As I type, the words are blurry from the tears. My heart is broken. And it’s in moments like these that hope seems impossible. The waves of grief, loss, and utter despair hit like a Mac truck. I am not ok. I feel like I am living the worst kind of ground hogs day since we just recently shared our last failed embryo transfer. On August 20th, I had my second frozen embryo transfer and 11 days later we found out that it failed.
I never fully understood the pain of those trying for their second child. I always thought how the pain must have been 10x harder for those without having any children. But the chill reality for myself is having a sweet taste of motherhood and knowing that in every fiber of my body that is the role I was meant to have. And the utter heartbreak of knowing that joy and love and not being able to give it to more than one child. It’s something I have thought about a lot and something I now deeply understand. As I sit in this numb fog, the irony is that my butt is literally still numb from the progesterone injections and I still have permanent marker circles drawn on my butt cheeks from where I would have continued my shots if I had gotten pregnant. It all stings. Literally and figuratively.
Why I am deciding to share this so soon after our failed transfer is that I can’t just pretend things are normal because they aren’t. So much is going on in the world that I care so passionately about, but I have been secretly struggling through our fertility as the world simultaneously is hurting and the pressures of having a platform and showing up for others can feel daunting when your own life is consumed with its own fight. I just want to say, to always be kind to others because you NEVER know the struggles they are fighting in their lives. Especially in this Covid world where many people have lost their jobs, lost loved ones, and so many other pieces of life can be turned upside down. That being said, I try to carry on and move forward because it is what needs to happen in life. But now you know what has and is going on in the background.
I have preached so many times about hope, and strength and courage, and I don’t want this first piece of this story to throw you off. While I sit in a deep dark cave, even if I don’t see the light, I know it’s there. I have had that hope in the past and while it might be wavering now, I know it’s there. So let me explain what happened this cycle.
PRP FOR Recurrent Implantation Failure
Something we did different this cycle in hopes of success was PRP. Since I had a failed transfer before Otis, and then recently, we decided we wanted to try this. Of course it came with a price tag but anything new that could be a leg up I was all about trying. Platelet- Rich Plasma, or PRP, is used in patients with recurrent implantation failure. I basically went in 2 times, 1 week before transfer and 48 hours before transfer to give blood, wait for them to gather the plasma, and then inject it back into my own uterus. It’s supposed to be newer treatment that has success attached to it so that is one thing we did very differently this time.
Frozen Embryo Prep
This being the 3rd time we prepped for Frozen Embryo Transfer in the last 5 months… you could say we were already running in the swing of things at the start of this one. This one also seemed to fly by. Each week, each new medication, the process just seemed faster likely because I was going through the motions, and getting things done and in such a rhythm from the past cycles. Everything went smoothly with medications for the most part. The only different thing this time was that the progesterone in oil shots (aka the butt shots) started to hurt way sooner this time around. I think because I still had scar tissue from the last round of FET, the discomfort from the injections started almost instantly. Insult to injury am I right?? Also the injection area became numb because of the nerves in the area so that was freaky and not fun at all either. And to be clear, the actual injections are not bad at all in my opinion. I guess that is also coming from someone that now has an intimate relationship with shots so don’t quote me on anything. It’s not the needle that hurts, the aftermath of the progesterone lumps in my butt that hurt and sting. I do the whole massage thing, have used heat, but none of it really helps. You just grit down and get through it. I just think of each shot getting me closer to the baby. For the most part though, it was a swift and smooth process to get ready for transfer day. I was at my last appointment getting ready, when I double checked to be sure that Blake could come with me this time. We had planned to have Otis spend the night at my sisters so that Blake could take me and it could be a more loving experience for me since last time we checked, partners were allowed to join for the procedure. Unfortunately, I got the news that because of the recent covid spike in Southern California, partners were no longer allowed to come for procedures. My heart sank. It’s so hard not to get frustrated in these moments because infertility in the time of covid makes you walk more alone than you would normally. But, protocol is protocol and it was not something to be obsessed and linger on. But it was part of my plan that was now shifted. But, like anything else, you need to just readjust and keep moving forward. That all being said, if you are going through infertility for your first time during covid-19 having to go to appointments alone, procedures alone, my heart just reaches out to yours because I know how scary it can be at first to navigate. Just know your army of women are here. And we are all marching into those appointments with courage.
