Hope is a funny thing. It's supposed to be this bright light, this thing that gets you through the bad shit. It allows you to believe that good things can happen, even in absence of any actual proof.
But when it comes to infertility, hope is difficult. It's a double-edged sword, because it can push you forward, but it can also push you to do more than is reasonable in the name of getting pregnant. And you can hope all you want, but sometimes you just aren't going to be that success story.
Last week I was scrolling around facebook, and I saw a video posted by one of my former clinics, one that was very research-based and fairly conservative. It featured a doctor I am fond of, personally, and so I watched it.
Oh how I wish I hadn't watched it.
It was basically about three breakthroughs in technology over the past several years related to IVF that has resulted in, "Some of the highest success rates I've ever seen in my career." One is doing PGD on every embryo, and then transferring just one instead of more because the healthy ones are more likely to implant. Another is improved freezing practices (I guess they are doing vitrification now, which was being done in other places for years prior), and the last was delaying transfer until a month or two after retrieval, since FETs are now so much more likely to succeed thanks to vitrification and I assume letting the body recover from the trauma of extraction.
The video was very new-age-y, with music and a calm sonorous voice throughout, and very, very positive. "Our patients have more reason to hope than ever before."
"We are seeing success rates of 60-70%, sometimes even higher."
"Older patients have traditionally had lower success rates and higher miscarriage rates with IVF. But now with these new technologies, we're seeing the same pregnancy rates that our younger patients have experienced."
"Implanting just one egg avoids risk of multiple-birth pregnancy."
Did you catch that last one? IMPLANTING. Not transferring, although the term "transfer" is used throughout, but IMPLANTING. I can't tell you how much I hate that terminology, which is false and misleading. They don't implant the motherfucking embryo. They transfer it and HOPE that it implants, because if they could IMPLANT the damn thing, pregnancy rates would be 100% and there would be some serious voodoo magic going on. Please tell me that the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) hasn't decided that it's okay to use the term "implant" for the transfer procedure. That one filled me with fury.
Now, I really do enjoy this doctor. Even though I did not get pregnant and stay that way, and we always seemed to fall on the WRONG side of every single statistic, I don't blame him for any part of that. He was also the only person to start the conversation of, "If this next cycle with your frozen 2PNs doesn't work, we will have that conversation about you choosing other paths to parenthood." Not exactly a come-to-Jesus moment, but the closest we ever got. (It's my fault that I heard that and promptly went to another clinic that would sell me more hope.)
Because that's what this feels like to me. Selling hope. It feels a little smarmy to me.
I will be honest, when I watched it, the thought did cross my mind...What if technologies have progressed so much that we have a shot? Maybe these new breakthroughs since we've been out of this game would do something for US!
And then I snapped out of it. And was so mad that even for that brief moment I entertained the thought of going back down the rabbit hole of treatment that did nothing but empty our pocketbooks and damage my emotional well-being and my reproductive system. I could argue that had I not pursued IVF, I would have both my tubes and I would not have uterine scarring. I'd probably still have those pesky polyps, but the others were a direct result of treatment and outcomes from that treatment. Not in a liability-laden way, but just in a matter-of-fact way. I am forever changed because I did 13 rounds of IVF, 10 transfers (since 3 were cancelled), 27 embryos gone the way of the dodo, 8 embryos off in Texas to be transferred to a hopefully more receptive womb in the couple who adopted them. WHY ON EARTH WOULD I GO BACK TO THAT?
But that's sort of the point of a video like that, right? It's a marketing tool when you shed all the emotional feel-good stuff of bringing healthy babies to couples who are infertile. I don't doubt that the doctor truly loves his work and that it is so rewarding when things work out. But it just reeked of peddling hope. And I felt like I was susceptible to the siren song, if only briefly.
It's so hard to know when to stop, to feel like you can say ENOUGH, when new technologies are always coming out. It's a strong thing to say NO MORE in the face of the continual hope and progress and nevergiveup mentality that weaves its way through the IVF industry.
Now, it could be that I am bitter because it didn't work for me. And I definitely felt bitter when EVERY SINGLE COMMENT on the video post was people praising the clinic and the doctor for all of their "Miracles." No joke, every one referenced their child as a Miracle. And that shit goes through me like a nail. Maybe I would have felt differently if I'd been successful, but I can tell you that when you fall on the other side of success rates, the term "miracle baby" makes you feel somehow undeserving of said miracle, like you were passed over or unworthy somehow of that experience and so were not blessed in that way. That is for other people, not you.
It's a shitty way to feel. These kinds of promotions also make you feel like you didn't do enough -- that you threw in the towel too soon, that had we only waited ONE MORE YEAR maybe we could have used these technologies. Did we give up? Did we fail to do everything possible? THAT IS THE FEELING THAT VIDEO INVOKES IN ME. That and every person who claims that this diet or that acupuncture regularity or this leave of absence from work was the miracle cure that resulted in pregnancy.
There are so many ways to feel deficient, and it doesn't stop with infertility treatment. We are being told constantly to "Hang in there!" "Don't give up on your dream!" "It WILL happen, you just have to keep the faith!" with adoption.
Do you know what that feels like? It feels like if we don't adopt, if we hit a point where we have no steam left and we can't keep living in this limbo, that it's OUR FAULT. We didn't persevere enough. We aren't doing enough. We aren't doing private adoption, so are we really that dedicated? It's all UP TO US.
I know people who say these things are well-meaning. But, as much as I wish I had another seven years to give to adoption, I DON'T. We spent five and a half years doing the infertility treatment thing. It was too long. It took too much from us in every way. I don't have the same amount of time to give to another process. I wish we had started earlier, when we weren't so tired, so beaten down by always waiting for something amorphous that just doesn't seem to ever materialize.
I hope that we receive our call before the date we've set as our Hail Mary timeframe. It's a decent amount of time that fits into national timeframes for adopting, as opposed to the 6-9 months from homestudy to placement average that we were given by the agency (which isn't working for us, as we're in month 16). But as Bryce said the other night, "I can't do what we did with IVF. I can't keep this up indefinitely. I need to know that we can live our life at some point, either with or without a child, free of this in-between place."
It never fails to make me cry. This would not be the ending that I'd envisioned to this journey. BUT, there's enough time between now and D-Day (decision day) that I feel comfortable with setting it. And I hope, I so hope that our Mystery Baby comes before that day. Because hope can be helpful, but it can also wear you down, suck you bloodless, and leave you a husk of yourself as you put your life on hold for that chance at parenthood that should have come so much more easily than it turned out.