This is how you came to be (an IVF Story)…
Having spent weeks wondering when I should start documenting the experience for your future records, like telling friends or writing it all down somehow curses it. Maybe it does. It does put it out there to the universe, that’s always waiting to crumple up your dreams and throw them in the wastebasket. Let’s fly in the face of that black hole and get started…
I spent the first year of fertility treatment getting a few IUI’s. They first bring you in and examine your pipes, to make sure there are no obstructions, and everything is in good order to continue. Makes sense. Let me tell you! That exam where they check your tubes is so painful. A coworker of mine who went through this process as well agreed that it was like birth pain. I am not looking forward to that!
IUI’s are interesting. You have to take medications for a few days to build up your eggs, and then get a shot to release them. In the interim, they do intravaginal ultrasounds to check your lining and ovaries. It’s moderately invasive, comparatively speaking. Relatively painless, keeping in mind that I had to select the sperm of a man I didn’t know, and suffer losing my choice until the one. That genetic material is placed inside you, and you can imagine how anxious I was made thinking of that. God help me, but I was a romantic most of my life believing in the finding of true love and lasting forever with the right one. Probably that is why I am still single as I move toward brining you into this world. I still think the right one is out there, but I was wrong that he’d be your dad.
Your dad is an anonymous donor ####. He was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States to go to school out West. At the time, he was a PhD candidate. I’m sorry he wasn’t interested in contact later, but neither was I. My reasoning was, I don’t want attachments for either of us, because I have no idea who this person is. Experience told me that this was the wisest course of action. Me and this fella were on the same page. Hopefully he’s not an ass hole or weird. I was interested in his brain and passing that intellectual level onto you. My own IQ is pretty high (145), and I wanted my girl to have the best possible chance of having the world as her oyster. You’ll see all too soon, even though I hope things will change by the time you’re old enough to read this, why this was on my mind. In 2017, we’re still fighting for equality. We’re told we’re asking too much and too entitled. I guess wanting to be safe from sexual assault is too much to ask most folks.
Back to the IUIs…I attended my local fertility center, and met some amazing nurses. Rebecca stands out highly for me. She supported me through a rough patch in this journey, when an IUI resulted in a blighted ovum and I eventually miscarried. (It was right when I was supposed to be starting a new job, a promotion in the State. A double whammy for my double depression cure.)
After that miscarriage, I took a couple months to feel better, save a little more cash, because this was way expensive to undertake even with insurance. I had to find a new donor, and that is when our donor came up. At this point, I thought it was really wise to go with IVF now. This allowed for genetic testing of the embryos created, and unless they were all good, they wouldn’t be put back, limiting my chances of having another miscarriage.
3 retrievals later, I had but one embryo, and that was you. The others were nonviable, deteriorating or genetically abnormal. I learned from that test that you were a girl. I sounded like Goldie Hawn in Overboard when the doctor told me. I remember hearing him smile and chuckle over the other end when I repeated, “A little girl?” obviously tearing up. A boy would have been neat to have because of carrying on the family name, but a little girl was a deep challenge for me; a great responsibility.
Growing up, I experienced abuse by someone our family had trusted and by boys slightly older than me, but then I met someone at college who took the cake on them all. In the end, I wrote my trilogy and felt that this was a sign of healing. But the journey through was hard, and I still have much else to heal. You feel all sorts of negative, self-blaming emotions. You have to rebuild and realize that not a thing is or ever was wrong with you, that it was those monsters who stole your choices and betrayed you to commit their violence. My responsibility now is to make sure nothing of the like EVER happens to you, my girl. God help anyone who tries. I will raise a warrior, a genius, and a lionheart. I will do all I can to prepare you.
In July of 2016, the egg that was to become part of your embryo was retrieved. It was fertilized later that day. Five days later, cells were taken for testing and ten days later I heard you were beautiful and would be held for when I was ready to transfer. I had one more vial of donor sperm, so I did another cycle. Of 12 follicles, I had 12 eggs. Few survived. None were normal. It broke my heart a little, because I knew the chances of one embryo making it were very nil. Instead of stopping, or getting more donor sperm, I chose to schedule your transfer. If it didn’t work out, I would rest and save more money to continue.
On November 18, your Nonna’s birthday, I had you placed in my uterus. The procedure is similar to IUI, except that a doctor has to do the process. It’s a little bit more invasive. You sit in stirrups and they use an ultrasound to guide a catheter past the cervix and place you near the lining. The attending nurse gave me a photo of you as an embryo. Fighting the tears, I just let myself rest in the bed and stopped myself from picturing you in your wedding dress, smiling at me. No. I would not even entertain graduation. I mean, who knows that you’ll ever want to get married? At this point in my life, I could totally understand never wanting that for yourself. I don’t even know if you’ll identify cis female! I have a lot to see yet. I have to let you show me who you are, yet.
