It all started with the Lupron.
I, like most women who get the opportunity to become a connoisseur of the many hormonal medications used in the treatment of infertility, had heard a lot of things about Lupron. I’d heard people talk about the mood swings and the hot flashes that accompanied it. I’d also heard some people say it wasn’t as bad as Clomid.
I figured that since I’ve sampled a fair number of infertility medications at this point – Clomid, Femara, Menopur, Follistim, both Pregnyl and Ovidrel, Estrace, Prometrium, Ganirelix, various steriods, and PIO – I had this whole thing down. I’d managed the mood shifts, the crying, the stinging, and the knots from the PIO. I couldn’t say I particularly wanted to use Lupron for my FET, but given that my cycles are so screwed up, it made a lot of other options for FET impossible in my case. At some point, I asked the nurse what the chances were that the Lupron would have major side effects for me.
“About 20-30%,” she told me. “It’s a low dose we’re using, but if you’re going to have issues, it will probably be in that time between going off the birth control pills and starting the estrogen replacement.”
Honestly, I felt pretty good about those chances. So when the time came, I injected the Lupron as directed and headed on about the business of life. The birth control pill pack came to an end. I shrugged. So far, so good.
Until that night, when all of a sudden, on a cold March night where the temperature outside was around 14 degrees Fahrenheit, I felt as though someone had suddenly dumped me inside a furnace. I yelped, threw off the covers, and turned the fan at my bedside on me. It didn’t matter. Sweat poured off me. I seriously contemplated running buck naked straight out of our apartment, across the yard, and into the ice-covered lake in the back.
Let’s just say that on Lupron, I didn’t feel so much like I needed a doctor as I needed an exorcist. Every emotion felt magnified, accompanied by hot flashes and severe headaches that just kept coming. I was pretty sure that my head spinning about 360 degrees was coming next.
I’ve never been so glad in my entire life to get my period. This meant I could soon start the estrogen replacement that would make me feel better. It was a minor miracle, really, once I started the estrogen. I had another few days of headaches (it seems any major hormonal change causes them for me), but the hot flashes disappeared.
At that point, the physical side effects got better. The emotional funk, however, was just starting.
This cycle felt different from all the ones that came before it. Before, there was always a sense of anticipation, even some excitement amid all the fear, doubt, and worry. I never could help having a few little cherished daydreams of getting the positive pregnancy test, shopping for that first onesie, or wondering if I’d finally felt a kick.
This time, I just felt resigned. Exhausted. It wasn’t even so much a negativity thing – I figured that the FET could work – but more of just a sudden, uncharacteristic lack of imagination. I just couldn’t find the energy to daydream about the idea of being pregnant, because every time I tried, I’d find myself somewhere in the actual past with beta numbers and sitting numbly in that dark, quiet ultrasound room.
I dutifully took my medications as prescribed. I went to appointments. Outwardly, I did everything I was told, preparing. But I felt hollow. Empty. I was supposed to be preparing to get pregnant again. I was lucky that we had anything frozen to even try to transfer. Yet there was this overwhelming sense of futility I just couldn’t shake.
Friday, the appointed day of the embryo thaw came. I paced. I bit my nails. I stared at my cell phone. When the phone finally rang, I picked it up, fully expecting to hear Dr. E’s voice. I had requested that if neither of the embryos had thawed successfully, Dr. E call me to give me the news. If it was good news, however, the lab would call.
Much to my surprise, the voice on the other end of the line was female. It was the lab. Both embryos had survived the thaw. One had four cells that had survived, the other had six. The biologist told me that while it was unlikely that the four cell embryo would continue to grow well, it was possible, and they were pleased with the six cell.
I was happy, but knew we still had a long way to go.
This morning, we left our house at 5 am to head to the city for the possible transfer. We had been warned that it was quite possible that we’d make the 2+ hour drive and have nothing to transfer. We walked into the clinic and were escorted back by the nurse.
“Look,” I told her. “I need to take my Estrace and get my PIO shot if we’re doing this. But I’d rather not do either if it’s not going to happen.”
She told me she’d check. She came back and told us that we were definitely doing a transfer. Arthur and I glanced at each other in happy surprise.
Dr. E came in to check on us and told us we had a single cavitating morula that he felt was definitely worth transferring. Apparently, a cavitating morula is the stage just before blastocyst, and given that the embryo’s growth had been interrupted by the freezing and thawing, he was pleased with the progress this one had made. The other embryo had arrested.
I had been so certain that at that moment I wouldn’t feel much of anything. That I wouldn’t want to look at the photo or to watch them transfer the embryo on the ultrasound screen. As Dr. E handed us the photo of the embryo, though, I was glad to have it.
Instead of the rush, the excitement, the nerves, the terror I felt at the first transfer, I felt something very different as I watched the little flash of light on the screen that showed the embryo being put into my uterus.
It’s really the first time I’ve felt any kind of true peace with all the infertility treatments, with the many cycles we’ve undergone. I’m just grateful at this point to have gotten to transfer at all, since even that was so far from certain. Maybe this hardy little embryo will take, maybe it won’t. We hope, of course, that it does take, does become our baby. We’ll be terribly sad, naturally, if the beta is negative.
But I’m amazingly, overwhelmingly glad no matter what that we got the chance to try, to bring it back to us to nurture even if it’s only for these couple of weeks. It’s healing for me to hold this tiny potential being, to pour out all those thwarted maternal feelings for even what might be a short time.
It’s a victory in the midst of all the other failures and heartbreaks.
For today, that’s enough for me.