If you are anything like me, you have spent countless hours on blogs, community boards, Google and anything #TTC. This is probably why you are here, searching for something in your journey. I feel like I know everything there is to know about drug doses, egg retrieval results, beta numbers and embryo grades. I have spent years comparing other people’s results and hormone levels to mine, hoping for a positive outcome. I am 100 per cent guilty of being obsessive and totally immersed in the TTC (trying to conceive) community. This is also why I want to blog and share my story, as many women have helped me with my own journey. As hard as infertility is, we are lucky that we get to be a part of this special group of women (and men!) who fully support and encourage each other.
As much as I searched for people with issues related to my struggles, I found myself looking for the alternative more. I wanted to read success stories, and stories of positivity. It’s so easy to get lost in the dark, and I wanted to believe in the magical unicorn babies. I needed to believe this would happen for me too. I could spend hours watching success story videos on YouTube, their pregnancy announcements and following their pregnancy. I needed to hold on to that when I was filled with so much doubt. It’s human nature to be envious of people who have what you want. Out of all the announcements, baby showers and newborns in my life, I always would say to myself “my unicorn baby is coming.
I can’t wait until it’s my turn.” I always held on to the when, and not the if.
A little of my background: I have PCOS, do not ovulate and have one blocked tube. We didn’t spend any time trying and went right to the fertility clinic in 2013. After trying a year of drugs and other methods, we completed our first round of IVF in the fall of 2014.
I had all these expectations going in. I knew everything there was to know about IVF and had this idea in my head of how many eggs and embryos I should have. I have seen women in the States that would get 28 eggs, 25 fertilized, and nearly all Grade 5 embryos, with lots to freeze. So much to my devastation after my first cycle, I was left completely beside myself. The title of my blog “when it really takes just one” would have been such an annoying and frustrating thing to hear at the time. It wouldn’t have made me comfortable. I had six eggs retrieved, four mature, and three fertilize via ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).
I remember my heart sinking.
Only three? How did this happen? You mean I paid nearly $10,000 and only have three? At the time we transferred a Grade 4A Day-3 embryo. if you had less than 5, you had to do a 3-day transfer. We were able to have one Grade 4 to freeze, while the others arrested and stopped growing. You can imagine at the time I was feeling anxious, worried, unsure and unlucky. Well that less-than-perfect Day-3 embryo is now my beautiful and smart three-year-old. Our girl stuck on the first try.
It just took one.
Fast forward to November 2017 where we had the FET (frozen embryo transfer) of our beautiful Grade 4 embryo. Unfortunately, this little one ended in a chemical pregnancy.
In June 2018 we started our funded IVF cycle with OHIP. By then, I knew almost too much. And this time we upped my stimulation drugs to try for a better outcome. Again, I had the mindset of where I wanted this to go and knowing this was our last shot, because we couldn’t afford to pay for another cycle, was weighing heavily on me. I was also battling the guilt of wanting a second child. Long story short: we upped my drugs, added new ones, and triggered two days earlier than my first cycle.
The nurses and doctors were ecstatic by my progress.
My results this time: 8 retrieved, 3 mature, 3 fertilized via ICSI. This cycle was worse than the last one. No explanation as to why, it just happened that way. I must have sounded like I was on the edge of a cliff when the nurse called to tell me, and then some of the fertility doctors themselves called me over the next few days. This is not normal protocol. They would give me updates on my embryos and how they were growing. This cycle, the rules had changed, and I was doing a Day-5 transfer.
The morning of my transfer wasn’t nearly as exciting as my first time. You check in, pace the waiting room, try not to throw up, and wait to be called. You go into the back and the nurse hands me a gown, and my husband a set of scrubs. She has my binder open on the counter to check and says, “yes we are transferring today, a doctor will speak to you shortly.”
This nurse didn’t know I could see the status of my embryos and their grades.
As we were both getting dressed, the reality of what was about to happen started to settle in. I tried to hold back the tears as I got dressed, with my husband in the stall next to me. We had a failed transfer, waited all this time for this cycle and this is what we had left. The nurse checks my vitals, gets my IV in and goes over some basics. After she left, I turned to my husband and asked, “did you see the sheet and what it said?” He shook his head and said “no, I didn’t.”
So, I was the one to tell him.
We had one grade 3B embryo, the other two had arrested. Grade 3 at our clinic is an average grade. They do not transfer grades 1 and 2. His face went completely blank. When I asked him what he was thinking, all he said was “I don’t want to be the cheerleader or be positive anymore.” He has always been my positive partner, but he too knows too much by now. We did the transfer, and I cried the entire time while he stayed quiet. We got dressed in quiet and walked to the car.
We had to make a long drive that day to get our three-year-old. We were shocked, disappointed and being realistic. I still made him record and take pictures of the transfer because deep in my heart, I was holding out for my magical unicorn babe. We started to discuss how we were going to come up with $10,000 (which we didn’t have) to do this again. We were hopeful but disconnected from the transfer.
I had to pull deep down inside and think positive, because that’s all I had.
Something about this time was different and I just felt like it was going to work after all. I knew somehow that my frozen transfer earlier in the year wasn’t going to work. Aren’t women funny that way? I wasn’t being negative, just something I felt and almost knew it wasn’t the right time. I transferred this little average Grade 3B embryo on Canada Day Monday. By that Friday, 4 days post transfer, I needed to get a test done and out of my system.
I could never wait for a nurse to tell me over the phone anyway. And there it was, a second line. I continued to do so every day until my blood test, and my beta results were out of this world. They were higher and rose faster than my daughter, the 4A embryo. This little one has also grown 2-3 days ahead each ultrasound. Don’t hate me for being cliché, but it does just take one. When the odds are against you, hold out for your magical unicorn baby. It’s coming in its own time. You are worthy, and you are deserving. So, screw the numbers, forget the woman on Instagram with 50 embryos because every body is different. Believe in unicorns.
By Alyson Abbott