I have an apprehensive feeling setting in. I have my baseline ultrasound and initial blood work for my frozen embryo transfer (FET) scheduled for Friday. This is the real deal. We have one embryo. One shot. And that’s making me nervous.
It’s so different from the first time we did IVF three years ago. Then we did a fresh 5-day transfer. When I showed up that day, 5 days after my egg retrieval, I didn’t even know how many embryos had made it. I knew that at least some did because the transfer wasn’t canceled. But I didn’t know anything about the embryos. That day I found out that 3 of 7 made it to early blasts, and 1 was lagging even more behind so they were going to watch it to see if it continued to grow. The RE recommended transferring 3 due to my age, 35 years, and quality of the embryos. We didn’t do PGS testing back then so it was based on visual grading. I was shocked when he suggested transferring all 3, but it gave us the best chance of success per his statistics and the risk of triplets was so small. I had been through so much by that point that I was willing to do anything to get pregnant, so we transferred all 3 and I was thrilled. That fourth one arrested so we didn’t have any left to freeze.
When I look back on that I realize there are some similarities between then and now. In both situations no embryos will be left over after the transfer. So really they are both one shot deals. If either failed, we would have to start IVF all over again. But I didn’t feel apprehensive that first time. I felt excited. I felt like for the first time EVER I had a real chance of becoming a mother. Why did I feel that way then, but feel so sacred now?
Well, I think there may be a few things going on now that are impacting my emotions.
First, let’s face it – my biological clock is screaming. We’re past ticking. I’ll be turning 40 in the middle of this FET. Happy birthday to me. The thing that scares me most about that is how poor my egg quality was despite supplements. At age 35 I still had some time for multiple retrievals if I needed them. We didn’t do banking, though I now wish we had. At that time we were paying out of pocket and doing multiple rounds for banking would have been a challenge. Plus my RE didn’t even mention it, and I was so focused on just trying to get pregnant that banking never even occurred to me. Truthfully, I thought one child would be enough if I was ever lucky enough to have one. And I am so blessed to have my daughter, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still feel a deep desire to grow our family like so many other people do. If this FET doesn’t work and I am faced with doing another egg retrieval, my egg quality could be even worse than it was this round. It might not work at all. So time isn’t my friend and that makes me nervous.
This time I was given the option of doing another egg retrieval after the first for banking, but I decided to move forward with the FET. It’s a gamble really. At this point we are only trying for one more child. We decided to go for it with our PGS normal embryo because my RE gave us a high chance for success. So we are betting on this little one.
Another thing that makes this time different from the first is the expectations. Mine, my husbands, my family and friends, even our daughter’s expectations. I was so fortunate that our first IVF worked for us. But I knew what a miracle that was. I read all the statistics about how most couples need multiple rounds of IVF to bring home that baby. I even participated in the Attain Financial program where you pay up front for three IVF cycles at a discounted rate and they reimburse you a large percentage of the cost if they all fail, so you don’t go completely in debt for nothing and can afford additional treatments or other options if necessary. There’s no reimbursement if it works on the first try, so really I ended up paying more than I would have if I had only paid for one round of IVF. But I don’t regret that decision because having that safety net was so reassuring during the process. I made that choice initially because I knew it would most likely take multiple attempts. But my loved ones hadn’t read the research I had. They pretty much expected IVF to work. And it did. So now my family and friends are already planning for my second baby. And, truth be told, so am I. PGS testing seems to make that expectation even higher. A normal embryo should stick, right? I know it’s no guarantee, but it raises the bar.
All in all, I suppose it’s kind of like expecting the worst and getting the worst. It’s harsh, no doubt. But when you expect it to work and it doesn’t – well that’s even more devastating. I want to be optimistic, and up until now I have been – but as I start this FET I feel more shaken than I had in the past. My expectations are so high. I don’t want to fall that far.
We’ve also been very open with our daughter about this whole process. It’s something I have mixed feeling about. I can completely understand why many parents would keep this a secret from their child until the pregnancy is well established. But I can’t even poop without my 2.5 year old all up in my business. Do you think I could administer 4 shots daily without her noticing? No, I couldn’t. So we decided to be honest with her. We told her that we are trying to make a baby and this is how mommy makes a baby. Of course she wanted to participate in the process. So I gave her a job that she proudly did every morning and evening. She was in charge of the alcohol wipes and wiped my belly before each shot. She talked about wanting to take the shots herself because she wanted a sister in her belly. We explained to her that if we are lucky to get a baby it could be a boy or a girl and we’d be grateful for either, but either way it will be in mommy’s belly. It was sweet. I have no idea where she got the idea of having a sister from but she was adamant. When we found out that we actually had one normal embryo – and it was a girl – we caved in our excitement and told her. She was so excited. I know telling her may not have been the smartest decision, but we couldn’t hide our elation. It’s done. And I’m terrified of letting her down. I want to give her that sister.
And the last thing that I think is weighing on me this time around is that I’m already picturing our lives with this second little girl. Somehow, knowing up front the gender of this little embryo that isn’t even in my womb yet has made her all the more real to me. I’m not sure if that even makes sense. With my first IVF baby, we didn’t even find out the gender until she was born. It was one of the best moments of her birth, at least in part because it was a pretty traumatic birth and seeing the look on my husband’s face as he told me our baby’s gender was a precious bright spot. I loved not knowing the gender during pregnancy, but honestly it did make me feel a tiny bit disconnected. It’s not that gender is so important, in fact I think it’s a bit overemphasized. But there is something more personal, to me, about naming the baby and connecting in that concrete way. Knowing that this little embryo is a girl has made her seem more concrete – more real. We’ve even started calling her by name. I can envision my two daughters growing up together.
Going though the lengthier mock transfer process has allowed me so much more time to create this attachment to this little embryo than I had when I did my fresh transfer 5 short days after my first egg retrieval. How can I be attached to an embryo that isn’t even in my womb yet? I’m not even pregnant yet. Still I sit here having these real feelings. And that make me more afraid of loosing her before we ever even had a chance.
As I write all of this out, it makes more sense to me why I’m feeling all these scary feeling as I begin my FET, rather than the excitement I expected to feel. While I really don’t want to go through this whole FET fearful, I do want to acknowledge these feelings and give them the respect they deserve. I do have good reasons for feeling the way I do, and I feel less confused having explored them. So now that I’ve acknowledged these feeling and have a better understanding of them, I’m going to look for ways to move past them. Ultimately, I want to go through this FET with hope, joy, and cautious optimism. With the help of the Divine and a small circle of support people, I think I’ll get there.