In the past I have been accused (by my husband, doctor and close family members) of being extremely negative during my IVF cycles, and particularly during the two week wait.
I was told repeatedly that if I stressed less maybe the embryos would have a better chance, despite the fact my psychologist has told me directly that studies have shown negative and positive emotions have zero impact on success rates.
But I was still high off my vacation to Malaysia and feeling confident that I’d had my last ever egg pick-up. I was just so sure this time was my time. So the two week wait started incredibly positively.
After my bungled embryo transfer, my mother took me out to lunch to try and take my mind off what had taken place. I was in such a good state of mind. We talked the whole meal about my “twins” as if they were a sure thing.
I also realised I had to come up with nicknames for them. Given that I’d just come home from Asia, and was wearing my ‘year of the horse’ necklace for good luck I decided to name the “twins” after the co-captains of the Broncos – Parker and Hodges.
For those who are unaware that there is a Broncos football team other than the Denver Broncos (yes that’s right I’m telling the truth!) the Brisbane Broncos are one of the most successful rugby league teams in Australia.
I grew up in Queensland (where they are based) so I’ve always followed them and gone to their games when they play in Melbourne. I thought it would be so cool to take my “twins” to football games in the coming years and show them the players they had been named after in-utero.
Here’s a photo of my “twins”, Hodges on the top and Parker on the bottom. Hodges was a grade 2 and compacting nicely but you can see his fragmentation problems. Parker was developmentally advanced for a day 3 embryo, and given a grade of 1.
After lunch, my mother and I went to some baby stores. Yes, you read that right we went to baby stores. I was feeling so confident about P&H (that’s the twins, in case you didn’t get it) that I felt absolutely no stress or anxiety being in those stores. Sure, I was surrounded by pregnant women and mothers with young babies. But I was going to be one of them soon. I would be joining their ranks. So it was ok for me to be there. I felt secretly accepted.
In one of the stores we found mini football team singlets, and they had a Broncos design! The tiny singlets were in team colours and had the words “Mummy’s little Bronco” written across them. My mother pointed out how strange it was that they didn’t say “Daddy’s little Bronco” because football is generally associated with men. But lucky they didn’t because Doug doesn’t follow rugby league at all. He was born and raised here in Melbourne so he’s an AFL fanatic. Mummy’s little Bronco was perfect.
I took it as a sign from the universe that my little Broncos were definitely on their way. I bought two of the singlets and hung them up in my wardrobe. They looked like they belonged there.
“I don’t want to rain on your parade,” Doug said as he watched me admiring the singlets. “But I think you’re actually being too positive this time. I can’t be as positive as you. I need to guard myself ok?”
Oh but I didn’t care at all if Doug didn’t want to join in the positivity-fest. Me and the boys (yes I gave P&H genders) had each other and that was all that mattered.
And then, three days after my embryo transfer, I was in the back garden shed unpacking boxes of gardening gear and tools when my phone rang. At the time I was holding a white handled shovel, trying to hook it up on the wall, so I didn’t even check the caller ID.
“Hello Sadie speaking!” I chirped happily.
“Hi Sadie, this is Leanne I’m one of the embryologists at your clinic.”
“Oh hi!” I said, breaking out into a huge grin.
I had been excitedly anticipating this phone call. I was about to find out how many of my remaining embryos had made it to freeze. I suspected two, but was hoping for three. Maybe even four!! These were my back-ups. They were the reason I was so confident I would never have to do another egg pick-up. I was done with IVF. My future children were all sorted.
“I’m so sorry to advise you that none of your embryos were frozen.” Leanne said slowly.
“What?” I asked, unsure if I’d heard her correctly.
“I’m so sorry Sadie.” she said. “It looks like all of your embryos stopped growing after day 3.”
“All of them?” I gasped.
“Yes they all stopped growing at the same time. One of them started growing again last night but it only made it to day 4 stage. Too slow to freeze.” Leanne explained.
“Well why would they all stop growing like that?” I asked.
“Usually when they all stop collectively it’s a genetic problem.” she said. “Usually a genetic problem with your eggs.”
My eggs? They were the only things that hadn’t been tested. I have every other infertility problem under the sun but no doctor had ever suggested there was something wrong with my eggs. It was the last thing I needed. It would take all options of parenthood off the table. Donor eggs arent readily available in Australia.
“Does this mean that the two that were transferred back to me would also have stopped growing?” I asked.
“It’s impossible to tell.” Leanne said. “I’m sorry. I hope not. We’ll have to wait and see.”
After I hung up the phone, I stood alone in the garden shed crying hysterically, still clutching the white handled shovel tightly in my hands.
All my chances were gone. My last hope was already inside me. If I failed to become pregnant, I would have to do another fully stimmed IVF cycle. If my eggs were bad I couldn’t even do that.
