*This post contains medical information. If you haven't figured that out from the title and the labels, then you probably have bigger issues to worry about than being freaked out by the information contained below. Just sayin'.*
Eleven days after my embryo transfer was D-Day...erm well actually B-Day. I was scheduled for a pregnancy test first thing in the morning and then expected a call back from the doctor's office at some point that afternoon.
This whole process is really crappy because you're anxiously waiting all afternoon for a phone call that's either going to give you really good or really bad news. I told Husband that they should save the bad news calls for the end of the day so there's fewer hours you have to live before you're allowed to go home and put on jammies. He claims women would catch onto this pretty quickly, but I doubt I'd notice and I do think I'd appreciate it. But as it stands, the call can come any time from 11am to 4pm, and afterwards you're either going to be walking around grinning for the rest of the day because you're pregnant or you're going to have to lock yourself in the ladies room in tears because you're not.
Those are the only two options, right? Positive pregnancy test or negative pregnancy test?
It turns out there's a third option: inconclusive. The pregnancy test measures the level of human chornioc gonadotropin (HCG) in the blood. A level of HCG below 5 means not pregnant. A level of HCG above 25 means you are pregnant.
So there's this whole no man's land between 5 and 25 where you might be pregnant...but you might not be. On B-Day, my HCG level was 12.
Unfortunately I got the call from my doctor's office while I was on the phone with another attorney. I put her on hold, answered the call, and got the news that I had to repeat the pregnancy test in two days.
Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?
After I hung up the phone, I went back to the other attorney who was explaining in tremendous detail how our case, scheduled for hearing in just a few hours, was completely blowing up in ways that were not helpful to either of our clients. Finally, the call ended and just as I was ready to call Husband, the phone rang again. Another attorney on the same case was calling. He was on the opposing side and really wanted to rub in these late developments that were so detrimental to my client's position. I made it through the call and finally called Husband...
who happened to be in Florida for the day! So it's not even like I could make him come home to meet me! I explained to him what the nurse had said and he was dumbfounded.
Husband: I had it all planned out what I was going to say to you if it was positive. And I knew exactly what I would say if it was negative. I didn't even realize there was a third option!
At this point, I'm hysterical, which if you're counting, marks the fourth time in three weeks that I've completely and absolutely lost it while at work. Luckily I had closed my door prior to making the call and since my co-workers have all managed to look me in the eye since, I've convinced myself that they did not hear my crying.
I pulled it together and hung up the phone. As I passed my boss's office on my way to the ladies room, she spotted me and could tell something was wrong. I walked into her office and lost it for the FIFTH time. She immediately sprang into action, decided that she would go to the courthouse to deal with my case that was on a downward spiral, and I would go out to lunch with our social worker to get out of the office.
As a totally unrelated aside, if you're looking for 100% waterproof eye makeup, I recommend tarte Amazonian Clay eyeshadow (reviewed here) and Smashbox Jet Set eyeliner. Despite my crying for nearly two hours straight, my makeup looked impeccable. It's become my go-to eye makeup on days when I'm expecting phone calls from my doctor's office. But I digress.
We went to lunch and ran some errands and when I got back to the office, I felt tremendously better, though I still didn't want to go home alone. Luckily a fellow princess happened to catch wind of what was going on and offered to bring over dinner. It was much appreciated and rather than sitting at home, weeping all evening, waiting for Husband, I had a slightly more pleasant evening with a friend and three crazed pups.
The next day, I found this website, which made me feel more optimistic. At the very least, I decided to be cautiously optimistic. If the numbers go up on the second test, I can be even more optimistic. If the numbers go down, at least we have ten frozen blastocysts that we can use next time (without my having to pump myself full of medication again!)
On the morning of the second pregnancy test, I heard no less than two Queen songs on the radio: We are the Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody. I decided it must be a sign and convinced myself that good news was in my future.
