We were planning to announce our pregnancy today.
I was sure I was having a girl, my sister convinced the little squirt was a boy. I had a steadily climbing HCG level in the thousands, woke at 5am and 7am each night to pee, and felt happily ill each day. I had worked my way through a ridiculous number of pregnancy tests, each reassuringly darker than the last. At least two digital tests announced that I was, in fact, PREGNANT. 3+ weeks, it declared.
My husband and I were elated. After a long battle with infertility, the worse I physically felt, the higher our spirits soared. Nevermind what any pregnant woman anywhere has ever said, post-IVF nausea is the sweet taste of success – even if tinged with the acidic remains of last night’s dinner. A positive pregnancy test allowed us to dismiss the heavy bleeding nine days past my embryo transfer as normal. It happens, said our IVF specialist, adding that we should just enjoy the fact that we were pregnant.
At five weeks, I was buoyed enough to add to the one ‘baby thing’ I had allowed myself to buy (an elephant-shaped pillow) – I had a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting sent to my Kindle. A due date calculator informed me that the baby would arrive on or around September 12. March 13 would be the start of the second trimester. Virtual champagne was popped in the online IVF support groups to which I belonged.
At the six week mark, our IVF guy was pleased enough to hand us back to our high-risk pregnancy specialist. I told my Mum. It’s what you do, isn’t it? Tell your Mum?
I had, by then, read everything about this poppy seed that had grown into the size of a lentil. Blueberry was the next stop. I ordered a pregnancy journal and, for a laugh, got my husband a copy of The Pregnancy Book for Men: From Dude to Dad in 40 Short Weeks. You are warned, all the time, that anything can happen, but fate owed us, I thought.
We counted down to our next appointment at 7 weeks and 2 days, when we expected to see a heartbeat for the first time. I dressed carefully that day, a black skirt, gray top and my favourite black pumps, keen to make a good first impression on the squirt.
The doctor was running late. We booked movie tickets for our 12th anniversary weekend the following week, and I busied myself with finding us a nice restaurant. I was smug, having spent years in that very waiting room trying to ignore the pregnancy books, photographs and other reminders of the success that remained out of reach.
We were finally in at 1.28pm. My doctor, who had worked through my issues with PCOS with me, congratulated us. All the numbers looked great, he said. On hearing how many pregnancy tests I had done to reassure myself I was still pregnant, he said that was his job, laughing as he inserted an ultrasound wand in me. His stifled chortle – at exactly 1.34pm – marked the moment my world stopped turning.
There was no fetal sac. Our embryo (a rapidly compacting morula, we were told), carefully placed in my uterus by our IVF guy on Boxing Day, had gone AWOL. Despite the HCG level indicating that it was growing at the right pace, my baby was not where it should have been.
The silence was deafening. Then, a number of words began to fill the vacuum that spread out over the rest of the day: Pregnancy of Unknown Location, Ectopic, sorry, another scan, more expensive machine, sorry, second opinion, sorry, methotrexate, chemotherapy drug, sorry, rupture, save the tube, sorry. So so sorry.
Despite all the caution I had exercised, every avocado, egg white and walnut I had eaten, those many sessions of acupuncture I had done, and every book, website, and forum I had pored over, it had gone completely wrong. IVF ectopics are uncommon – 0.3% to 3% – and declining. I had somehow defied the odds.
What was I going to tell my mother? You know baby that we were having? Well, almost.
On Jan 26, I received a drug called Methotrexate (MTX) to try and end the pregnancy. It did not work, and my HCG levels continued to soar. On Feb 2, I had an emergency salpingostomy for an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured my left fallopian tube. By some small miracle, I happened to be in a hospital when that rupture occurred, and it saved my tube. I should feel lucky. I almost do.
In the weeks that followed, I grappled with pregnancy symptoms, side effects from the MTX and post-surgery pain. It was a combination that overwhelmed my confusion, sadness and guilt.
Today, I have no happy announcement, and so I chose to start this blog instead – to give the latter voice. I hope it will help me work through what happened this cycle, the years, months and weeks that led up to it, and the hell that followed. Struggling with infertility is especially hard in a culture with little patience for ‘almost success’. The right kind of help and support are elusive. Healthcare workers are quite clueless. Piecing together my thoughts seems especially important as we contemplate yet another IVF cycle, and its financial, physical and emotional implications. Despite really wanting to be parents, my husband is wary, I am afraid.
If you’re here too, it might mean that, like us, you struggle with the confusing and often hellish world of infertility. Perhaps you’re also dealing with early pregnancy loss, or know someone who is. Maybe the resources I surface and some of the issues I contemplate will give you some comfort.
Because almost really hurts.