Every ounce of positivity instantly melted away and Miss Negative was back. Suddenly I was struggling to cope. I needed to know if P&H were going to implant. I just needed to know. Thankfully, I was having a lot of symptoms. I was getting more pinching and tugging in my uterus than I had with either of my pregnancies. That kept a small glimmer of sanity alive for me.
7dp3dt I woke up in the morning feeling like someone had repeatedly punched me in the abdomen. It wasn’t that cute and hopeful tugging anymore. It was full on menstrual cramping. I was hysterical.
I rushed to the bathroom and took a pregnancy test. Negative.
“It’s ok.” I said to Doug. “With both my other pregnancies I didn’t get a positive until 8dp3dt. It’ll be fine!”
But in my heart and in my mind I was worried it wasn’t fine. It was far from fine. I went out to the supermarket and bought hundreds of dollars worth of pregnancy tests. I figured if I exclusively used the really expensive brands and the digital tests that I would get a clearer result. And by “clearer” of course I mean “positive”. FRER became my closest friend.
But 8dp3dt brought with it negative, negative, negative, negative results. I kept testing throughout the day and that second little pink line was nowhere in sight. No matter how long I stared at the test, no matter what light I held it under, no matter what angle it was tilted to. Negative.
Every day between 8dp3dt and 11dp3dt I wasted at least $40 in pregnancy tests. I’m not even kidding. It got to the point where every time I went to the bathroom Doug was banging on the door shouting “Sadie you better not be peeing on a stick in there!”
I knew the cramping was menstrual cramping. I knew the tests were negative. But I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I couldn’t give up. I was in shock, really. At 27 years old, on my fourth fully stimmed cycle (fifth cycle if you counted my FET), and after two pregnancies, this was statistically supposed to be the cycle that worked for me. This was the time that was supposed to be my time.
On 11dp3dt before I went to get my blood drawn I had finally resigned myself to the fact this was a negative cycle. I was mentally prepared and ready to deal with the sadness and move on.
But then I tested at home, and I got a squinter. A squinter! A second little pink line. Definitely not an evap line. Definitely not something I was imagining because my husband could see it too! But still so faint that I couldn’t even pick it up when I tried to take a photo of it. My heart soared and my hope returned. Maybe this was my time. Maybe everything would be all right. Maybe all my worrying had been for nothing.
I was cautiously optimistic as I headed in to get my blood drawn, and content when I drove to work. Maybe, just maybe, I was going to get a nice surprise.
But a couple of hours later the phone rang. It was one of the IVF nurses.
“Sadie,” she said, her voice sombre. “I’m so sorry to tell you that your blood work shows you’re not pregnant.”
And just like that, it was over.
This entire cycle had been a massive waste of time. No pregnancy. No frozen embryos. Nothing. Just thousands of dollars down the drain.
I went to the bathroom at work, locked myself in a cubicle and cried so hard I thought my chest cavity was going to cave in and crush my heart and lungs.
I felt broken. I felt useless. I felt bitter and hateful and angry and devastated all at the same time. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. I wanted to tear all my hair out. I wanted to scream my pain to everybody in my office.
Instead I calmed myself down, unlocked the cubicle door, washed my face at the sink and then went and sat back down at my desk like nothing had happened. When you have a failed IVF cycle you don’t even have the right to grieve. Nobody at work cares one iota, and nobody expects you to slack off or stop working. You become invisible. Your pain is invisible.
When I got home from work yesterday I went to my wardrobe and took the two little Broncos baby singlets that were hanging next to my own clothes. I folded them carefully and placed them on the top shelf in the wardrobe in the back bedroom. A place where I will never have to see them, and will never have to think about them. I couldn’t throw them out because they belonged to Parker and Hodges, but I don’t want to be reminded of my failures every time I get dressed in the morning.
I woke up this morning with my period. It is already really, really bad. It is more painful than I ever remember it being in recent years. It is so bad I am having trouble carrying out regular daily activities like walking and eating. But I am at work. And I am pretending that nothing is wrong with me. I feel like I’m wearing a mask to try and hide the fact I’m really covered in slimy scales beneath my clothes. My infertility causes those scales, causes me to be an incomplete person. My infertility is my dirty secret.
For now I want you to know that I am around. I am here. I will try to update my blog and keep my emotions flowing. When I bottle them up I start to sink too deeply into that mud-pit of misery and depression.
But I don’t know whether I will have the energy or the strength to read and post on your blogs. I know of at least two of you who have received great news this week about your own cycles. Don’t get me wrong, I am ridiculously pleased for these ladies. You girls deserve this blessing and happiness more than anyone else I’ve ever come across. But I’m just not in a head space right now where I can soak up the joy of others. I am too low, I am too sad, I am too broken. Please forgive me, I’m not strong enough to smile through my tears at the moment. I will be there to congratulate you as soon as I am.
Today is a bad day. Tomorrow will be a bad day too. Maybe someday in the future I’ll have a good day again. Surely I deserve one? Here’s hoping…
(You can read Part One here)
(You can read Part Two here)
(You can read Part Three here)