First off, thank you to those who commented wonderful messages of hope on my last post. I can't bring myself to reply to the ones I didn't get to before things went downhill, because I want to keep that hope alive in that moment in time, suspended where everything was possible. If I reply now I will destroy that moment.
I was supposed to write a post during my wait about how despite my assertions that I am DONE with magical thinking and that there are no such things as "good omens" or whatever during cycles, because so many supposedly good omens have come and gone (mating turtles! full moons! special dates! fertile Chinese new years!) that I have no faith in them, there were a few this time that were hard to ignore (and yet didn't mean a freaking thing). Our retrieval was on Friday the 13th, a historically lucky day for me. It was a full moon (again), and not only that, it was the Full Honey Moon, which is especially meaningful somehow. I stimmed over Father's Day and this was our last chance with Bryce's genetic material. While it all somehow, bizarrely, gave me hope during the cycle, it all MEANT NOTHING.
Monday, the first day of school with no classes, a strange time with no time constraints and sweaty buildings where you try to wrap up and clean up and file and decide what materials you're bringing home, I went to the bathroom and discovered spotting on my necessary-due-to-Crinone pantyliner. I was ECSTATIC. Cautiously at first, and then I thought... The only times I've had spotting on or around this cycle day are when I've been pregnant. It's true. For whatever reason, even with the freakshow ectopic pregnancy, I had implantation bleeding. And here I was, right around that time, spotting just like I had those (somewhat) magical times. I tried to temper my excitement, but I couldn't. I got a little giddy. I started imagining how many were staying put in there, hoping for two but trying not to be greedy and feeling like more likely there was one, there's only ever been one, and how amazing that would be. I started thinking about how the due date for this pregnancy would be in March, right around my husband's birthday. I got wayyyy ahead of myself.
Because Tuesday, Tuesday came and I was still spotting. Which was NOT like the implantation bleeding I'd had before. But none of those pregnancies were normal and healthy, so I thought maybe healthy pregnancies have more blood--they burrow more robustly; snuggle in deeper. I was shaken though. My giddiness turned into butterflies of another, more sinister sort. I started thinking about the weekend, when I thought the Benad.ryl had turned against me and I had a hard time functioning, and I had a migraine from Friday through Sunday night. I could attribute it to the Ben.adryl, or to weather patterns and barometric pressure gradients, but secretly I was terrified that it was a sign my hormones were all fucked up. In addition to odd medications and air pressure changes, my migraines are caused by hormonal shifts. Notably when my estrogen plummets. So much so that once upon a time before I went gluten free and my migraines actually got better (I used to suffer weeks out of every month instead of days) I was put on a birth control pill that had estrogen during some of the placebo days, because it helped my migraines. I was suspicious, and I hadn't called the doctor because I thought it was the allergy pills. And now it was probably too late to do anything about it, if that was the case. (I can make absolutely anything about any cycle my fault somehow. I know, logically, that nothing I did or did not do made a difference in this cycle, but it felt like I missed a clue and could have saved things. Which is patently ridiculous, but I can't help myself.)
The worst though was Wednesday. I hadn't called the doctor Tuesday because it was still spotting and that, especially with the Crinone, wasn't immediately HORRIBLE news. I know people who spotted through the Crinone and through the first trimester and have wonderful, beautiful babies now. It's just that those stories don't ever seem to come true for me. Wednesday I got up and was greeted not with spotting but with bleeding. Light bleeding, but there had been a shift and now there was definitely something amiss that I couldn't attribute to anything remotely positive and so I freaked out. I showered, gross bits of blood-tinged Crinone going down the drain, and sobbed. I dosed myself with my morning Crinone and laid down on the couch with a pillow under my butt. Maybe the Crinone wasn't going where it needed to. Maybe I sucked at Crinone. Maybe if I inverted myself the bleeding would stop. I texted my doctor and begged for an answer to this that was positive, that I was needlessly panicking, that there were a zillion stories like this that ended in healthy babies. I also begged for the reassurance of bloodwork. Estrogen and progesterone, to see if really there was an issue (not that that could be fixed at this point), but honestly I wanted to know that the bleeding was that good kind, the kind that scares you unnecessarily but ends in a healthy albeit neurotic pregnancy.
