Friday, October 10, 2014

The Reality Of The Test Tube Baby

Trying to look nerdy and "science-y" in my fake glasses
When I was a little girl, I remember one cozy night sitting in bed. After my mother finished telling me a story about a mom and her baby, I told her,

"When I grow up, I want to have a test tube baby!"

Alright, obviously that never happened!

I don't think anyone thinks that in vitro fertilization will be in their future. Even after having trouble,  because my twin sister got pregnant on clomid I assumed I would, too. A few months of some pills and BAM! -- my baby would be on the way.

When the doctors told me that I would most likely need IVF to become pregnant, I was very upset. Up to that point I hadn't had the chance to mourn my infertility. I had been heavy in the trenches of residency and a baby would have just complicated matters. Every month I wasn't pregnant was a disappointment but also maybe a sigh of relief. One more month of not having to "make it work" during long hours of call, late nights, coordinating day care and call schedules and managing pregnancy symptoms in the OR, etc.

After months of oral medications (clomid and letrazole) we were told to have a predictable chance, IVF would be the way to go. Despite feeling nervous and a little dread, I was relieved to be moving forward, to have a plan. And I figured that although I knew it was "hard" that it would work.

Abe can look "science-y" too, but he has a PhD so it should be easy for him!

I definitely had to take some time to mourn my infertility after having the reality of it slap me in the face (or more like stab me in the belly with a medical-grade needle)! Suddenly this was all very real, not just an inkling I had always had. I hadn't had the years of heartbreak to realize something really was wrong and to prepare myself emotionally to jump right in.  Yes, I had experienced months of disappointment but it felt sudden to begin expensive and intensive treatment when I hadn't ached for that little baby yet. And I wasn't ready to give up my romantic ideas regarding a natural pregnancy, (things like the surprise of a positive home pregnancy test) for the sterile cold world of a procedure based conception.

My disappointment turned to dread after my consultation with the doctor which gave me a new understanding of what the treatment actually meant.

Did you know:
That IVF means you will administer shots daily for weeks? I'm talking sometimes 4-5 times per day, in varied places (belly, thigh, hip, butt) and at varying times of day.
That the hormones can make you feel pregnant before or even if you are not? Yay for mourning sickness, bloating, weight gain, etc when you aren't even pregnant.
That you can have serious complications from the treatment--complications that could be life threatening? It's called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.
That your baby has a higher chance for birth defects?
That you have a higher chance for multiples even if you just implant one embryo?
That it may not work the first time--or ever? There is about a 50-60% chance of success each round.
That it costs thousands of dollars just for a single trip to the pharmacy, not to mention appointments and procedures?
That you may have doctors appointments, blood draws, ultrasounds every day during treatment?
That you have to sign consent forms regarding what to do with your embryos if your spouse dies or you die or you both die? Or that you have to figure out what to do with the "extras" when you are done?

I didn't. So I'm not surprised people started congratulating me and acting as if I was already pregnant when I told them I had to do this treatment to be successful. Still, this made me very upset.

I felt like, "Really! Really? Is it congratulations that I have to go through all of this to maybe not have a baby anyway? Is it congratulations when people are accidentally getting pregnant or aborting babies and I have to stab myself every night with painful shots that make me wacky (when I am needle phobic)? Or to have complications and end up disabled or dead?" (Dramatic, I know, but sometimes feelings aren't always rational or boringly sensible.)

I was also wondering if I was ready to be a mom, if I wanted a baby enough to go through all of this, if I wanted a baby "as much as a car" when comparing the financial aspects of it. And of course I did, but I was nervous to make that commitment, especially since I hadn't had the years of struggle and heartbreak I felt were almost a requirement or a right of passage to get to this decision.

And I was scared.

Then I talked to Channa.

Thank goodness I found someone who was able to tell me about her experience down to the very minute details. A friendly face and kind word made all of the difference, to just know someone I knew had gone through it and I could trust her advice and information on what to expect, even if it sounded scary or horrible! I felt like if she could do it, maybe I could, too. (Even though it seemed questionable!) And I finally found someone who understood! Who knew the fears and the anxiety and the nervousness both serious (what if it doesn't work, how will I feel?) and simple (how bad are the shots?).

After having some time to face the loss and sadness of my infertility, I still occasionally feel some of these negative feelings. But I also feel grateful. Grateful that now I at least have a fighting chance. That I have proved to myself that I can do hard things. That I can relate more to not only the infertility issues of others but also other battles of mourning and loss. That miracles are real, even if God uses science to make them happen.

We are praying for our own one day.


Melissa said...

Praying for you too, Erin.

Sarah said...

Erin, thank you again for sharing your blog. I am sure that it is a huge comfort to many women.

There are so many things about infertility that drive a person crazy. For me, one was teaching pregnant high school students. They didn't want children, and they certainly weren't ready for the responsibility. Also, friends occasionally would share that they were going to start trying after years on birth control. Then they would be pregnant the next month. Finally, people would recommend a specific month of the year that would be good to have a baby. This was irritating since after trying for 3 years, I figured any time that I might get pregnant would be a blessing.

Mom said...

I want to be positive and say it will all work out, but at the same time, I have to cry to know my own baby has to go through all this. I'm sure I simplify it, trying to be the positive mom, and understand it all, and empathize . . . I do, I am probably too empathetic for my own good. As a mom, I've struggled with all my babies having babies and then, my baby, who so far hasn't been able to.
All I can say is, be positive and if for some reason, it isn't written in the stars, I'm not ready to give up on that yet, but just in case, you have the perfect life, with or without babies. Remember that. Life can be good, either way. Make it so.

P Part of me wants to be you. (I've written a book based on you, kind of...) Be happy and I will be happy too.

Camber said...

Channa IS wonderful! For me, being in the medical field, I was much more comfortable with IVF than with adoption. I know other people felt the opposite. As a child, the two things that scared me most (besides spiders) were needles and pap smears. If I'd known what I'd go through to have kids I may have keeled over at age 15. Anyway, it's such a personal choice. Having been through it all (and ours wasn't smooth sailing either), I can tell you it's worth it a million times over to finally hold that baby in your arms. Knowing what I know now, I would absolutely do it again. Good luck Erin. Praying for you.

Rachel Culmer said...

An oral surgeon with a needle phobia? That seems funny. :)

I think it's obvious (based on your comments posted here) that people are praying for you two, as am I.

Erin said...

Thanks everyone!