When my ten inseminations failed and my doctor scheduled a chat with me, I suspected that I knew that my attempts were going to take a deeper turn into in vitro fertilization. My doctor had been upping my medicines with each procedure and he was unsure why this was happening. His office did not handle in vitro fertilizations but they worked in partnership with a practice in Charlotte that did. Once a month, they visited their offices and met new patients.
I will confess, there were several times during my meeting with my in vitro doctor that I got a bad feeling, almost like she was trying to scare me away. She kept repeating my age as if she was trying to give me a secret clue. When she looked at my ovaries with the ultrasound, she looked disappointed. In my gut, I thought about saying, “Nah”, but I was too cowardly to stop. I don’t do failure well. Walking away from fertility was my version of failure.
Just in case you don’t know the realities of in vitro fertilization, let me give you my take on this process.
First, your doctor must take control over your ovaries and make them pump out as many eggs as possible. Most months, my body made one egg. During one of my ultrasounds, there were potentially twenty eggs on deck in my ovaries. Doctors take control using lots and lots of drugs. I promise you, you have never seen this amount of drugs before in your life unless you are part of some kind of drug cartel.
One round of drugs for in vitro fertilization costs over $6,000. This round of drugs comes in one large, refrigerated box to your door. It’s full of shots that you have to assemble and give yourself daily. As the procedure approaches, the needle for the shot grows in size to the point that you cannot give it to yourself. I had to arrange friends to come over daily to give me a shot. You take these shots for at least one full month.
During my consultation with the doctor, she told me that I would gain between 20-25 pounds in one month due to the shots. I thought she said this to me to scare me, but unfortunately it was true. Your ovaries go from the size of small walnuts to small apples during this time. You feel like complete crap since it feels like your belly is full of liquid. Getting dressed to go to work while gaining 25 pounds in 4 weeks is completely unpleasant. One day I remember having to work in my yoga pants because literally nothing would fit.
I cried a lot during this time. I also laughed at lot during this time. My emotional state was like a busy see saw on a kindergarten playground. No one could say the right thing to me. My feelings were always on the brink of complete meltdown. I remember being worried about my co-workers during this month. They knew everything and were patient with me, but at times, kept their distance to protect themselves. I created a safe word for my co-workers to use when they saw me at work getting too emotional. When I heard that word, “elephant”, that was my cue to go back to my office and calm myself down.
It was becoming summer time going from May into June while I was taking these drugs. I remember having trouble sleeping since I was always hot and breaking out into a sweat. Since I was on such a high level of drugs, I had to be monitored. This means that I went to the doctor every morning for an ultrasound. A goo-covered wand was inserted into my vagina every day for over two weeks to make sure that my ovaries did not get overstimulated.
When I started my journey to become pregnant, I was paying for everything out of pocket. Now, I was getting second credit card and a “medical loan” to charge all of my drugs, office visit co-pays, lab work and my two in vitro fertilization attempts special rate of $19,995. Here I was trying to enter the world of single parenthood deep in debt before the child was ever created. Financial worry ate at my brain every day. If I thought too long about the dollar signs, I would not sleep. No sleep and being overly emotional made me a dangerous and unapproachable combination.
Once your eggs are ready and before your body gets any crazy ideas to release them, you have a surgical procedure to remove the eggs from your body. I had never had a surgical procedure before in my life minus the removal of my wisdom teeth so I was quite nervous. My aunt drove me to Charlotte for the procedure. I remember my stomach being in knots and having to go to the bathroom a lot.
The procedure is done in their Charlotte offices. Rooms are really curtained off areas on one side of the building. I remember listening to the young woman beside me coming out of surgery. She was young and she was with her father. She was one of the women being paid to donate her eggs. I remember her saying repeatedly under the haze of her medication, “This wasn’t so bad. I would do this again, Dad. Yeah, it’s not that bad.” I stared at the ceiling and talked to God. “God, I don’t want to do this again, please let this time be the only time that I have to do this.” Well, he answered it in his strange, weird way.
When it’s your turn for the procedure, you have to walk into the operating room since your body has to be in a strange position for the procedure. You have to help them get you in this position. I remember my legs shaking as I walked on the cold floor with my bare feet trying to hold my hospital gown closed. Once I got on the table, my shaking moved from my legs to my entire body. Every person in that room could see instantly that I was nervous. The doctor and nurses tried to get me to move into a specific position, but I could not move. After a few minutes of their masked faces looking into my eyes telling me to move, the doctor said, “Just put her under, she is too nervous to help us.”
I woke in my curtained room with my aunt holding my clothes. It seemed like hours but from beginning to recovery, it’s only 20-30 minutes. I was loopy and weepy. They had me leave shortly after waking. I was ready to eat lunch and take my pain pill. After a sandwich somewhere, I drifted off to sleep in my aunt’s car and eventually in my bed at home.
Then, you wait typically 3-5 days for the sperm you bought on the Internet to mix with your eggs. Out of the twenty potential eggs in my body, they could only harvest nine of them. Nine little eggs were swimming with some guys sperm in a petri dish by the time I was in my bed in Greensboro. The doctor’s office calls you daily with updates. You get only 24 hours notice when you have to return to have them placed back into your body.
Getting updates about this is strange. “Everything looks fine. Looks like six of them took and they are developing well.” I remember not knowing what kinds of questions to ask. I said, “Ok, thanks.” It was the last day of June when I had my procedure. I remember being worried about ruining my aunt’s July 4th holiday if my return fell on that day. We needed to borrow someone’s van since I was told that once they were placed back inside me that I would need to lay as flat as possible.
On July 4th, I was directed to return on July 5th. Since I would have to lie flat for several days after the procedure, I asked off work. This was when I got on FMLA so my employer knew something was up but I did not tell them what was happening. Only my co-workers knew what procedure I was actually having done.
On July 5th, I woke nervous, but ready. I wanted this procedure behind me. I wanted these drugs out of my system. I wanted my belly to return to normal since I still felt like a beached whale. My phone rang, it was the doctor’s office. I was told not to return. All of my eggs died overnight. Apparently this has never happened before and the nurse suggested that I should probably not try again. That was it. I begged to talk to the doctor, but he was busy. I begged for a return call with an explanation, she promised to ask the doctor to call me.
My aunt was already on the way to my house. The phone call happened about 10 minutes before she was due to pick me up. I called her immediately to tell her but I didn’t make sense since I was already crying hysterically. It was over. I must stop now. I remember feeling lost. For the past ten years, I had been preparing to become a mother by finding a secure job, buying a house in a good school district and taking trips before my chances were gone. Now, all of that was for nothing.
I cried a lot that day. My aunt took me out for breakfast. When the waitress came took my order, I said, “I want bacon and bourbon.” That’s what I ate. Then my aunts and cousin took me swimming. When you plan to cry most of the day, standing in a swimming pool is a good choice since you are wet already. The doctor did finally call me back after 4pm, 7 hours later. He told me how this has never happened before but that I cannot get pregnant. My eggs will not stay pregnant. This is probably what was happening during all of my inseminations. To coax me into quitting, the doctor’s office even offered to return half of my two-attempt fee.
It’s three years later and I am still paying off those fertility drugs. I don’t regret making the decision to go down this dark path of in vitro fertilization. I can stand here today and tell you honestly that I did everything that I physically can do to get pregnant and it was not meant to be. On that July day, if you tried to comfort me, you would have failed. My head dove directly into the deep end of a depression. I failed. I hate everything about myself since my body had failed me. Now I was in debt, uncomfortably overweight and no baby in sight. No words could have reversed that feeling. Only time can heal those wounds.