IVF isn’t something anyone wants to do one time. And it’s certainly not something anyone wants to have to do more than once, let alone 6 times. Yet, that’s exactly the place I have found myself, embarking on my 6th IVF retrieval cycle.
Those of you who have been following our story know that we’ve had 2 IVF cycles and a third frozen transfer attempt that failed to produce a viable pregnancy. Due to low ovarian reserves, we’re now embryo banking, which means that we are doing IVF retrievals, freezing all our new embryos, and saving them for our first born and subsequent children after that.
When we first agreed to the idea of embryo banking, I was very much under the impression that we were only going to do 2 more retrieval cycles. This sounded like a lot, but was manageable, especially with the idea of a transfer and resulting pregnancy coming soon after. Unfortunately, we haven’t made as many healthy embryos as we would have liked each cycle, which means more cycles are necessary to make more embryos.
In June we did our 5th IVF cycle (3rd since we started banking) and I had such a wonderful response to the medications. Everything was looking good and I thought that certainly this would be our final retrieval, certainly we’ll be done after this.
I felt like the clouds had cleared and I could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Much to my dismay, our cycle didn’t end as hopeful as it began. Every time the nurse called me, our numbers had decreased… 15 eggs, 12 fertilized, 2 frozen, 1 genetically normal.
(You can read more about my mourning process and getting good news and bad news at the same time here)
By the time we got the news about our genetic testing results, I felt like the stormy clouds had gathered over me once again. What was once a clear sky full of new hope, now felt like more of the same storm I have weathered for years.
We were faced with a decision- do we move on to a transfer with the healthy embryos we have or do we venture into a 6th retrieval and all that another IVF cycle entails?
Andrew and I prayed about it, talked about it, and consulted with our doctor about it. I cried about the decision and vented my frustrations about how it isn’t fair we even have to make this choice at all. At the end of it all, we decided to we felt most peaceful about delaying a transfer (and potential positive pregnancy test) in order to pursue a 6th (and hopefully final) IVF retrieval.
This decision did not come without its fair share of heartache. I’ve made it a general rule of thumb not to post on social media in the midst of a IVF-related crisis, mostly because I know that my perspective doesn’t always reflect truth and hope in those moments. Suffice it to say, I didn’t post much on social media during those days.
However, I think it’s really important to discuss these difficult days that we travel through before getting to a place of peace to move forward.
As someone who has spent a lot of time on infertility blogs and social media accounts, I know the temptation to compare my journey to those I find on the internet. I’ve found myself questioning the strength of my own faith because it doesn’t appear as steady or grounded as the bloggers I read about online.
I never want anyone to look at my journey and discount their own faith journey because it doesn’t look as Instagram-perfect as someone else online. And that is why today I decided to talk about the storm that came before my calm.
Before my calm I was heartbroken, I was angry, I was confused. I was tearful and irritable. I felt sorry for myself. The blessings in my life felt like a blur and I couldn’t see past the areas that felt incomplete.
The gravity of the decision weighed heavily on me. IVF is a grueling endeavor. It takes a lot of physical and emotional energy. When you’re at the end of a disappointing cycle (and with your hormones all out of whack), it’s not something that you feel eager to sign up for again.
Andrew and I have pretty much entirely been on the same page with every single step. And we both had a sense in our hearts that another retrieval prior to our transfer was the right move for us, but that doesn’t mean it was a fun, exciting decision for me.
I was stuck in these moments of intense misery and couldn’t see a way out.
It was a process to bring myself back into a place of peace. It’s not something that just happens on it’s own. They say “time heals all wounds” but it wasn’t time that I needed. Instead, in order to get back to that place of hope and expectancy, I had to make a few shifts in my heart. I’ll give you a little peak into what some of that looked like.
First, I had to stop thinking of my last IVF cycle as a disappointment and start seeing it for the miracle it was. I discussed before how difficult it is to get good news and bad news at the same time, and how necessary it is to mourn the bad news. I had significantly mourned the loss of our round 5 embryos, which was appropriate, but now it was time to fully embrace the miracle that sat in front of me. Our 5th retrieval cycle brought us 1 perfectly wonderful PGS normal embryo, who is currently chillin’ out in Las Vegas in a long-term frozen nap with a small group of frostie siblings. That little embaby is going to come home with us one day and have the opportunity to grow into an incredible human, who we will love and dote on and celebrate for the rest of our lives.
I know that when I look into that baby’s eyes, I will feel that I could and would do anything for this precious little person- including go through IVF a dozen more times, if that’s what was necessary to bring this child home. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from us, but ultimately God is the author of life and this embryo is a precious gift. A miracle happened in that lab in Las Vegas to bring us this little embaby, and I am so grateful.
Being grateful in this process is something that dramatically changed atmosphere of my heart. It wasn’t always easy. Practicing gratitude is a difficult thing to focus on when I’m going through a day where I feel like I’m truly just barely scraping by. It’s a matter of self-discipline for sure. Some days I seriously have to make myself find something to choose to be grateful for. Gratitude on a difficult day starts out feeling like a challenge, but once I start I realize I don’t want to stop. Counting my blessings feels SO much better in my heart than bemoaning my present situation, so it was well worth it to me to change my focus back to gratitude.
Another way that I brought myself back to a place of peace is to allow myself to dream about our family again. I revisited my secret pinterest boards where I’ve saved photos of adorable baby clothes and nursery design inspiration. I looked at baby names and studied up on my favorites. I started talking to my husband about what we were going to do with the babies once they come- adventures we want to take them on, places we want to show them. I stopped anticipating more heartache coming from another IVF cycle and began to expect more miracles coming from it instead.
Finally, I just made a choice to be happy. My birthday was coming up and I just decided- I don’t want to be miserable on my birthday. I’ve mourned, I’ve grieved, and now I don’t want to be miserable any more.
I think about that verse in the book of Psalms, “Why so downcast oh my soul and why so disquieted in me? Put your Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God”
I had a pastor growing up who used to read this verse in a very down to earth, practical voice, like he was talking to his soul. The idea was — Hey soul, why are you sad? Why are you so distraught? Put your hope back into the God who loves you! When I’m tempted to give into self-inflicted misery or throw myself a pity party, this verse offers the perfect reality check.
I couldn’t be more pleased to report that I’m no longer living in storm I was in a few weeks ago. Yes, feelings of sadness and grief still show up from time to time- and I think that’s pretty normal. But, when the tears have dried, I get to go back to my faith-filled, non-miserable life. The storms of IVF can be intense, but they don’t have to last forever. The winds and rain have come and gone, and I am proud to still be standing here- hopeful, expectant, and pressing on to IVF retrieval take 6.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God- soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.
Psalm 42:11 MSG