They say never to put all your eggs in one basket, but that’s exactly what we did on transfer day last week. Well, not eggs- embryos actually. And not a basket, my uterus. But you get my point, we put all our embryos in my uterus and now there’s nothing to do but eat a lot of pineapple and wait.
If you’ve been following along you might remember that my new RE started me on a different “low responder” protocol this cycle. Last cycle I did a typical Lupron down regulation protocol and ended up with 9 eggs retrieved, 6 mature, and 4 fertilized using ICSI.
These numbers are a lot lower than we would expect for a woman my age. I know plenty of people who have easily gotten more than double the number of eggs from just one cycle. The reason for these low numbers is due to my low AMH. Low AMH indicates low ovarian reserve and results in lower number of eggs yielded from each IVF cycle. Basically a lot less bang for my buck over here.
Last cycle we transferred two fresh embryos and froze the second two for a later transfer date. We were hoping to have the opportunity to freeze embryos for future use again. And with this new “low responder” protocol I figured I would certainly have a better response. I even wondered at one point “but what will we do if we end up with too many embryos?” … Turns out that isn’t going to be a problem.
At my first monitoring appointment this cycle, I realized just how poorly my body was responding. Five growing follicles and a sixth lagging behind. Not the high number I had hoped for.
It’s hard not to feel disappointed with your own body with news like this. To have such a small response, even on the poor responder protocol, I can only assume that my AMH has dropped even lower than before. It’s less than reassuring to say the least.
The thing with IVF is, it’s expensive and it’s exhausting and it just takes a lot out of you. And you want to get as much bang for your buck as you can. So the goal is to get as many follicles as possible, in hopes of those follicles containing mature, high quality eggs. And then the goal is for as many of those eggs as possible to be fertilized in the hopes of producing as many embryos as possible- in the hopes of giving you as many chances as possible to become pregnant with a viable pregnancy that continues until you give birth to a healthy baby.
Although I had hoped that some extra follicles would sprout out between my monitoring appointments and egg retrieval day, our numbers stayed very consistent. Our doctor was able to retrieve 6 eggs. 2 were post-mature, 2 were immature, and 2 were right on target and fertilized with ICSI and became embryos.
Two little embryos that we transferred on day 3 and that are now our only chances to become pregnant.
Only here’s the real problem. The real problem isn’t that I’m out of chances. The real problem is that I never wanted to think of my embryos as “chances” to begin with. I may be a woman of science, but I’m also a woman of faith- and I believe each of those little embryos represents a little life that I want to cherish and love and believe for an amazing future.
They aren’t chances, they are my possible future children.
And to have two, tiny little future children in my uterus right now- oh my goodness, it’s beyond amazing.
(On a related note, here’s a bit more about my journey to becoming an embryo momma from my first IVF cycle)
And yet, the realization that I have nothing else to hold onto or fall back on in this process has been disheartening at times, but two stories from the Bible have really encouraged me through all of this.
The first is found in 1 Kings 17. There’s a famine in the land and Elijah visits the home of a widow and her son. Her plan is to use the last of her food to make a meal for herself and her son- their last meal. Her plan is to eat it and die. You could say she’s out of chances. Elijah asks her to instead make him a meal first. He tells her not to be afraid and that God would provide for her. She puts her faith in his word and makes him a meal and God does what he promised. Her flour and oil lasts throughout the famine and she and her son live.
The second is from Mark 41. Jesus and his disciples are watching people give their offerings at the temple. There are rich people who are giving large sums of money, followed by a poor widow who just puts in a few pennies. Jesus commends the woman saying that she gave the most, because she had given all she had to live on.
Now, a theology student would probably tell me my interpretation and application of these stories in my own life is a bit of a stretch- but they’ve been encouraging me nonetheless. Both these stories require the physical act of putting all your faith in God and knowing that you’re all out of “back ups.”
In this cycle, I don’t have the option of comforting myself with the idea of trying again with frozen embryos. (And I barely have the option of comforting myself with the idea of a third fresh cycle, because 1) that sounds awful and 2) who knows what kinds of results I would get trying again).
My hope isn’t in frozen embryos. And my hope isn’t in trying again with another protocol. My hope is in God and his ability to bring life from the little embabies in my belly. Knowing that these two women in the Bible physically demonstrated their faith in God with their actions, and that God saw their faith and honored it, is fuel for my own faith as I wait for the results of this cycle.
Another one that has really been on my heart is Psalm 73:26.
My health may fail and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.
You guys, this cycle has wreaked havoc on my body. (And my body’s low AMH has wreaked havoc on this cycle.) And there’s been plenty of times my emotions have been a heavy burden to carry. I’m so past the point of thinking I’m getting through this on my own determination. He’s my strength. Forever.
Deep Breath. It’s a true relief.
And finally I’ve been meditating on Hebrews 11:11.
And it was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.
Sarah was 90 years old and I bet you that her AMH was even lower than mine. She had faith that God was going to do what He said He would do. And He did.
So as long as I’m disregarding the age old wisdom of not putting all my eggs in one basket, I might as well ignore another too- to not count my chickens before they hatch. Instead, I’m counting them with expectation and I’m counting on God to come through in big ways. This cycle is out of my hands now. But it has always been in His.
So do not be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10