My doctor thankfully did not think I was nuts for texting at 7:15 am, and set up bloodwork for me, but included an HCG with the caveat to "not freak out." So I thought it was something that if it was positive, hurrah, but if it was negative, not necessarily a death knell for those precious three Bryce embryos hanging on for dear life inside me. I contacted a friend at school and let her know I had to go get bloodwork but I could come in briefly and get some of my stuff before making sure I was home by 12:30 to receive the results call. I was missing the end of year breakfast and I had pounds of pineapple in a bowl in my fridge that I was supposed to bring. I felt guilty, and I wanted closure on this year. I wanted the last day of school to really be the last day of school. But, I was emphatically told to stay home, take care of yourself, don't come in, she would talk to the principal, I'd be better off not going in and being asked if I was OK over and over again since about a zillion people know and teaching in a middle school can kind of be like BEING in middle school all over again. (Lucky me middle school was the absolute armpit of my life and I was subject to a lot of cruelty, and so middle school adult antics are NOTHING.) So I stayed home.
I received encouraging texts from my doctor, who was also hoping for a positive HCG and a reassurance that all was fine and we were on our way to being done with this godforsaken process. I took a nap, as I'd already taken my first dose of Benadr.yl and the siren song of the couch is too much for me under the pink pill influence. I read my book, a sad sap book about two teenage girls who lose their parents in a tragic small craft plane accident in the Grand Canyon and then are separated by coasts due to their parents' will and the fact that they are half sisters so the oldest has a biological father she can live with. Their lives take dramatically different turns. I love books where I can feel like "ok, it could be worse, I may not be pregnant but I wasn't orphaned at 13."
True to his word, since now I know they receive bloodwork results from the labs by 12:30 and typically make their calls between 1:00 and 2:00, and my doctor said that they would call me ASAP, I got my call by 12:45ish. The nurse, the funny-but-rough-around-the-edges nurse from retrieval, asked if I could talk. She said, "I'm sorry, it was negative." It didn't register, because I was like, "Yeah, but it's early, so SO WHAT? What was my estrogen? What was my progesterone?" Very awkward silence when I asked about the other levels instead. She said they were both low, but that they haven't found that estrogen levels matter a whit with early pregnancy -- they have had pregnant women with low and high levels and it hasn't indicated much. Progesterone was on the low side, but with Crinone it doesn't enter the bloodstream the same way as PIO so that wasn't so concerning either. But, she repeated, the HCG was negative. "So, um, what does that mean exactly at this point?" I asked, because silly silly me was still hopeful this meant nothing at this point because my test was supposed to be MONDAY and it was WEDNESDAY and shouldn't there be plenty of time for a late bloomer to make itself known? I mean, twins were out of the question now, but one little late bloomer? Especially because we had morulas at transfer and not blasts, so maybe the timeline is off a day? Silence again, then "Well, it means you're not pregnant." I now verbally vomited my late bloomer theory and my (wrong) assumption that the HCG wasn't necessarily supposed to be positive, that it was just another data point, and I must have sounded so desperate that after a little pause she said she'd go talk to the doctor and could I hold, she would check on this line of reasoning. This ridiculously Pollyanna, I believe in rainbows and unicornpuppies line of thinking that I am ALWAYS capable of and is NEVER actually true. I don't know whether to be proud of my ability and capacity to hope in the face of certain disappointment or whether someone should just slap me a la Cher in Moonstruck and yell, "Snap out of it!"
I waited while some song on the hold music ironically had some kind of breakup lyrics that had the line "baby you're gone" or something like it in it and I was thinking, hmmmm. This is not good. The nurse came back on the line and said, "Dr. Fabulous checked the dates and the HCG level is pretty definitive that you are not pregnant... at this point in the cycle there should at least be a low positive. I'm so sorry." At this point in things I am determined NOT TO CRY on the phone. It must suck so bad to make those awful phone calls. I feel very sorry for the nurses who get to give both the best news in the world and the most depressing news in the world, and for someone like me where everyone is always pulling for our misery to finally be over it always seems to have an extra layer of sympathy and sadness, and I don't want to make it worse by bawling. I did that in the beginning, and it made them feel worse and it made me feel worse so I just bottle it temporarily until I get off the phone. Because really, the primary reaction I get is just numb at first right now.
