Wednesday, December 12, 2012 – 1745 views
— by dbasch
Six years ago Sarah and I started trying to have a child. That journey ended yesterday. I will not speak for her, but for me it has been the most frustrating and unrewarding undertaking in my life. I know it’s hard for others to empathize, so I’ll share what the experience has been like.
After the first year of trying to conceive by natural means, Sarah and I started talking to doctors to see if there was anything out of the ordinary. After months of consultations, the recommendation was to try In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The procedure is costly, uncertain, and particularly painful for the woman. It involves months of injections, drugs, and invasive medical procedures. However, we were assured that our chances were good.
Because of medical reasons we had to postpone our first cycle of IVF treatment several times, and we finally did it in late 2009. The treatment cycle took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the months of October and November. Doctors extracted nine mature eggs from Sarah on a Monday in early December, and the transfer of one or two of the resulting embryos was to take place four or five days later.
The day after the extraction our doctor said that six embryos had fertilized, and she’d call us Thursday to let us know when to come in for the transfer. By Thursday she didn’t have any news, and she promised to call early Friday. We should be ready to come in anytime that day.
At 9 am she called us with bad news: all of the six embryos had failed the genetic tests. Four of them would not result in a viable pregnancy, and the other two might but they would have Down syndrome if they came to term. The doctor said she’d never seen anything like it before, and she had no explanation for us. We were devastated, and felt cheated; the doctors had told us a number of things that could go wrong, but they had never mentioned that it was possible that we wouldn’t even have a chance to transfer an embryo and hope for a pregnancy.
On June 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm my father called me on the phone. It was a short conversation, and I told him that our most recent attempt at IVF had failed. This one had resulted in one viable embryo that failed to implant. He asked me if we’d try again, and I said I wasn’t sure. We didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of his last weekend in this world. Three days later his wife called me to tell me he had just died unexpectedly of Acute Pulmonary Edema.
Sarah and I attempted another treatment later this year. This cycle was especially painful to Sarah, and we agreed that it would be the last. Our doctor is the best in the Bay Area, the one venture capitalists and "dot com" millionaires go to. Each cycle costs about thirty thousand dollars, takes several months, we estimate that it has a ten percent chance of resulting in a baby birth. Those are long odds; we can afford the financial cost, but the emotional and physical effort takes a toll.
There are two periods of time that are especially stressful during an IVF treatment. The first one is the few days after the eggs are harvested. Doctors tell you how many eggs were collected, and we know that only a fraction of those will be fertilized successfully. Again, a fraction of the successfully fertilized embryos will pass all genetic tests and be available for a transfer. During our last cycle we had four fertilized embryos. Each embryo had 1 in 4 chances of passing all genetic tests. That meant 95% chances that we’d have at most two viable embryos, and 30% chances that we’d have none. The roulette wheel fell on that 30%. No viable embryos this time.
We had one card left. The one embryo resulting from the May treatment didn’t implant, but we had another frozen embryo in storage. This was the first one that had ever passed all the tests, in August of 2011. We affectionately called her Freeza (the two viable embryos we conceived during our journey were girls). We decided to not wait any longer to transfer Freeza because the clock is ticking: Sarah is 36 years old and I’m 43.
On December 1st, after another round of hormones and injections, we went to the hospital once again for the embryo transfer. Everything went well, and the staff wished us the best of luck. We believed that the chances of a successful implantation were about the same as a coin toss. The difference is that this coin toss takes two weeks, and those two weeks are dreadful. Sarah couldn’t sleep much. I spent most of my time working out and trying to distract my mind.
Yesterday we went in for a blood test, which had two possible outcomes. If a certain number is too low, the woman is not pregnant. If it’s higher, then the test must be repeated two days later to see if it has quadrupled. If it has, then implantation has occurred and the pregnancy is under way.
Sarah received the phone call from the hospital while I had gone out to get myself a sandwich. She was conclusively not pregnant, and immediately tried to call me. My phone didn’t ring, so she sent me a text message. I checked my phone and saw the news as the waiter brought me my sandwich. I responded with just one word: “FUCK.”
We know now that we won’t see Sarah’s belly grow with our child in it. My mother will probably die without being a grandmother. It hurts to see pictures of babies on Facebook, and I will close my account at the end of the year. I don’t know where we’ll go from here, but I can say without any doubt that this was the worst year of my life. I experienced death three times: my father and our two embryos. Now it’s time to mourn.
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