It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. This wasn’t an intentional break. In fact it was very hard to take more than a month off from writing, because I find it so therapeutic. Still I felt the need to go on a retreat. When I’m processing my emotions in a healthy way, even if I’m in the depths of despair, I like to be open and welcome other people into my life, and truly enjoy human connections. But when I can’t process for one reason or another, I’m blocked, frozen in time, and not able to reach out. It’s hard.
I’ve never been susceptible to depression, and that is a true blessing. I’ve never had a single day when going through the motions of life has been hard, despite having been through some devastating times. My dad and stepmom died. I went through grad school. I nearly died and had a child spend two weeks in the NICU. I’ve been in shock, but then I process the emotions and work through them. I enjoy putting the pieces back together, exploring the new shape of my reality.
But when it came to processing the fact of having frozen embryos, I was out of my depth. I didn’t know where to begin. I very much felt frozen in time myself, even though arguably I was preparing my “vessel” for the newest inhabitant. That’s useful work, right? Still it just felt like a strange limbo.
Finally I’m emerging from that deep freeze, and I have the spark of life inside of me. I am ready to bravely face whatever lies ahead. It might be the beginning of a new child. It might be the start of a chemical pregnancy or a miscarriage. It might be absolutely nothing at all. It could be the highest high or the lowest low, but either way it will be real and it will always be part of our story as a family. We can withstand anything. Of course, I hope for the miracle of new life. And I’m an optimist at heart. So right now, at this moment, I know that I carry a spark of life inside.
That’s what I call it now, a spark. Sure, it’s a cluster of cells. Sure, it’s a potential human, maybe with a soul already. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know God’s mysterious ways. It doesn’t feel right to call it a baby or a fetus or anything as physical as that, yet. It feels like a spark, more of an abstract concept. A spark that I already love and cherish. I felt the moment I connected to the spark, early Thursday morning. I imagine that was the moment of implantation, although of course “implantation” is a process, not a single moment. But it felt like a minuscule fire in my uterus, over in the blink of an eye. It was unmistakable but so tiny I could have ignored it, especially if I’d been in the middle of a busy work meeting. But I wasn’t. I was just alone on the couch reading about meditation. And then there was a spark, and I wasn’t alone anymore.
The embryo transfer process itself was easy as can be. By far the easiest procedure I’ve ever had. Granted, they gave me a Valium a half-hour beforehand. The hardest part, for most people, is that you have to go in with a very full bladder (that helps get the uterus into a good position) and then remain lying down for a full hour after the transfer before you’re allowed to get up and pee. Ouch! But Valium is incredible. It takes the stress out of everything and just puts you to sleep, so even a painfully full bladder was just a blip on my radar.
We got to see the little embryo on the screen before the transfer. It was beautiful. They all said so. And I’m sure they say the same for everyone, but you know if it weren’t beautiful you wouldn’t be there! I hadn’t even thought to worry about the defrosting process, and it’s a good thing too, because apparently that can go wrong. It’s rare. But in our case it went without a hitch. The embryo was already hatching by the time of transfer, which is good. It means the timing of implantation could very likely have actually been Thursday morning. A hatching embryo is super ready to implant, so it won’t be more than a couple days.
The beauty of the process is that it’s either going to work …. or it’s not. There are dozens of myths about how to increase your odds of implantation (eat pineapple core! get acupuncture! lie with your legs elevated! etc etc) but all of that is nothing more than little strategies to give you peace of mind. Peace of mind ain’t nothing – but it also ain’t pregnancy! If it’s going to work, it will just Work. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it (just ask any pregnant-by-accident teenager) or make it work if it isn’t (just ask anyone who’s infertile and has tried every fertility diet and relaxation strategy known to man). That’s why I like to say “Give it to God” and just let go.
Of course, I already don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke, or eat (much) sushi. I do sometimes eat deli meats, but it’s not hard to throw that on the skillet before putting it in a sandwich to make it safe for pregnancy. Soft cheeses are the only thing I have to consciously remember not to buy, but even those are “almost certainly” fine during pregnancy because I live in the U.S. where it’s basically impossible to find unpasteurized cheese. Still, I don’t mind giving up a few treats for nine months. It makes the reunion with the forbidden foods that much sweeter!
So here we are. I am, strangely, 3 weeks and 1 day pregnant. Gestational age is a weird thing, because it’s counted from the start of your last period. But in the case of an IVF FET (frozen embryo transfer), what matters is the age of the embryo (frozen at 5 days) and the date of transfer, which my body was prepared (by exogenous hormones) to believe that it had just ovulated, even though it hadn’t. It’s a mind trip, and super confusing, but there are calculators online to help figure it all out.
It’s possible that my microscopic placenta could start producing hCG (the pregnancy hormone) as early as Sunday, and that there could be detectable levels as soon as Monday. I could theoretically take a pregnancy test on Monday. But I won’t. I think I can hold off, though it will take some will power.
The last thing you want is a false negative, or a “squinter” (that’s when the hCG line is so faint that you have to put it in photoshop and up the contrast X100 to see anything) that is hard to either celebrate or mourn. I made that mistake with my second pregnancy, which we had been trying for, and I had tracked down to the day. The first testable day, I tested, and there was barely a hint of a positive. I showed it to Louis and there was a moment of confusion, and then after some squinting it was just … pretty anticlimactic because the line was barely visible. Not what you want in a pregnancy reveal!
So I’m hoping that I can be brave, and keep writing no matter what. Through everything. It’s always better to put your life out there than to just grit your teeth and survive. Even though you will survive, without a doubt, it will be a shallow survival. I’m going to try to rise above that!