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Once Bitten, Twice Shy

This entire process of trying to have a baby has not come easily. While we were doing our many rounds of Clomid with timed intercourse (twelve in all, but who’s counting?), we dealt with the added pressure to our marriage that comes in the form of having to have sex with each other when it was neither convenient nor sexy. None of those cycles yielded a hint of success.

When we started the first of three cycles of IUI, we thought for sure this would give us a much better chance. After all, science would now intervene in what my body was failing to do. But the first cycle was cancelled because my body betrayed me by ovulating early, leading us to rely on old fashioned love-making, which clearly doesn’t go so well with us. The next two IUIs brought so much hope. Both times I had nice-sized follicles and Chris had great sperm counts, of which he boasted regularly about. But those didn’t bring a hint of pregnancy either.

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Getting to the point of needing IVF was both promising and terrifying. I had to inject three to four medications into my stomach twice a day for weeks. I needed a calendar to keep track of the changing doses as I was being monitored every few days for follicle growth. It crushed me that this was the way we needed to get pregnant, and in doing so, would wipe out our bank accounts. But cycle after cycle, three in total, yielded small numbers of eggs retrieved, and left even smaller amounts of embryos to transfer. I remember when we were in the second cycle, having only retrieved eight eggs, only half of which were good enough to even fertilize, and I heard of another girl retrieving thirty eggs. It didn’t matter that she unfortunately had to be treated for hyperstimulation, I cried at the unfairness of it all. We never had any embryos left over to freeze for the future. In fact the embryos we did have, only one per cycle, weren’t even the greatest quality.

“Silly girl,” the voice taunts, “You can’t buy baby clothes; you don’t know if you’ll even have a baby.”

I had to make a decision to abandon the efforts of creating a child with my own eggs. We shelled out another $15,000 to come to Texas to try for a cycle using a donor egg bank.

At the time I’m writing this, I am in a hotel in Texas waiting for eight eggs to get ready to thaw and be fertilized. My uterine lining is set to go, I have my estrogen pill melting under my tongue, my estrogen patch on my stomach and my progesterone vials all ready to go in my suitcase. And I’m still terrified this won’t work again. I’m worried only some of the eggs will fertilize. I’m worried only some of those that do fertilize will not develop into good embryos. I’m worried that I will get the phone call again telling me that there is only one left. I’m worried that one embryo will fail to implant or worse, start developing into a baby and I will lose it.

I was talking with my husband the other day about it and he put it so simply: “We’ve been burned too many times.” I have some wonderful friends in the infertility community, almost all of which now have a baby or are currently pregnant. Some had their first IVF work. Some just had a change of medications, or even got pregnant on their own when they weren’t in a treatment cycle. I’m happy for them. But it only increases the feelings that it just isn’t going to work for me.

Two days before I left for Texas, I was at a baby clothing store, picking out an outfit for the infant of a friend who had a successful IVF. I was smiling at the register, my husband standing next to me as I held my wallet to pay.

She asked for my phone number and then looking at the computer said, “Oh, looks like you’re in our system already to receive coupons.” She glanced up at me brightly.

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The smile faltered and my stomach plunged. Yes, that’s right. I forgot I’m in their new system because I went there when I got a positive pregnancy test with my Adam, only to miscarriage a few days later. I remember those email sales notifications haunting me for months afterward. And then the doubt set in—that this whole cycle will be for nothing. Just like all the other cycles. I remember shopping for the baby outfit for my friend that evening, wanting to buy something for myself, for my future child, but holding back. There are so many other women that start collecting baby clothes for that child they feel confident they’ll conceive in a matter of months, and yet I hold back, like I don’t have a right to buy anything.

“Silly girl,” the voice taunts, “You can’t buy baby clothes; you don’t know if you’ll even have a baby.”

So I push the voice down and rely on friends and family for the confidence that has slowly been chipped away from me, failed cycled after failed cycle.

Today, those eight eggs I have will be thawed and fertilized with my husband’s sperm. I will wait for the phone call to tell me how many fertilized.

Once again, I’m hopeful, trying to crush the doubt that keeps wanting to surface. I’ve heard the success stories that come when using donor eggs after years of failed treatments. Hell, even hearing the nurse yesterday instructing me to keep doing my estrogen patches ten weeks into pregnancy is encouraging. It’s like I really need to pay attention to these instructions because I’ll be pregnant before I know it and need to remember to keep refilling my medications.

“One day at a time.” It’s become a cliché but it’s something I have to continuously repeat to myself while in the midst of a cycle. Wait for this phone call. Wait for the embryo report. Wait this many days for a pregnancy test. That’s all I have control over.

That’s what I need to focus on.

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