That’s how I responded to the last phone call I got from the doctor. Partially because I got this call in the middle of a session about student conduct during the opening weekend events that I planned. Wasn’t exactly a place where I could have any emotions. Partially because I knew way before she called what she was going to say.
I’ve gotten enough “Colleen, I’m sorry, but…” phone calls to be able to predict them before I even get them.
So, now that you know the ending, let’s Tarantino this. We finished our second cycle of IVF and I had my retrieval on August 28th. The whole cycle just felt weird. Granted, I only have one thing to compare it to. But it was strange. I couldn’t tell if it was because I was doing so many more shots than last time or if the meds made me feel different, but the whole time just felt off. I was trying not to do a side by side comparison because the medications and protocols this time (micro dose flare) were totally different. But it’s hard not to think, “this doesn’t feel like last time” since it was just a couple months ago. When I did think that, though, I followed that up with, well maybe that’s good? Since we didn’t have a good result before, perhaps it is good it doesn’t feel the same.
But, every time I went in to get my bloodwork and ultrasound (every 2 or 3 days) I kept searching for more tiny little circles on the screen and there just didn’t seem to be a lot. Remember, the whole reason we were doing this “more aggressive” protocol was to be able to generate more eggs than last time. Get more embryos and then have a higher likelihood of getting some that tested normal. So, the numbers were important.
In the beginning of the cycle I had about 14 follicles growing, but you never know how many will get to be to the right size for retrieval (at least 19mm). As the cycle moved on, I had one dominant follicle on one side that was getting huge, but not leaving much room for any others, and then I had a few on the other side. So, I already had a bad feeling that the numbers didn’t add up (this math major brain never escapes me).
I went into the retrieval with the hope (there’s that beyotch hope coming back again) that some of the smaller ones grew since the trigger shot 36 hours prior. When I woke up from the anesthesia, the nurse came in and joyfully announced “We got 6 eggs!”. I immediately started crying, she was so confused. See, she didn’t have the numbers from before, she didn’t know the entire purpose of this round was MORE. Last time I had 9 and ended up with no healthy embryos. When you say 6. I think FAILURE. So, it was tough. Doctor came in and saw me, and tried to reassure. Saying it’s not all numbers, sometimes it is quality over quantity. But, from the jump I was uneasy.
The next day they call you with your fertilization numbers. The nurse who called, again was jubilant and exclaimed “you had 5 out of 6 fertilize! That is fabulous!”. Now I know she has a bajillion patients, and that some have very few eggs to start with and that those numbers are *in theory* good. But, again my inner monologue said “Nahhhhh, that’s terrible.” Last time I had 9 out of 9. This time I have 5 out of 6. Nope Nope Nope. No Bueno.
But now I needed to wait from Tuesday until Saturday to get THE EMAIL that tells me how many embryos made it to day 5 and were biopsied for testing. This is when I learned last time that we went from 9 embryos to two to test. And that was a blow. Luckily I was busier than ever at work all week training my student leaders. So, I didn’t have a lot of time to worry. But we had a day off on Saturday and that was D-Day. I was in my favorite place, York Beach, so it was a lovely, relaxing setting. But I was legit refreshing my gmail every 2 minutes looking for that email. Alas, it never came.
I got my behind up at 5 am the next day to head to campus for one of the busiest and most fun days of the year, move-in day. Again, the craziness of work helped distract from the anxiety of not hearing. But it was constantly looming in the back of my mind with the 18485939296584 other things I was coordinating that weekend. Kenny was in Maine having a grand old time with my family (slightly salty but it’s ok), but we were texting a lot about this information we were waiting on. He, being his calm self, kept saying it’s a long, holiday weekend. Maybe stuff is just slow. I wanted to believe him, but I knew better. I knew they were open every day because they needed to do procedures every day. Once Sunday came and went with no information I knew I needed to call, but I also already knew the outcome. Last time I got a phone call from the lab on Day 6 saying they got the biopsies and what to expect. This time, no email from the clinic, no call from the lab.
I came into work on Labor Day after advising a late night event until 1am and staying over at a colleague’s place. I called the clinic shortly after they opened. For some reason the way the woman who answered the phone responded to me saying “Hi, I was just calling to check on my email about testing. I was supposed to get it Saturday and never heard” just confirmed everything I already felt. She didn’t say anything specific, but the tone in her “Oh” just told me a lot. She sent me to the nurse on call and I left a voicemail. Then, I waited some more.
In between then and receiving the call, I facilitated a surprise visit from a Celtics player to a student on our campus receiving a scholarship. It was a big deal and was both stressful and fun. Even though I was working my little booty off all weekend, I am still grateful for having fun colleagues, and awesome students, and exciting events to take my mind off of everything in the land of shitty-town going on outside of work.
Around noon, I ran over to check on our student conduct session. I sat down with some coworkers and I get a NO ID phone call. My stomach sank as I got up to head into the hallway to take it. *Fun fact. When doctors call you from their personal phones from home on the weekends, they block their numbers. So, I knew it wasn’t the nurse on call, calling me from the clinic to tell me not to worry that there was some email glitch! It was a doctor, which means my case was passed on to someone else. Not good. And yes, I actually thought all of these things n the 5 seconds before I answered the call.
