Last week, Joe and I attended the IVF orientation at our fertility specialist. That is the path we’re on now. I did not want to be here. I never imagined myself in this place. Before Zoey, if we’d come to this spot I don’t think I would have been sitting in that conference room learning how to give myself injections in the stomach. But here we are. I wish I could tell you that I left full of hope and promise that within the year we’d have another little one. I didn’t. I left feeling completely overwhelmed and even more guilty than I did before. Before you say “stop, you can’t feel that way”, remember that we’ve had this conversation before. It’s no different than the blame I assign myself over Zoey’s death. Sure, the rational part of my brain says that this is not my fault. But the emotional side says otherwise. I have a desperate need to assign some sort of reason for all of this. For the fertility struggles. For her death. And I know deep in my heart that I will not receive an answer. It’s just not a switch you can turn on and off. The class wasn’t the only reason I’ve been feeling like I’m at fault. I’ve done a little homework and research on this fertility issue. Our case is considered “unexplained”. I don’t have endometriosis. I don’t have PCOS. I don’t have blocked tubes. There’s nothing physically preventing me from getting pregnant. So it must be something I’m doing. Did you know that women who are obese can have a harder time getting pregnant? Yep. I fall in that category. If you run the numbers, I fall into the obese category on the body mass index charts. I should do something about that. Except I really, really like ice cream. And cookies. And doughnuts. Which leads me to not only the cause of my obesity but another factor in infertility. Too much sugar. Eating too much sugar can negatively affect your fertility. I’m an emotional eater. And do you know what my emotions have been like for the last 4 years or so? Which bring me to chronic stress and fertility. But let’s not stop there. One of the things I do to control my stress is to workout. But that can negatively impact fertility too. In the class they mentioned that they tell you to “shut it down”. Walking is fine. At this point in the class Joe is giving me the side eye.
Seriously. Google any of these: obesity and fertility. Sugar and fertility. Stress and fertility. Exercise and fertility. It will make you want to claw your eyes out. And will make you wonder how any of us came to exist on this planet in the first place.
Of course the only logical conclusion is that it is completely and totally my fault that I cannot get pregnant. And here’s the real kicker: if any of my friends told me these things about their own struggles, I would also be the first to say they are ridiculous and it is definitely not their fault. So why can’t I give myself the same grace? And why is all of this so damn hard? We had pretty well given up on the idea of pursing IVF. Four months ago my insurance didn’t cover it and we’d decided that the $25k self pay option was not for us. And I was good with that decision. I don’t have an overwhelming need to carry a child. I’d be content growing our family in another way. Then my insurance coverage changed so I feel like the fiscally responsible decision, and the one Joe is most comfortable with, is giving IVF a chance. The process is terrifying to me, though. If I thought there was a better chance of it working, maybe I’d be more comfortable with the process. I’m not there. I don’t think it will work. I think I’ll load my system with all of these drugs, give myself shots for weeks, go through the process of egg retrieval and it won’t work. Either the eggs won’t make it to the implantation stage or we’ll discover that they are all genetically flawed. And we’ll be left disappointed just like I have been every month for the past two years. I’ve been pretty open with others about our journey so each time I say “we’re going to try IVF”, the other person’s eyes light up and they get excited. And there’s a little part of me (ok, maybe a big part) that wants to slap some reality into them.
It sucks. I don’t have that kind of enthusiasm. Or that kind of hope. I know I should probably go into this in a better frame of mind. But I also feel like we’re running out of time. And my fears of carrying a child as I become an even more advanced maternal age will not be lessened as I get closer to 40 (yes, I know Janet Jackson had a baby and she’d over 50. That will not be me).
We start the process next week. Phase one will take about 6 weeks. First up is birth control (that one surprised me too). Then a serious of shots. Then the retrieval. We will be testing the eggs before implantation so if/when they get to that point of testing they will be frozen. I’m not sure how much I’ll share. I just don’t know where I’m going to mentally with this at any point. But I will ask that if you do send out prayers, good vibes, happy juju—whatever it is you do—I’ll take it. Because I certainly don’t have much of my own right now.
In the orientation, there were photos of the eggs growing and forming. And it reminded me what a miracle it was that we ever had Zoey. She really should not have lived at all. A million things should have taken her from us before she took that first breath. But she did live. And that’s still the most amazing gift I have ever received. When I feel completely hopeless in this struggle, I look at photos of her and those beautiful blue eyes and just a glimmer of hope is restored. I know another child would never take away the loss of her. But I so desperately miss holding my daughter that I am willing to go through all of this for even a small chance of having moments like that again.