The day you receive your call with your blood test results is a very, very long and stressful day. You are tied to your phone. You come up with contingency plans for what it will look like. Last time, I received my call at 1:27 pm and let it go to voicemail because I was at school. I wanted to wait until Bryce and I could listen to it together. That meant waiting until 5:00 when Bryce could get out of work and meet me at home. In the meantime, I peed on a stick after school. It was negative. I took the dog for a walk and rationalized how that negative could be totally faulty. But really, I was letting it sink in that maybe it didn't work out. When Bryce came home and we listened to the message, the second the words "I'm so sorry" came through the line I burst into tears. It was real. I wasn't pregnant, and thanks to our less than stellar embryo production, we had to do the whole process all over again. It hurt. It hurt me, it hurt Bryce. We mourned. We drank wine. We sent text messages to friends and called our parents. It just sucked all the way around.
This time, we had a totally different protocol--an aggressive protocol. My ovaries were pushed to produce lots of follicles. I went an extra day until egg retrieval. My estrogen rose to 5310 (wicked high) at my last monitoring appointment. I produced 30 measurable follicles, but 17 were 15 mm or more by trigger time. 9 were over 18mm. 15mm or more at trigger can produce a mature egg at retrieval, but 18mm or more at trigger should definitely be mature at retrieval. (The trigger shot ripens the eggs before they are surgically retrieved under IV sedation.) This time, 11 could be retrieved. 8 could be fertilized. Only 4 fertilized. 3 were good enough to be transferred. It was again a Great Whittling, but at least this time we had better quality in our corner. And three embryos--our odds were in our favor. And then, due to my high estrogen levels and large number of follicles (even though not as many were mature), I ended up having a complication: OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). My abdominal cavity filled with fluid due to overstimulated follicles after transfer, and I had to be on highly restricted activity (basically, bed rest) and be out of work for a longer time than I anticipated. However, I was comforted by the fact that many women who hyperstimulate have higher than average pregnancy rates. I had to be pregnant, right? I had to be in the "many" group and not the exception to the rule. I felt great during the rest of my two week wait--I was convinced I was pregnant. No spotting, no PMS symptoms, just feeling calm and serene and as pregnant as I thought I could feel (since I've never been pregnant before).
This time, I opted to listen to the message on my own. Or, I opted that if the call came during a planning period I would actually pick up and talk to a live person. Then I would call Bryce and share what I was 95% sure was our finally happy news. I debated peeing on a stick in the morning, but was not sure how that would play out. I decided to lay out the cheapo strips I had purchased 20/$4 online months ago along with a cup (since they were so cheap they involved dipping instead of peeing on the strip) on the back of the toilet so I could make my decision when I got up in the morning. Because I am basically Pandora, I couldn't resist. I had to pee on the stick (strip). It said 5 minutes, so I brushed my teeth and peeked--one line. But only 3 minutes, so I went back to bed for 10 more minutes. Back to the bathroom. One line. Shit. One line? Really? I decided to chalk up the negative result to crappy, questionable online product. I felt pregnant, and so different from last time, so there was NO WAY I wasn't actually pregnant. It was obviously a mistake. But I woke Bryce up and told him anyway, and cried a little for the loss of some of my positivity. I went from 95% to 80%. But Bryce surprised me--he told me to keep up the positive attitude, because it wasn't over until the blood results. So I bumped my positive feelings up to 90%. A loss of 5 points, but still overwhelmingly odds in our favor.
The day was hard. I felt so stupid for peeing on the stick--I was just torturing myself unnecessarily. I willed those embryos to fight back. I sent them love. I silently screamed "STAY, ok? Just one of you? Please?" My phone rang at about 11:45. I was alone in my room, so I picked up. The hesitation started the crack in my resolve. And then the "I'm so sorry, so, so, sorry Jessica" just broke my heart into a million pieces. Tiny, jagged shards of hope clattered to the floor and I sobbed. This makes absolutely no sense to me. I managed to catch Bryce on the phone and sobbed uncontrollably and messily into the phone so that virtually nothing I said other than "negative" and "so unfair" was intelligible. I just don't understand this. I did everything, EVERYTHING possible to increase my chances. I went to yoga regularly. I went to acupuncture. I pampered myself with massages. I ate organically. I stopped drinking months ago. I listened to my meditation MP3s every night. I burned red candles like it was my job. I have stupid freaking baby bibs stuffed in my pillowcases, for the love of Pete. I rested more than usual thanks to the OHSS. I was positive to the point of ridiculousness. I willed myself to be pregnant. I tried to think it true. IT DIDN'T WORK.
I am left with such a feeling of hopelessness. Why can't we catch a break in this process? What is WRONG with us that we can't do this basic human function? How many babies do I need to see born to other people before I get to experience it for myself? Will I EVER experience this myself? What if something I did made this not work? What if I didn't spend enough time in the guest room that someday (I hope) will be the baby's room? What if the sad fact that I am lapsed in dentist visits has resulted in gum disease that is preventing me from getting pregnant? How stupid will I feel if my goddamn TEETH are what are keeping us from baby bliss? Do I realize how crazy this sounds? Yes. But I can't stop it. When can we do this again? I have no idea. I am lost. We are looking at full price for our next cycle. We are officially out of the running for the refund program with 2 failed cycles under our belt. My body is exhausted. My spirit is exhausted. But my eggs are little ticking time bombs... your fertility certainly doesn't improve with age. We are left with hard questions and difficult decisions. We are left with the possibility that there are no answers for why we failed again this time. We might just be in a cruel numbers game where if we do this enough times it has to work eventually. Maybe the 3rd time will do the trick. Maybe the 4th or 5th. Will we have the funds? The endurance? The emotional bandwidth to handle this over and over and over again? I have no idea. I was so hopeful this time. I even used an online calculator and put in my retrieval date so I could figure out my due date if I was pregnant. It was September 29th. I would be 12 weeks on St. Patrick's Day and could tell the masses then. It was a date to look forward to. It was a timeline I believed in. But now I have to find something else in the future to look forward to. I am not ready to plan my next cycle yet, but will feel better when I have dates in place. Something to fill the incredible emptiness that I feel ahead of me. Something to give me hope again.
Sorry to be such a downer. I am lucky in some regards. I have a good life. I have an amazing husband. I have incredibly supportive family and friends. I have a friend who's willing to come over and drink wine in the afternoon and have an impromptu dance party in my living room (in between crying jags). I can drink margaritas tonight. I can have caffeinated coffee again. I can take Advil and/or Excedrin for my headaches. My medical team has learned even more about how our eggs and sperm behave (badly) and can use that information to improve our next cycle. We have the option of a next cycle. We are not done. We are just paused. As a support group friend wrote in a consoling email today, this is not NO. It's just NOT NOW.