Blake and Otis drove me to my procedure on embryo transfer day. 30 minutes prior to my appointment per usual and I gave them both a kiss, popped my valium and headed upstairs. Before you go back to the room, you need to fill out a ton of paperwork verifying your info etc and as I was filling out my sheets, I came across someone else’s sheet mixed in with my forms. THANK GOD I had taken the valium already or I might have had a full blown meltdown. I went back to the front desk and I think the woman felt HORRIBLE for mixing up a paper. When I dropped my papers off to her I said, “ I don’t have to worry about getting my own embryo right?!” Kind of half joking… but also, dead serious. It is in moments like this you really just need to step back and think that nothing in life is perfect and mistakes happen and not to let it ruin the vibe of transfer day. I WAS ZEN and nothing was going to change that.
I then went to my procedure room and met with the embryologist who went through all my information and that instantly calmed my nerves. Then my doctor came in to review everything and we were ready to get the show on the road! They always take a photo of my embryo for me before we start which is so special. My little baby, sitting in its little embryo station. SCIENCE IS BEAUTIFUL. Even though last transfer I videoed Blake and it was chaotic, I decided to video him in again as just a bit of support. It did feel good to have him there somehow. He put himself on mute so he could hear (maybe?) what was going on. My doctor first takes a quick measurement of my lining to make sure everything is looking good and it was a little bit lower than expected. It was more like 7.6 or 7.8 overall which we normally aim for 8 but she said she saw a thicker portion in a certain spot she would aim for. Not something you love to hear before shoveling your embryo in… but not every cycle is the same and if the doctor was happy, I was happy. A few minutes later and our beautiful little embryo was happily inside my uterus. I laid down for 20-30 minutes after and listened to some of my favorite chill tunes until it was time to get up and go. This was it. And now that wait continued.
2 Week Wait
During our two week wait, 2WW, we had A LOT going on. My transfer was on a Thursday and I was on bedrest from Thursday through all day Saturday. I called it my “momcation” lol. Blake took time off from work and was on Otis duty 24/7. I stayed in bed for everything except a potty run or getting my injections. I watched a ton of movies but the first one I always watch when I get home is Father of the Bride Part 2. LOVE THAT MOVIE and it always gives me those good feeling vibes. This time, I made sure to plan all our meals ahead of time so I was enjoying all my favorite things. I always cut all caffeine as recommended by my doctor so I sip my hot water with lemon with all my meals. I facetimed Otis for all my meals which made me feel like part of the family and so sweet to see his little face. I have some of the sweetest photos of him laughing and eating pasta with me on facetime. Every night Blake would bring him in after his bath to give me a kiss and try to have a little snuggle while Blake watched him to make sure he wouldn’t jump on me or anything. Hard with an active toddler but at night, he loves those milk and movie snuggles so glad I could get some mini snuggle time with him. Toward Saturday, being in bed starts to get boring even for a mom that REALLY needed some time to rest. By Sunday I was slowly getting back into the swing of things and suddenly in full party prep mode for Otis!
So Sunday I was off bedrest and his birthday was on Tuesday. Blake was able to take off work on Monday and Tuesday so he could help prepare for Otis’ birthday. This was so helpful and amazing because now, I couldn’t’ lift Otis at all, so he was able to really help out more so with him as I eased back into my normal routines. Even though party planning has its own stress involved, it was EPIC to have something to focus my attention on during the TTW. And even luckier that we also planned a drive by birthday for Otis’ friends to come on Saturday so we had a lot to work on and distract us during the week.