There was conversation to get through first, though. I did have the option of waiting, continuing the Crinone a few more days and then retesting either Saturday or Monday to make sure it was truly negative. But if I got a full flow period during those days, it was all over and I'd discontinue meds and call them with my Day One so that I could get started on our FET with the DS embryos. JUST KEEP SWIMMING JUST KEEP SWIMMING. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do, and I felt like maybe continuing was just awful torture but what if there was some kind of late bloomer and I denied it a shot? The nurse left me with the thought that I did not have to decide right now, I could call back later after I'd processed everything.
I fell spectacularly apart after I got off the phone. I called Bryce and told him, and I felt just SO AWFUL. It was a double loss, because here were three beautiful embryos that we were hoping would stay, but it was also our last shot with Bryce's genetic material. So we got to mourn both the loss of the cycle and loss of his DNA all at once. He came home from work for a couple of hours and we just held each other and cried. And decided that I would continue the Crinone for a few more days, what the hell, and then test Saturday. But then I went to the bathroom. And it was unmistakable. The decision was made for us, I had a full-flow, vicious period (all that lovely 11.5mm lining had to go somewhere), and it was definitively, inescapably over. I sobbed in the bathroom. I cried and cried and cried, because even though in a weird way it was a blessing to have that closure and not hold on to hope any longer, the fact that it was OVER over and in my face just broke my heart. There was zero hope. We needed to shift gears after mourning this loss, and somehow find energy to put into the FET.
But first, Steel Magnolias. Because I hadn't cried enough, and pithy southern women make me happy. [If you live under a rock and have never seen this wonderful movie, be warned of spoilers, but really if you watch the trailer you know that there is tragedy to be had and nothing I say in this paragraph will actually spoil the movie for you.] Bryce went back to work and I watched a movie I haven't seen in years but always makes me laugh and cry, cry, cry. That Sally Field is fantastic. Her "I'm fine" monologue in the cemetery is just pure genius. The rawness of her loss and the unfairness was a perfect representation of how I felt in that moment. I mean, I hadn't lost my daughter to diabetes because she just wanted a baby more than anything and she felt that "I'd rather have twenty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special," I hadn't known from the moment she got married that she'd make this horrible decision that would bring her joy in the short run but end her life prematurely and been powerless to do anything about it, but I felt her feeling of powerlessness in the face of loss. That as much as you try to control how things turn out, you just can't. I sobbed and sobbed as she screamed that she didn't understand why things had turned out this way, that it made no sense.
And now today, today my eyelids are no longer so swollen I look like a frog, and I no longer feel like crying constantly, and I will watch something funny to balance out the sadsapness of yesterday, and I will do laundry and go for a walk and start thinking about how to prepare for the FET. Or how not to prepare. I do not regret doing all the things I did for this cycle, but I think I might take a bit more relaxed stance on the FET. That's for my next post, because already this FET looks to be very different. Onward we go.
I'm sorry there's not good news. I'm sorry the promise of this cycle turned out to be just like the others, that I now have twenty-three embryos that have come and gone through what feels like a toxic wasteland of a uterus that is really just a place that embryos go to die. There is nothing concrete to substantiate this, but I feel like my body killed Bryce's embryos and no matter how illogical this is and how hard on myself that is, I can't shake the feeling that my body sucked this time. It could be the chromosomal abnormalities we suspect exist in the sperm, that you can't tell by just looking at the embryos. It could be the same thing that's happened to most of our embryos and that when we use the other embryos that are DS, it will all come together. But I am scared. I am scared that my body is also a problem and I will kill the DS embryos too and THEN where will we be? I am scared that we will get to the end of our year of treatment that we agreed to and still have nothing. I am scared that pregnancy will never happen for us, that we will be among the elite group for whom IVF in whatever iteration JUST DOESN'T WORK. And we will never have an answer. I will live my life never knowing why my body couldn't hold a baby. Or, maybe the DS embryos will end this all for us. We just don't know. We just have to keep on swimming through this muck, through this difficult, exhausting process, until we reach our point where we have resolution, whatever that looks like. I will restore my hope and capacity to believe in miracles and we will do everything we can to make this dream, this seemingly impossible dream, of being pregnant with our baby and being present for the whole entirety of his/her/their existence, from the very beginning. It's not impossible. It just keeps feeling more and more improbable.
Thank you for your support through each of these cycles that unfortunately end in the same place of loss and disbelief every single time, just some a little later than others. It means so much to me to not be alone, to know that so many of you know how this feels. And some hold hope for me that despite a long, long road of loss, there can be a happy ending after the bend. I just can't see it yet, but it's there, waiting for me. For us.