The Long Road to My Daughter
My firstborn is going to turn three at the end of this month. My daughter is an amazing little person: insanely verbal and incredibly funny, fashionable and energetic. It’s hard to believe that four years ago, I was sobbing on the floor of my closet after learning that I had failed my second IVF transfer. I still remember that day so well.
We had transferred in two fresh embryos and I was feeling hopeful.
I went for the blood test early in the morning and then went home to wait. I knew when the phone rang, that I would have to hide my excitement as I had a friend staying over. I ran into my bedroom to answer. The nurse told me matter-of-factly, but with sympathy in her voice, that the transfer had not worked and I was not pregnant. I pushed myself into the corner of my closet and sat on top of my shoes, tears pouring down my face, trying to hold back the scream that threatened to erupt from me.
None of this was supposed to be happening. I had wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. Before I was even married, I made lists of baby names and pictured walking around the city pushing a chic stroller holding an adorable infant. I remember being out to dinner with my husband and asking him when we would have a baby. He didn’t want to start trying for two years. He had a point. We had been best friends for most of college, but after years of on and off romance and poor timing, we had finally gotten together and things moved very quickly. We were ring shopping within weeks, and he moved in four months later, at which time we already had our wedding booked for the following summer.
It was fast. But we had known each other for 10 years and we were so happy. He wanted to give us time for ourselves. In hindsight, I’m so grateful for those years.
Two years later, I went off the pill and started tracking my cycle. In December, I started to bleed a week after ovulating. It wasn’t heavy and didn’t last long, but it happened month after month. I started to dread seeing that blood. It took forever to get answers. I was put on Clomid and had a test to see if my fallopian tubes were open. No one had an answer for the mid-cycle bleeding. Finally, I decided it was time to see a specialist.
My Reproductive Endocrinologist believed I had Endometriosis, which was eventually confirmed after laparoscopic surgery. Turns out that it wasn’t exactly normal that I used to throw up from cramp pain in high school or that my periods were super heavy. But what 15 year old sits down with her friends to discuss the intricacies of their monthly visitors?
Fast forward: I had the surgery and an official diagnosis, started doing acupuncture, and began taking injections for egg retrievals. My doctor wanted to collect embryos and bank them before essentially putting my body into menopause for 3 months to help reset my reproductive system.
Waiting, waiting and more waiting. Due to two copies of the MTHFR mutation and an elevated number of natural killer cells, I was at an increased risk for miscarriage. My first batch of embryos didn’t make it to day 5 and my second batch all tested as chromosomally abnormal, except for 1. Finally, we had 6 embryos that tested healthy.
On the first transfer day, we planned to transfer in one male and one female embryo. Neither of our two male embryos survived the “defrosting” process, so we transferred in two females. I was thrilled when two weeks later, my blood test revealed that I was pregnant. A girl! I was so excited.
Until two days later when I started bleeding and was suddenly no longer pregnant. Soon after, we moved to Philadelphia. We started going to a new fertility clinic. We failed the first fresh transfer and then the frozen transfer a few months later. In December, we had four embryos and decided to transfer all of them. In retrospect, this seems insane, but we were desperate.
So there we were on Christmas Eve. I started spotting and immediately broke down. I knew we were facing another failure.
However, a couple of days later, I experienced period waves of nausea, but didn’t dare to believe that this could be a good thing. A few hours after my blood test, the phone rang. This time, it was one of my doctors. He was so excited to share the good news that he insisted on calling himself. I was finally pregnant!
That August, my tiny perfect baby was born. It wasn’t the easiest pregnancy: I was nauseous and on medication for over 20 weeks. She was diagnosed with IUGR (intrauterine restrictive growth) so I had to have twice weekly sonograms and fetal heart rate monitoring for the last month. She stubbornly stayed head up, so I had to have a c-section. But finally, she was here and everything we went through was worth it.
I don’t claim to have PTSD from my experience. It was the hardest time in my life, but it helped to bring my husband and I even closer together. It taught me to trust my gut and seek expert help. It taught me how strong I really am. It taught me who I can really lean on in times of despair.
I even rediscovered my spirituality. I started attending an Episcopal church where my husband and I deeply connected with our wonderful reverend. He gave me a snippet of a hymn that he hoped would bring us comfort. It provided great solace to me. To this day, I carry it in my wallet: “Take from our souls the strain and stress And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of thy peace.
I sometimes wished I’d handled some of it better. I wish I’d sought help sooner. I wish so much time hadn’t been wasted. But then again, my daughter is here. She’s absolutely perfect. We tease her about how expensive she was, which makes her mad because she doesn’t understand that we would have done anything to have her.
Someday, I hope she will.