Trigger warning: unexplained infertility, IVF
I thought I’d be pregnant by now.
This refrain is uttered by millions of individuals dealing with infertility. And while I realize the struggle is universal, I really thought I’d be pregnant by now.
On March 10, 2020 I was informed that our two embryos from my first IVF cycle were chromosomally abnormal and couldn’t be used. Add in conflict at work, shade thrown by my mother-in-law regarding my childbearing age, and indefinite work-from-home orders, and you can begin to understand why this was not my best week.
The feeling of uncertainty around infertility is overwhelming in general, but throw in a pandemic and that feeling gets multiplied by 100. COVID-19 had shut everything down, including my fertility clinic.
Infertility has a way of taking over your life…
On April 30, the day before my 39th birthday, I was in a Lyft headed to Manhattan. It was my first time going further than the corner supermarket in six weeks. Now, while I’d convinced myself that everything happens for a reason, I did an endzone dance a la Odell Beckham Jr. when I got the call to start a new cycle. At my visit, I was instructed to take birth control and come back on my next period.
On May 23, I awoke bloated and alone. My husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary the night before by arguing. We argued about how my decision to walk to the corner and take a call from a good friend was too risky during a pandemic.
Sheltering in place isn’t how I thought we’d be spending our 10-year anniversary; I wanted to make the most of at-home orders by eating sushi and dancing. But we ate in separate rooms and barely spoke to each other instead.
I got myself together, kissed him goodbye, and said, “I love you” as the Lyft driver arrived. (I’d promised myself I would never leave our apartment without saying “I love you.”)
Since the clinic was near Central Park and my driver dropped me off early, I decided to head there. I hadn’t seen the inside of the park in 2½ months; my job was located around the corner, and I missed the days of strolling along the path, looking at ducks.
I didn’t miss the one day per month when I would get my period at work, run to the park, dash down a path nestled deep amongst trees (in case I ran into a co-worker) and cry underneath my sunglasses. Or when I would run into the park because another baby shower had taken place in the conference room behind my desk and I was asked to assist setting up the “Congratulations” sign.
We were ready to start trying for a child in March 2018, and began in November of that year. Nothing.
We were both tested to rule out issues in July 2019. Nothing.
We were healthy, my tubes were clear, my ovarian reserve was normal, and his count and motility were good.What the heck was the problem? I remember feeling a sense of despair after the initial six months of trying. Father’s Day 2019 was the hardest for me somehow.
Disappointed, but hopeful, we decided to begin IVF in January 2020. Honestly, I’m glad we took the last few months of 2019 off. We saw concerts, traveled, and entertained at home. Infertility has a way of taking over your life—it becomes this cloud that robs you of your spontaneity, confidence, and belief in your body’s ability to do its job.
There were days last summer when I questioned my desire to conceive. Somehow, the answer was still “Yes.”
But as hard as struggling to have a child is, the feelings are much harder—shame, isolation, rage, despair, disappointment, and uncertainty are what get you.
On May 23, I was definitely feeling disappointment, remembering the argument my husband and I had the night before. However, I was seen by a very attentive and compassionate doctor, who I would later request be my new reproductive endocrinologist. I was told what medication to take and was scheduled to come back on May 26, the day after George Floyd was murdered.
We were lucky to produce four chromosomally normal embryos last June. While the validation of Black lives mattering was being shouted across the globe, I was fighting to bring forth life. There were days last summer when I questioned my desire to conceive. Somehow, the answer was still “Yes.”
During the second half of 2020, I had fibroid surgeries, registered voters, and continued working remotely.
I was cleared for an embryo transfer in January 2021—we’d never gotten this far! Seeing our embryo on screen during the transfer was magical. Unfortunately, it didn’t implant.
My husband tested positive for COVID the week before; we quarantined at home, which included sleeping in separate rooms. Needing to quarantine meant I couldn’t go to the clinic for my pregnancy bloodwork and had to test with a store-bought kit. I’d never felt lower than lying on our sofa bed, masked, holding three negative pregnancy tests, while my husband, also masked, held my hand. It was one of the darkest moments in my life.
And that brings us to today. Here I am, still not pregnant. It’s unfair, it’s out of my control, and I’m sad.
Yet, as April 30th approaches again, my next transfer cycle begins, and 40 peeks over the horizon, I’ll be damned if I define myself by the outcome of this journey.
Resisting infertility keeps me suffering; acceptance gives me hope. I choose acceptance, y’all. Ashe!