Lessons in surviving the strangest day of your life
Cheers, dear readers,
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) children are certainly some of the most wanted and sought after children on the planet. Anyone who has taken the steps to go through the often-grueling aspects of IVF to have a child has a lot of courage, strength and determination (and financial know-how to figure out how to pay for it all). IVF – a relatively expensive procedure which has only been available since the 1970’s – can be a wonderful miracle that gives many would-be-parents the ability to have their dream happily come true, after being given the unfortunate infertility diagnosis. How wonderful! But what about the couples where that miracle isn’t realized? What happens to them? In an earlier blog post called “And then there was one …,” I touched on that many doctors who perform medical procedures often focus solely on the biological and mechanical aspects of the task at hand. But the emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of the procedure are not addressed or sometimes acknowledged at all – with no support being offered.
What I did not realize when I started down our IVF journey is that there can be a lot of related stress and trauma to the families who undergo this procedure (a procedure that usually happens multiple times) – not only for the parents, but potentially for the baby and embryos, as well as for the friends and family of the IVF patients. Yet none of us are prepared for this, are given any instruction about this, or know at all how to handle the ramifications of such things. I find this disturbing and unfortunate, as well as unnecessary. Would it really take that much more effort to educate and provide resources and support?
Last I left you on our chronological journey, we had created three blastocysts from my hormone-induced IVF cycle, but I had just received the call that two of them had died. I was heart-broken in a way that I did not know how to relate to or identify with. But time was of the essence, so I stuffed those feelings down in order to remain optimistic about our one remaining blastocyst – our child who was still growing in a petri dish in a lab in Arlington, Virginia. Implantation day was scheduled for our little hopeful for Wednesday morning. So I had arranged for my acupuncturist to treat me hours BEFORE implantation, as well as afterward to do everything we could to help insure success of our procedure, and the growing life of our unborn child. I was still wrapping my head around the fact that the conception of our child – what I would consider a sacred moment – had been whittled down to a “procedure” being performed by strangers in a cold, sterile lab. Due to medical complications that I had no control over, our baby was being conceived outside of my womb, without his/her parents anywhere nearby. How strange and a bit sad in an unusual way.
Eye on the prize, Cathy. Stay focused.
I woke up on implantation day morning feeling very anxious, excited, and just a bit cautiously gleeful. Eric and I exchanged many excited glances. We decided that he would work a half-day while I went to the acupuncturist, and then he would meet me at the clinic for implantation, so that we could both be present for the potential miracle about to take place. I dressed hurriedly and got in the car. I was driving up a rather treacherous part of George Washington Parkway that had a lot of twists and turns, driving by our nation’s capital and all of the beautiful monuments, trying to not be late. Everything had to be timed perfectly… or so I thought.
As I drove, my cell phone rang.
It was the doctor’s office.
I optimistically figured they were just going over final details about my implantation procedure.
It was a nurse (versus the doctor), which I thought was a good sign. Couldn’t be something monumental if only the nurse was calling! I answered the phone as I navigated the twists and turns as I drove.
“Implantation is now canceled”, she mechanically told me. Our last blastocyst had stopped growing. I don’t even remember if she offered any sympathetic words or not. I did my best not to crash the car as my knuckles went white as I clutched the cell phone to my ear. I was in shock. And I was numb. Our last baby, our last child, had died, without Eric and I anywhere nearby, surrounded by a bunch of strangers in a lab. I felt like an unemotional Dr. Frankenstein and a bereaved parent in shock at the same time. If I could have pulled over, I would have, but there was no shoulder for me to do that. I had to drive north another 20 minutes in order to turn back around to my empty home. I called Eric to tell him the news and pass the time. It was one of the worst days in my life. And I thought almost no one on earth knew how I felt, except for Eric as best as he could. I felt so alone. Sad. Worthless. And like a pathetic, pitiful failure. 🙁
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.