That day, I went home and put the photograph away after taking a shot for my cell. I knew some friends at work would be interested in seeing it, and I wanted to show Nonna and Poppy, your aunt Rachel and Uncle Kevin—Sadie Sue. There was no getting out of that.
I didn’t mention the crap you go through for the retrieval. It’s dignity stripping and hard at times. You have to take all these meds, injections to beef up your eggs and make them grow, then you take something to hold them on your ovaries. When it comes to d-day, you take a couple injections to bring them to the edge. Then they haul you in and you go under anesthesia. They put needles in your hands, breathing mask on your face. (Here comes the dignity stripping stuff…) You’re naked but for a robe and a blanket. Heart monitors go on. The nurse sponges your vagina with what look like those sponge brushes to do wood finishing with. I found that out the last time. No wonder I felt like I did the football team after! Please don’t faint from the image. I survived the discomfort just fine. And it will be a long lost memory once you’re here.
While you’re out, they use a long needle through the wall of your vagina, ultrasound, and suction to grab the eggs. Not every one you produce will be worth grabbing, but they suck em all out if they see a follicle. They’re given over to the genetics lab, and fertilized later after a little assessment. Some do, some don’t. Some deteriorate, others are abnormal. The few golden eggs will then be tested by another facility to be sure they are normal.
The nurses and doctors made it all bearable. They were the kindest medical professionals I had ever met in my life (except Terri, a nurse who spent the night with me when I broke my wrists in the Sixth grade). And it’s a good thing they are. Following the transfer, medications continue. Now it’s daily injections of sesame oil with progesterone, suppositories of estrogen and more progesterone. I was passing residual pieces of pill for weeks after stopping. My hips killed for days after stopping the injections. I had welts from this stuff.
I’m not one to whine, but boy did I whine by mid-January. I felt like I had a urinary tract infection, and the endometrin was burning my vagina. I called to see what they could, and Rebecca stepped in again and tested me for a UTI. I was put on antibiotics, to add to my pill regimen for ten days, and then I was later switched from endometrin to a cream called crinone. It was better, but again, I passed residue for days after stopping. It looked like blood sometimes, light-light smears on my liner. Chunks in the toilet.
What made it all worth it was going into appointments and seeing that you had stuck. I was shocked, to be honest. There was this little nugget growing in my uterus. Right on time, the flapping of your heartbeat showed. At one point, you looked like a hippo, and it was so adorable. I don’t think I will ever forget the sound of that heartbeat. I’ve heard it a few times now, and it just makes me smile.
At the time I am writing this, I just had my first ultrasound at the OB who will be delivering you in the same hospital that I was born in. It’s the same practice that delivered me and Uncle Kevin. Fitting, I think. Today, I had a bit of a scare, seeing spotting, but the doctor assured me that it was just from the coughing. You see, I caught a cold from work. Coughing hard has been the biggest part of it. She’s absolutely certain that is all it is (and what a sweet woman she sounded like, I can’t wait to see her). The spotting stopped, but my heart fell to the floor. I can’t lose her. My girl will be born. This is happening!
Spotting is more common in pregnancy than you are told. Still, need to take it easy and your poor Aunt Rachel bent over backwards today to help me get my laundry done, make dinner, and keep things quiet. This was after I had done a couple loads and made banana bread. So, now I just sit her feeling sick to my stomach and worried all over again. I’ll tell you what, life doesn’t cut you any slack. It knows what you care about and it pushes and threatens it. Tomorrow I will go back to work, after a couple days of resting with this cold, and try not to give it any more thought. Holding my coughs in, has become a game. Peeing is nerve wracking. Please hang in there, kid.
Come to find out, I had a bad yeast and bacterial infection. So, I was given meds to clear that up, and we’re going to be fine, kiddo.
It’s June and I just turned 42. You’ve been rolling around my belly for weeks. I watch it dance as I sit and write this. In a few more weeks, I will find out who you are and look into your little eyes. I’ve had countless ultrasounds and I’ve seen you in 3D. It simply cannot show me enough of you.
This pregnancy is indeed progressing. Despite two colds and not being able to take a thing, we’re both doing great.
Unfortunately, my age and how I conceived you increased some complications. Placenta Previa for one. That translates to seeing you earlier than expected. Oddly enough, I was born early by a couple weeks too, but Nonna delivered me vaginally. I wish with all my heart that this would correct and you’d be born nearer your due date. It bothers me that you won’t have those weeks to be absolutely developed. The alternative is that we could both die, though. No one wants that, least of all me.
