I spent last week anxiously awaiting the news about whether my one tiny embryo passed preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). All of my hopes are riding on this one embryo. This one shot. I’ve been preparing myself for what I would do if the results are abnormal. I’ve found information about different protocols that are better for egg quality and low ovarian reserve. A lot of the recommendations are different from the protocol that my RE had me on. I prepared a list of questions to ask him about to explore these options. I saved research articles to back up my points in case I have to argue, or should I say advocate for myself. I also spent a lot of time praying. I pray to Goddess and God, I call to my spirit guides and angels, and basically give a shout out to any benevolent energy that will lend a hand. I figure I need all the help I can get. I do these things to feel empowered. To gain some sense of control in this process that feels so out of control. Because at this point I’ve really done all I can do to make this round a success. My embryo has been biopsied and frozen in time. I can’t do anything to alter the quality of that life or the outcome of that test. I just have to wait.
After calling the genetics lab to see if they sent my results to my RE yet, which they had on Thursday morning, I left a message with a nurse at my RE’s office asking about my results. I was feeling pressured and I didn’t have time to wait for their normal procedure of scheduling an appointment with the RE to discuss results and make a plan. I didn’t have time because my period had started a couple days before and if the PGS test came back normal, then I would need to start injections for a mock transfer the following day so I didn’t miss a whole cycle and waste more time. Really, I had no more time to be patient.
And then the call came. The nurse called me back. She started with the polite, “how are you doing?” I resisted the urge to give the curt reply that I was thinking. I mean, really, lets get on with this. Am I about to get my heart broken or filled? Then she said it: “Do you want to know the gender?” And at that moment I knew… the results were normal. My psychologist brain quickly processed her statement before I could even blink. She would never ask if I wanted to know the gender unless the results were normal, so I knew what she was going to say before she even said it. I just couldn’t believe it. My breath caught in my throat. My one lone embryo is healthy! This is really going to work!
While I know that getting a PGS normal embryo is not a guarantee for pregnancy and live birth, it does significantly improve the chances of that success. I vividly remember at my IVF consultation when my RE told me that getting a normal embryo (at my age, humph) would be my biggest hurdle, and that if I got one then my chance for success is 80%. That’s an astonishing rate. I’ve seen other women get lower quotes on that one, but I’m going with my RE’s predictions because he does know me and my specific medical history. I’ve also seen countless women in online groups talk about their failed frozen embryo transfers (FET) with PGS normal embryos, as well as early miscarriages. But a PGS normal embryo significantly reduces the risk of failures and losses. I have to remind myself, repeatedly, that the stories I read online are not really representative samples of everyone that goes through this. Sure we hear a lot of successes online, but we really hear a disproportionately large number of failures. After all, many women who have success move on to pregnancy support groups, or even spend more time in real life preparing for their baby and less time online, and don’t spend much more time in infertility groups.
I remind myself of this because a part of me is still scared. Scared of falling into that dark 20%. I’m also scared because I’m feeling very optimistic. It’s a peculiar place really – to feel so confident and happy on the one hand, yet a tiny bit scared on the other. I asked a trusted someone if I should temper my excitement , you know, to try to reduce my heartbreak should my FET not work and prepare for the worst. She simply said, “No!” She told me to enjoy this and focus my thoughts and energy on my healthy baby. On this healthy baby that will join me soon. But she also said to find a place in my heart to be neutral and accepting of whatever happens.
How do you hold such different energies at once? To be optimistic and confident that I will have this baby, yet also accept a negative outcome. They seem like such different mindsets. Yet I know that humans are capable of such complex emotions. For me, I think it comes down to not feeding that one little part of me that is scared with excessive fear. That means not obsessively reading about FET failures with PGS normal embryos. And there are so many posts about that online. I simply pass those by. Sometimes it’s a matter of engaging my rational thinking to remind myself that there are many reasons PGS normal embryos fail, and many of those reasons do not apply to me based on my medical history. I remind myself that worrying won’t help. Sometimes it is a matter of simply noticing the fear creeping up, observing it without judgment, and letting it pass by me. I picture these fears on a sailboat and watch them sail away. I don’t attach myself to them or feed them. Observing without judgment can take some practice, but this mindfulness strategy really helps me. And then I focus back on my embryo and the excitement my husband and I share about our future with two amazing children. I think I can hold onto this mindset – being optimistic and also accepting of whatever happens. I know we have a back up plan if we need it. We would do IVF again if we had to. I’ve come to peace with that, but I’m not going to focus on that now. I’ve done all the research I needed to when that was helpful for me, but now I’m not going to focus any more energy there. I’m not going to feed that path or the emotions that go with it. And that helps me with the acceptance part.
Now I’ve started the medications for the mock transfer and endometrial receptivity assay (ERA) to determine the optimal time for a transfer. We want to get the timing right since we only have one chance. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? This little healthy embryo is mine. My baby. I already feel the connection. And I want her home where she belongs.