A Dr., not my doctor, but the same one to call with my bad testing news last time said “Colleen, it’s Dr. _____, I’m sorry but I do not have good news for you. None of your embryos made it to the blastocyst phase. So, unfortunately, we didn’t have any that we could send out for testing. I am so sorry. Please call to make an appointment with your doctor tomorrow.”
And then I walked over to the gym to meet a performer and get his AV set up.
Literally all of my hopes and dreams were crushed in one 30 second phone call. And I just went about my business. Because I knew. Because I sort of had no choice. Because I didn’t know what else to do.
I was heading home around 5, I just needed to make it to the car before I lost it. Powered through another 5 hours just going about my business. People tell me that is “impressive”, but I just generally don’t know what the other option would have been. I hoped I wouldn’t hear from Kenny. I wanted to tell him in person. I knew telling him would be the thing to break my wall of acting normal. Of course he texted me right before I was leaving…”Assuming you haven’t heard anything from the doctor?”
*Side Note. I had flashbacks of the only time I ever got a ticket, back in college. I borrowed my mom’s nice, new car while my old POS was being repaired. I may have grossly underestimated how much faster and smoother it would drive. Got pulled over and got a hefty ticket. The whole way back to my apartment I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, and how to handle it without telling my mom. I had to call her when I get there, because duh, and was doing good job avoiding until she says “How was the ride? Uneventful I am assuming?” And then I was done, and had to tell her.
So, I had to text Kenny back and say I actually did hear. And I heard the worst possible answer from them. We have nothing. We did all of this and have nothing. And now I have no idea what to do.
When we both got back to the house we had an hour of me being sad, but also angry and aggressive and stand-off-ish-because that is how I do sad. And then I crashed. I felt bad, but I couldn’t handle being consoled at the moment. The next morning we got up and got ready for work. And that was the first time in this whole process that Kenny cried. And that hit me the hardest. The entire time he has been so calm, so hopeful, so positive. -often to a fault that made me want to punch him. But still, that is what I had come to expect. But now, he was crying. And I have only seen that really happen once before in 10 years. That is how I knew…this shit is bad.
I put him in charge of calling the doctor to set up an appointment. I made one before the results, and the earliest they could give me was October 2nd. That’s a whole other blog post about how you need to wait a month for an appointment to determine your entire future. But anyway, he called and could only get it moved to September 29th. One day earlier, thankssssss doctor’s office.
Now, we are left with heartache, exhaustion, and questions. So many questions. After last time we were given essentially two options. (1) It could just be a numbers game, and we need to get your numbers up so we have more options to choose from or (2) it is possible we have fragmentation of DNA coming from the sperm, because the loss of embryos happened between day 3 and day 5 which is when the father’s DNA starts to kick in. It wasn’t an entire panic moment, because option 1 wasn’t too bad. But option 2 was really bad. The sentence was “The test to check for fragmentation is $1000 and not covered by insurance. So, I would only recommend getting that test if you would consider donor material.”
Oh. It’s like that? Yeah. With this time we were hoping for option 1, we get the numbers up, we send 4 or 5 to test, maybe half of them come back normal and we prepare for implantation. Yay. But instead we have nothing, started with less and ended up with 0. The things going through my mind are endless, but here is a snap shot.
- Everyone always said how cute our babies would be. I always wanted to find out, but I don’t think I ever will.
- What if I never get to see a sonogram that actually has a baby in it instead of just the white circles I am counting?
- We could never afford a private adoption, they’re like $40,000. How are we going to do that?
- Would I even want donor sperm? If it won’t be OUR biological baby isn’t it better if we adopt a baby instead of getting donor material?
- Can I figure out how to get a cute, Haitian sperm donor?
- Will it be weird for Kenny if I had a sperm donor?
- What if I get a sperm donor and that still doesn’t work?
- I’ve put my body through so much. I don’t know if I can do this again.
- What if we pay $1000 for the test and that isn’t the problem? I don’t want that problem, because it is pretty much a dead end. But, at least finally finding out a reason would be good. Right?
These are just a few of the things I think about constantly. But the biggest one is as much as I always wanted to be a mother, a parent, in any capacity. I also really always wanted to be pregnant. I wanted the belly, I wanted the swollen ankles (in theory). I wanted the maternity clothes and the sleepless nights and to feel the kicks and to do a cute “announcement”. The idea that might never happen is utterly terrifying. But, so are all the methods we may have to go through to get there. We talked about adoption years before we even talked about marriage, and were both open to it. But also both considered it as an “in addition”, not an “only”. And we are still open to it, if we can sell a kidney or something. But, if I am being honest with myself, I want all of it. Maybe it is selfish. I do feel a little guilty knowing there are babies out there who need a loving home we could provide. But I want to nurse a baby, if I can. And I want to look at the baby and say she has my nose or my freckles or something.
And everything in my soul is crushed at the thought that may never be. But, for now we are just left with more questions than answers. So, I need to just sit and stew in my crazy mind of what-ifs and googling how to fundraise for adoptions or how sperm donors work or if you can adopt biracial embryos (yes, adopting embryos is a thing).
It’s just so much. My heart, and mind, and body are just so tired. I feel like I lost a game 62 to 0. 62 shots, and 0, well…anything.
Sorry to end a LONG ASS BLOG POST on such a sad note. But its the truth. And I am letting it all hang out tonight.