stressful infertility treatment process.

So what does that mean to you when someone tells this kind of story? It seems like it's happening all the time, but I think that everyone knows the same core group of miracle people. Bryce made the point recently when we were presented (again) with a "hey, it could happen--nothing is impossible!" story -- these are the stories that people remember and cling on to. You may encounter 100 people who have had some kind of trouble conceiving throughout your travels, but it's that one who made it against all odds who sticks out in your head (1 in a hundred is an incredibly inflated number). It makes for a good story. Your friends who tried and tried and finally succeeded after 4 IVFs or brought beautiful nonbiological children into their lives through adoption or brought beautiful babies from donor sperm or egg contributions are lovely stories, but not as dramatic as the 45 year old woman who decided she and her husband would remain childless and then POOF! got pregnant miraculously. I struggle with the miracle story because in my mind, it is an attempt to make me feel better but it is also an attempt to make you feel better. It can be depressing to sit and talk to someone who puts tons of hope into every cycle and just hasn't been successful yet--so to bring up the miracle people adds a little more happiness and hopefulness into the mix. It can happen! It happened to them, so obviously it could also happen to you! But what if it can't?

I was told by someone after this last IVF that at least we could try naturally between the winter IVF that failed and our new summer IVF that we are planning. Unfortunately, that is just not possible. As much as I would love to have the chance to each month try without needles and medication and procedures for the "what if?" moment, my body is not cooperative. I do not ovulate on my own (or if I do, it is so sporadic that there would be no way to tell when it happened). After the IVF failed in January, I was natural for a period of time until for the sake of timing and an interim procedure I had to come in and get put on Provera (an oral progesterone pill) to induce a period. When they do this, they do a pregnancy test and they check your progesterone levels to see if you ovulated. I was on day 35 of my cycle and I hadn't even ovulated yet (and, obviously, I wasn't pregnant). For those of you not intimately familiar with a typical woman's cycle, ovulation typically happens around day 14 and a typical cycle is between 28-30 days. In some strange way, I was pissed and sad when I got the call with my results. I wanted to be that miracle person. I wanted to have the "You won't believe this--you're pregnant!" call. But instead I got the news that my reproductive system doesn't own or know how to use a calendar. I pretty much have to be on the pill between cycles to ensure that I can get on the schedule for the time I want--and so I'm not unpleasantly surprised with my period since obviously I can't plan for it worth a hoot. Goodbye, dream of being a miracle person.

Now, recently I have actually MET a few miracle people. In person. Not distant mythical creatures, but people I have done yoga with and take classes with. One did 3 IVFs after countless IUIs and had just had it with the process--she started doing the paperwork for adoption, quit a stressful job, ate a lot of pomegranate, and BOOM! Pregnant. She has a toddler now. Another has gotten pregnant multiple times outside of treatment, despite not getting pregnant through infertility treatments spanning 10 times. She has miscarried the first two pregnancies (one a heartwrenching second trimester loss), and on the anniversary of the due date of her most devastating loss found out that she was pregnant--weeks before she was to start an IVF cycle. Hers is a tenuous miracle story and I hope, hope, hope that this is her forever baby--but what crazy timing! Another did countless IUIs and got pregnant with her son on the first IVF cycle she did. She's been trying for a sibling for years, with tons of frozen IVF cycles and fresh--none successful. For kicks she decided to do an injectable IUI and BOOM! She's into her second trimester already. These stories can be encouraging, and I can't ignore them when they come from first-hand accounts. But it is so hard to hang on to hope when I don't know the circumstances -- were they also anovulatory with very low sperm counts? Was it really just the "it only takes one sperm and one egg" scenario at exactly the right time?

I don't know the answer, but I do know this--despite resenting the miracle story, I want to be one. I can't get it out of my head that maybe, just maybe, I will release an egg and one SuperSperm will get to it and we won't have to do IVF in the summer. It's possible--just highly improbable. But not impossible. At the very least, I will take being a miracle person who, despite multiple failures and inexplicable embryo quality issues, is actually SUCCESSFUL on our next venture. That would be a much more likely miracle that I am looking forward to.


  1. My personal "favorite" is the whole "you'll get pregnant after you adopt... just you wait!" Even my mother is guilty of saying this. It is so annoying. While I would love for it to happen, the chances of it happening are slim and its not worth even considering.

  2. Yup, that one is definitely ill-advised. Like somehow adoption is a fertility secret and not a route to building a family in of itself. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Again, beautifully written. These are so meaningful to read. Thank you Jess. Love to you, Nancy

  4. Thank you for commenting on every single one of them! :)