Sunday, July 13, 2014

The two-week wait

So, we decided to give IVF another shot, and luckily this time we made it all the way to embryo transfer! This in and out itself is something to celebrate, as we didn't have any fertilized eggs during the first round. We ended up with one perfect little 9-10 cell three-day transfer, and now the dreaded two-week wait is almost at an end. 

For many, this is the most challenging part of the IVF process, ironically, because there is so little to actually do. Up until this point, there are numerous shots, pills, ultrasounds, and procedures, and it all seems to move fairly quickly. Every other day you are getting an update about how big your follicles are or how well your embryos developed since yesterday. The doctors and nurses have so much control over the first half of the process, and they are able to give you so much specific information about what is happening both inside and outside of your body, that it feels pretty exhilarating.

And then, you have your embryo transfer. And suddenly, the constant barrage of information comes to a screeching halt. Despite the incredible advances in infertility procedures, once that little embryo goes back in, there isn't much they can do to make sure it sticks. I have been taking estrogen and progesterone to create a cozy little habitat for my growing ball of cells, but we are completely in the dark about what's going on in there.

For the scores of infertile women who've become obsessed with monitoring their follicle number and size, comparing the thickness of their uterine linings, and agonizing over the  grade given to their embryos, this two-week dark period of information is truly unbearable. These women have become pseudo experts in the science of baby making, and understanding the live birth rate of a three-day versus a five-day transfer gives them the illusion of something that's been stripped from them: control.

Because that's really what this is all about. In our minds, having a baby is supposed to be something you are in control of. If you want to have a baby, you get pregnant. End of story. But for the infertile woman, this major life decision is completely out of her hands. Making the decision to do fertility treatments gives her some of that control back, but when that two-week wait rolls around, and there is nothing to do but wait, she feels that control slipping away once more. She becomes obsessed with IVF message boards where women talk about eating pineapple core and warm foods to help implantation. They encourage you to wear socks for two weeks, and not to do any exercise but walking. They convince you that if you follow these specific steps, you will be able to control whether or not your embryo will stick, and when it doesn't, you convince yourself that it was because you lifted that heavy box, because you drank that cup of coffee, because you couldn't stomach eating pineapple core, when the truth is that there is really nothing you can do. Either the embryo will turn into a baby or it won't. And despite all the things that women suffering from infertility have learned, they haven't learned to let go.

Believe me, I am right there with them. This process makes you obsessive. The other day, Mike said, "I think I've given you offer 100 shots." How could you not be obsessed with something that is taking up so much of your physical and emotional time?

But I'm trying to focus on other things, as well. The parts of the process that often go overlooked, like how much other people in my life care about me. The day before my transfer, my best friend took the train in from New York just to watch Ella for one day. A girlfriend who lives in London sent me a message to tell me she's keeping me in her prayers, and a friend's sister who I hadn't seen in at least fifteen years hugged me and shared her own infertility struggles so I wouldn't feel so alone. 

It's easy to focus on the negative with IVF- the needles, the doctor's appointments, the cost, the emotional roller coaster- but for those of us willing to share that burden with others, we find that there are friends who are happy to lighten the load. There is so much out of my control, out of everyone's control, but the relationships we hold dear are something we can foster and nurture and influence.

I don't know how this two week wait will turn out. There will be a lot of joy or a lot of sadness. It's out of my hands. So I'm focusing on the things I can actually reach out and touch, and thankfully, those things are reaching right back.