Unfortunately, my HCG levels were only up to 19. My doctor asked me to come back for a third, and likely final, pregnancy test four days later. He expected at that point, my levels would begin to drop and advised me to lower my dose of progesterone in oil. I had a million questions, but unfortunately my doctor had a death in the family so he was viewing my chart remotely and not actually in the office.
The cramping, it seems, was totally normal and related to the ovarian hyperstimulation which had started back up due to the low amounts of HCG my body was producing. So I got the hassle of more ovarian hyperstimulation symptoms but without the happy news of a pregnancy.
That evening did not go well. Husband wanted to follow our doctor's instructions and do the progesterone shot whereas I felt that at best we were only prolonging the inevitable and didn't want to do it. Husband said he didn't want to look back in five years and think, "If only we'd done those progesterone shots, something would be different," and threatened to call the emergency line to tell them that I was refusing to take my medication. We finally reached a compromise that I'd take the injection that night and the following day, he'd speak to an actual doctor and ask whether there was any chance that we'd end up with a viable pregnancy.
I cried the entire time that Husband was administering the shot and afterwards he felt horrible.
He called the doctor the next morning. According to the doctor, there was a infinitely small chance that we could end up with a viable pregnancy and for that reason, we should continue the shots. Husband tried to explain this to me, but I told him that I'd already made up my mind and that the phone call was for his benefit: if he was going to insist on stabbing me with an 1.5 inch needle the next three nights, he needed to know exactly what the odds were of it making any difference.
So we continued to do the shots and managed to prove pretty definitively that these shots are administered much more smoothly when both people are calm and relaxed, rather than anxious about stabbing one's wife against her will and she's wiggling around on the bed in tears upon being reminded that this whole elaborate process didn't work. The second-to-last night, he hit a vein and we got blood everywhere! And on the final night, the first time he tried to inject the needle hurt like heck so he had to change the needle and try again.
I wish I could write that on the third day my HCG levels skyrocketed to 300 and suddenly I was pregnant with twins, so that Husband and I could complete our family with one try and never have to go through this again. That somehow I was wrong and the progesterone in oil shots made the difference and we were in that infinitely small percentage of circumstances that turned into a viable pregnancy.
I wish this story had that kind of ending...
but it doesn't.
On the day of the third test, my levels were up to 45. To be a viable pregnancy, they should have been at least 90. My doctor predicted that at some point during the next week, I'd have my second miscarriage of this process. If I didn't, and if my blood work a week later hadn't begun to drop, he suspected that I might have an ectopic pregnancy, which could potentially require surgery.
I wish I had better news. In fact, I wish I had actual news. I leave you all in limbo just as Husband and I have, for the last two weeks, been in limbo. My fourth pregnancy test is on Tuesday so I won't know definitively what's going on until then...and given the uncertainty of the past few weeks, I'm reluctant to make any promises that I'll have answers because I can't say for certain that I will. And that is completely devastating to me.
Of all the possible outcomes for our first IVF cycle, I think this is the worst. I'm pregnant. It worked, but I'm going to have a miscarriage...again. It's a loss that I wouldn't wish on any woman, not even my worst enemy. And no one should have to go through it twice, but unfortunately I will.
In fact, I'm hoping I will because the alternative means surgery and potential irreparable damage to my ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus.
Trying again is a given. At this point until the doctor's tell me it's a lost cause or that it's medically dangerous to continue, we're going forward full steam ahead. And hopefully someday in the not too far future, that will yield some happy news that I can't wait to share with all of you.
If anyone has questions about this entire process, please feel free to email me or comment below. My biggest hope in documenting my experiences is that it will help educate women and couples who may be beginning or considering IVF and have questions. The fact that the first cycle didn't work for Husband and I doesn't diminish that so please consider to respond as you have been throughout this process.
Thank you all for your support throughout this first cycle with IVF. I've enjoyed reading your comments as well as your emails. As difficult as these last few months have been, having the support of so many women, most of whom I've never met, has helped me significantly and more than you, or even I, may realize right now.