The first picture I have of Trauma and Trouble, they are three days old and consist of eight cells each. I don’t mean three days old in the conventional way, I mean they are three days from conception, it is the photo of them before they were returned to me. In the photo they are two clearly distinguished embryos, each with eight beautiful overlapping circles. During my two weeks in bed I looked at this photo several hundred times.
We had been here before, hopeful and optimistic. But each time failed and we got more distrustful of the whole procedure. We were told the first time that our chances were high, 75%. Never believe home grown statistics. We tried three times in nine months, the first failed completely, the second was an early loss with a number of 40 when they like to see 60 or higher. Each failure was difficult but we somehow managed to convince ourselves to give it one more try.
The third try would be our last we decided, three strikes you’re out. But we also decided we would do everything we could so there would be no regrets, no second-guessing. I stopped drinking caffeine and eating soy. Ward took a dozen vitamins daily. Exercise, but not too much. Lupron this time and assisted hatching. Gonal-F instead of Bravelle. Vitamin B supplements. The doctors were anxious, they suggested transferring four instead of the usual two. A different antibiotic. A larger starting dose of follitropin.
And so began the daily injections, three in the evening, all given ‘subq’ (in the belly) by Ward. I went daily for ultrasounds, counting and measuring the progress, and blood checks to follow my estriodol levels. As usual, I went too fast, they lowered my medicine but by this point it was too late. No one other than my sister and my grandmother knew we were giving it one last try. There was no reason to get everyone else’s hopes up. On the day my nephew is born I have to sneak away into the labor and delivery suite bathroom to give myself my injections. And still the levels rise too quickly which is a bad thing. One morning after my appointment the doctor himself calls, the levels are too high, I am instructed to go home immediately for an emergency dose and then another one that night with my HCG. I will have my retrieval in 48 hours. Two days sooner than the soonest they like anyone to go.
I am told to remain optimistic.
The retrieval doesn’t go well. The anestiologist tells me he and his wife gave this several tries, then they adopted. After I am awake the nurse comes in, they got six eggs even though there looked like twenty. I am devastated. Over the next few days I fall into a depression, the nurse calls daily with updates and appointment times. On the day of the transfer the doctor comes in, good news finally, two eggs looked perfect, he suggests only transferring three of the remaining four, we agree.
During the transfer they snap a photo; this will become their first picture. They really do look good; I have other photos at home to compare to it. After the transfer, the embryologist asks to speak with us. This is a first. He tells us they really do look very good, he thinks this will be our time. I am surprised to even see him, he is like the great Wizard of Oz, you don’t usually get this luxury.
I go home and lay down as flat as possible for two weeks. I don’t even shower for five days for fear of standing up. This is the dreaded two week wait and the only things that get me through it are my photo and my Ward. He cooks, he cleans, and he visits me. He packs a cooler, he goes to Walmart, and he loves me.
At one week the office calls as usual but instead of a nurse it is the embryologist again. He tells me he is pulling for me, and I believe he is sincere. At two weeks I go for my blood test. I haven’t been down the stairs or outside in two weeks. Afterwards I come home, I must prepare for what may happen next. As is our ritual Ward will call with the results, I can’t handle hearing it from the nurse.
At 1 p.m. he calls. It is too early for results, I think. He has heard from his brother and the nurse. They’re having another girl, he tells me. I will be happy for them later, right now I need the results.
“So, what is a good number?” he asks. We’ve been over this a dozen times, “Anything over 60” I remind him. “What about 640?” he asks. I break down, I really wasn’t expecting good news. I cry harder than I did when the results are bad.
This is what I think about when I look at that first photo of my children.