During this two week wait my optimist was on a high. Soon my cycle buddies and slowly they began to announce their growing beta numbers. At first this boosted my confidence even more, shortly it would be my turn to announce. After all the years of trying to conceive, I was no longer concerned about the “extras”. Extras included anything Pinterest worthy, my goal was to have a happy healthy baby not creating cute birth announcement, or planning elaborate maternity shoots, just the ability to finally be able to announce success.
A few days in and everything was going as planned. I was testing my trigger out as usual and soon the line on my cheap HPTs would start to darken as the pregnancy took. A few months earlier I had submitted a packet and was accepted as a Warrant Officer Candidate. Things could not be better, my career was tracking as planned and, while a pregnancy would delay my ability to attend Warrant Officer Candidate School and the follow on training, it was a small price to pay for the ability to finally grow our family.
I continued to test the trigger out, as I had each month prior. I watched as the line faded from two dark pink lines to one. Each day I waited for the second line to re-appear. Each day until I had to come to the realization that the line would not turn pink for me as it had for my four cycle buddies. I was conflicted the day of my beta test. Part of me was holding out hope that the cheap HPTs just weren’t detecting my levels, but I my heart I knew this cycle was a bust. Just as I had known each month leading up to this point, I knew the test was negative. For some reason, neither embryo had grown inside me. The realization hit harder than it had before. I was not pregnant. I now had more questions than answers.
What had gone wrong? Was the issue with me, my eggs, the embryos? Were the two embryos that failed to implant viable? Was there an unknown issue with me that resulted in them being unable to implant? Was it an undiagnosed auto immune issue? Was it something I did or didn’t do? IVF demonstrated that we were able to create an embryo; was I the reason we could not conceive?
So many more questions without answers filled my head and kept me up most nights. Work served as only a temporary distraction my attention was rarely on the task at hand. I tried to think about the 12 embryos that remained but I could usually only focus on the failure. I could only wonder what could have been. What could THEY have been? 12 embryos, 12 chances at life remained but how many more times could I go through this? Did I have the financial capital to spend another $5000 per FET? Did I have the emotional capital to spend hoping and living with the crushing disappointment and depression that followed? Could I continue to have the strength to tell my husband this cycle did not work, and see the disappointment spread over him? How many more times could I tell family and friends wishing me well that I was not pregnant?
When a couple has frozen embryos it opens up the option for a Frozen Embryo Transfer, or FET. Because there is no need for an egg retrieval, no stimulation, less monitoring and minimal medication is required, FETs are usually less expensive. Understand that less expensive is not the same as inexpensive, and following the cost of many of the other procedures, a couple’s funds may be dwindling. The cost for our location was between $3000-$5000. Once again that is a discounted price and does not include the medications that most have to pay for.
We decided to postpone the FET until after I completed my Warrant Officer Training. In addition to my career advancing, our marriage had become strained from the normal marital gripes of pulling weight with chores and workloads, the added stress of fertility issues, and other issues, so the break from trying would do us a little good. That January I departed for WOCs in Fort Rucker Alabama. In March I flew to Arizona to complete the six week Warrant Officer Basic Course.
New groups, especially those with introductions, basically suck when facing infertility. It always means questions about your family, including children. A few days into class and between administrative paperwork, read ons and PT tests, I had been able to dodge the formal ‘stand in front of the class and introduce yourself’ scenario that I dreaded. Day three came and we moved into our classroom, and then we were asked to introduce ourselves…fuck.
The class went down the line with each person mentioning their name, military occupation, unit, marital status and, of course, children. My turn came. I stood up and proceeded to give my information, minus mention of children. Of course, in true “she’s married but didn’t mention children, so clearly she forgot” fashion, the instructor asked, “Do you have any children?” I wanted to respond with a snarky answer that showed my displeasure, but since this was a professional environment, I declined snapping at him that I omitted mentioning my children because I find they are assholes that ruined my body and prevented me from pursuing my dreams of becoming a IV drug user and all around degenerate. I would like to pause here and mention that if someone fails to mention a detail of their personal life, ANY detail, be it their marital situation, child or lack of children, just LET. IT. GO!
I had become quite used to this situation and decided to opt for my blunt, to the point answer. I looked at the questioning instructor and responded simply, “We tried for years and unfortunately we cannot have children.” I found that being straight forward and not giving the run around answer of, “not yet” performs a few essential tasks all at once. 1- It prevents any follow up questions or comments like; “are you planning on having children?” or “why haven’t you had children?” As though it’s any of their business. 2 – The answer reminds everyone why it is not okay to pry. If a question was not answered there may be a reason other than someone forgetting an important part of their life. 3 – I hope that my response makes the person think twice before asking someone else; someone that, for their own reasons, has decided to not be open with their struggles. If my answer can prevent one couple from not having to finagle answers to questions they don’t want asked, then good.
Throughout my six weeks in the course, most of my classmates were very supportive and understanding of my situation. It wasn’t a frequent topic of conversation, but there were a few classmates that even approached me with their own difficulty conceiving. Some asked questions about the various treatments and procedures and what the next steps were.
As the course came to an end and I prepared to depart for a year in Korea, I reflected on all that had happened over the years and the support I have been fortunate enough to receive. Even for those not open with their issues, whatever they may be, finding a support system is important especially for those times when IVF don’t got this.