On our last appointment, the doctor showed concern that you’re not developing as large as they would like. I am concerned this is the previa. They want to send me for a second opinion. Friends have said, no need to worry, that you’re doing great and the tech screwed up somehow. During the last exam, you were perfect. How can this be? Now I’m waiting, and scared and upset, for an appointment at the hospital near me. Doctor said she did not think it was all that serious, which I guess explains the dragging of the feet. How many times do I have to push through with my heart in my throat?
Our next appointment is the end of next week. Will they schedule me for a C then? Hoping for July 24, if I can’t have full term. All I know is, you weighed 4.5 lbs. and your heart rate was perfect, and I am holding onto that as proof you’re 100% okay.
It’s the middle of July! And boy are you due soon. It’s overwhelming, exciting, and scary. The shower Nana put together was beautiful. You’ll see the pictures when you’re old enough to understand them. I am very grateful to friends and family for supporting us and coming out to celebrate. Now to do those thank you notes!
Yesterday, I finished up getting some needed things. My hip is killing me and my feet and ankle are swelling like crazy. The doctor is not concerned, but I made sure to show her. My vitals and all that show no signs of preeclampsia. As I write this update, my feet look a lot better and I’ve been taking a lot of rest with my legs up. Sadie is keeping my ankles warm. She likes to share the pillows I’m using.
Some good news: the doctor set our dates for Cesarean section as August 1. Please sit tight. It’s not that far off, and we need to wait. The Braxton Hicks are noticeable now, and they make me nervous (just like any first time mamma). Trying to drink 100 oz. of water to keep hydrated. That helps with everything, including the swelling.
I cannot wait to see your little face, Katie. Everyone out here is real excited. Lisa, my friend at work, keeps me calm by assuring me that you are perfect. Worrying is just part of pregnancy, and how I roll.
I can hardly believe it’s only a couple weeks now…
Here I am updating this and you are 2 months old and just had your first vaccines. You cried terrible in the moment, but you’ve been just fine the rest of the day. It killed me. There’s so much that breaks your heart, when you become a parent, little things that didn’t bother you much before, but when they happen to your little one they become a big deal. I won’t regret making you safe from disease, though.
After a stay at Nonna and Poppy’s for 7 weeks, we came home to get settled into this new life. It was really nice sharing you with your grandparents and they love you so much. I asked Nonna if she’d like to write you a letter to open up when you’re eighteen. I hope she does. It would be marvelous.
What’s been happening in the months since you arrived? You were born at 6 lbs. 10 oz. and 19 inches in length. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The nurses gushed over you. One in particular picked out a pink knit cap just for you, she said you had to have it because you were such a pretty baby. All the nurses were fantastic. I’m so glad I decided on Saratoga Hospital. Our surgeon was wonderful and made the procedure quite fast. Boy was that an experience. As you know, I had a placenta previa, and they decided to schedule me on Friday, July 21, after all. So you came earlier than I had wanted. But I have no regrets since holding you. The spinal was incredibly painful during application, but I felt nothing after that, numb clear up to my breasts! My legs stayed numb through the rest of the day, but that also helped me not feel the incision across my belly. (I forgot to mention that the medication they gave me to not get sick made me get sick, and I was nauseated for days when I got home, too.) You are worth every bit of it. I’m in absolute awe. Upon waking, bolting upright, I make sure you’re still here and still breathing.
What else can I tell you? Your nursery is done, but for one more piece of artwork, which I will get you for Christmas, I think. You’re in love with the AT-AT decal on the wall by your changing table. You stare at it and smile. I’m so glad you like it. I was very excited to get it for you. If we should move and have to leave it behind, I will remake it for you in photoshop and get a poster printed.
I’ve been collecting odds and ends for a keepsake box about you. My hope is that you’ll appreciate family and history, and something like this will mean a great deal to you when you are older. I can’t express to you how important family really is. After spending nearly 2 months with your grandparents, and your uncle and cousin visiting for a few days, I am reminded of the ties that bind us. We may disagree and even fight, but those ties remain and they matter. They give not only security, but also keep us strong when we struggle. Our family will extend those ties with you, and I hope to teach you to be a loving and empathetic soul, while making you a strong, healthy, and intelligent woman.
Places you’ve been by 2 mos.: Nonna and Poppy’s, The Vermont Country Store, Manchester Vermont, Bowman Orchards, The Doctor’s Office, Mommy’s Work, Visit Aunt Rachel at Work, Hanaford Supermarket, CVS, and Brueger’s Bagels.
In November, as you neared 4 months old, we visited the Disney Store, but you slept through it. That’s where I got you Bullseye and Elliott. Then mama drooled over a Star Wars action figure set.
Your smile and laugh is infectious, my dear Katie. I find myself loving you more and more every day, if that is possible. Here’s to a new year full of more wonders and your growth.