On the eve of my blood work, A peaceful calm fell over me. Maybe I was still smiling from celebrating Otis and his birthday. Maybe it was because I was scrolling through photos of him dancing but I just couldn’t help smiling. How lucky was I??? A mom of a 2 year old person that continues to bring me so much joy every day. This is the hope you hold out for. This is what every injection is meant for. This is why time after time you pick yourself up and get back up. And that day, my heart smiled. Knowing that I had that chance to find out I was pregnant the next day. This was going to be my chance where I got lucky to do this again.
I woke up feeling so good. Calm. Relaxed. It was shocking. My plan was to wake up, pee in a cup, and have Blake do a HPT (home pregnancy test) when I left the house for my blood work. My mindset here is that I never want to get a blind call from the doctor with negative news and I DON’T want to know before I have to go see people in a doctors office so always leave the pee and make Blake test it. My relationship with the “devil sticks” as I call it… well, it ain’t good so I am thankful that Blake takes on the HPT duty.
I headed to my doctor’s appointment and one of my favorite nurses was there to take my blood. We chatted, and honestly, I was feeling good. Feeling so confident in the weirdest of ways. I had had some light cramping the past days so I figured that was a positive sign. I headed quickly back to my car to test Blake to give me the results.
He first text back and asked how blood work went before I quickly and boldly asked WHAT THE RESULTS WERE. “Negative.” He said. A pit sank in my stomach, and the tears started to stream as I sat in the parking lot. Flashbacks to our last failed transfer and negative HPT. It had failed… AGAIN. At this point it was 8:45 and I needed to head home right away to get back on Mom duty to watch Otis since Blake had to go to work. I had to try to dry my tears up so I could drive home safely. I did my best to focus and get myself home. The waves of grief continually tug at my heart. EVERY. DAMN. SECOND. I walked inside and Otis smiled at me screaming “MAMA!!!” as he always does when I enter a room. I had to smile. But it almost made my heart break twice knowing I didn’t make him a baby sibling.
I cried most of the day. On and off. Without warning. But what I talked about before is mourning this loss as a mother is so difficult. I didn’t want to be hysterically crying in front of Otis all day. He needs a mother that is happy and making him smile. But it’s not easy. Blake came out at lunch and I lost it. Trying to cover my face in front of Otis so he couldn’t’ see my tears. The frustration of just having to FIGHT and STRUGGLE for so long, all of it just feels so unfair. I sobbed as I told him I just wish it was easy like everyone else. It was just so hard.
Today, I am still not ok. And to be honest I won’t be ok for a while. I know this isn’t the story you want to be reading and trust me when I say it’s not the story I thought I would be typing. But it’s the cruel reality of infertility that there are no guarantees. What makes this failure even more devastating is that we only have 1 more embryo left. So talk about pressure and your whole freaking family life flashing before your eyes. Your heart on the chopping block. Every time I think about it breaks me into pieces. I have been in that situation before, and sadly, we did not have a happy ending. Everything about this process will give you PTSD or at least it did for me. When you talk about being hopeful, it’s likely one of the hardest things you can achieve while going through treatment. But in the end, hope is what we all have. Faith that we can put our best hopeful heart forward and do everything in our power to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know what our future holds right now, but I know I will have the courage to move forward. My mission in writing these blog posts about our infertility journey is shed some light on the realities of fertility treatment. It’s important to know the good, the bad and the ugly and to know that though times can be very dark, the rewards can be life’s sweetest.
Blake turned to me yesterday and said, “WOW. Can you believe just how special a miracle that Otis is???” And he is so right. Bless our little rainbow baby for bringing so much love and light into our life especially in these current hard times.
To my friends out there struggling, I wish I could wrap my arms around you. So many parts of this process are now done alone because of this Covid world but know you are not walking alone. We all walk together. You are not alone.
I wrote a few posts on infertility and IVF and you can find them below: