The dark circles in the center of the ultrasound are what little growing eggs look like. That’s what gets measured and watched and prayed over, tiny dots of hope.
I tend to be a smile-even-though kind of person. I smile even though I don’t get the joke, or the story wasn’t funny, or I don’t feel like laughing. I smile until it hurts and then sometimes I lash out. Sometimes I just cry, especially now with my body riding high on fertility drugs. It’s good to relieve tension and anxiety with laughter, I’m all for it, just ask my Dr.
Dr B: “I don’t want to be doom and gloom… but I do think we are going to need some luck, and assistance, patience and some grace to get to the eggs on the right side. Now, we can absolutely have great results with just the left, but I want them all…”
Me: “Don’t be greedy, Dr B.”
That’s how our conversation went this morning when he told me our egg count was diminishing before my eyes. And, not even for lack of eggs but lack of accessibility -they’re just simply in an inconvenient spot.
When you begin IVF you’re kindof told what the hope-fors are. One of those is: We hope we can start with somewhere around 16-20 eggs. Those are good numbers to begin with, because as we go through the retrieval and fertilization process we will lose some. Some will be too small, some won’t fertilize, some will stop growing during the week, etc etc etc. We begin at the top of a funnel with 16-20 eggs and we hope to end with 6-8 good embryos. Enough that if we want a sibling, or we need to try again, we have a reserve.
Now let’s jump to our reality. We can see on the ultrasound 6 eggs on the left, maybe 7 but that 7 is very small. We can see 5 on the right, maybe 6 but again number six is very small. Our funnel, best case is only beginning with 13 eggs. Okay, that’s good, not great but enough. Even if we got 4 good embryos that’s still a possible 2 rounds of IVF. Awesome.
Fast forward to today: now we’re looking at only being able to get to 7 eggs. Our funnel is getting smaller and smaller. And now we’re just praying for 2 good embryos that keep this dream alive. The numbers might mean very little to you, but to us each one of those eggs is a possibility. Losing 6 of them before we even get started is devastating. Those eggs, those embryos-to-be, each one is the potential for a child. Each one could have a life, be a sibling…each one is a tiny spark of hope and letting them go is not an easy thing.
I’ve been thinking about talking through something here, something that seems to come up time and time again with different people and always leaves me angry or upset. The news of today just pounded it in a little more, so I am going to address it while it’s on my mind.
One of the first and repeated (holy crap -SO. OFTEN.) questions I get when people know we are doing IVF is a variation on: What are you going to do if you have multiples?
Because everybody thinks Octomom, John & Kate, the quints, the quads, the twins after adopting triplets. And their teasing smirk about all this is usually something like: maybe you shouldn’t do it if you’re gonna have 5 babies! Or I’d give you mine so I can be carefree again, or a facial expression that says you’re crazy.
Lemme break down what you might be misunderstanding:
The moms of multiples love their children just as they would a singleton. The parents of multiples have to go through finding a new normal just like the parents of single children, it looks different, but it’s fundamentally the same. You deal with whatever struggles life throws at you, you bring your babies home and you get on with life. Most importantly -when you’re talking to someone who’s dealing with infertility having children, any children is not our fear.
The fear is not in abundance, the fear is in lack.
When you tell me these stories, when you regurgitate this info with a voice that says ‘this is the horror story, isn’t it funny, it could happen to you’ I’m not laughing. In fact usually I don’t want to hear about it anyway, things with a million to one odds are not on my radar right now. Those stories are rare. Let’s talk about all the infertile couples who go through treatment and go home with half a dozen miscarriages and empty arms. Let’s ask if they’d choose the hard road of multiples or the hard road of a nursery that never gets used.
Teasing someone dealing with infertility about how scarey you think having too many children would be is ignorant and cruel. Because while you’re so damn worried about (if you were being realistic) twins or triplets I’m over here living in hell thinking I’ll never have the one. And then something like today happens and it jacks that fear right through the roof. You don’t have to worry, my terrified heart says to those remarks, I can’t even have one.
I know you’re joking. I know you don’t mean it like that. I know you’d be happy for us no matter how many babies we bring home. I know. But it’s not funny. lt still hurts.
If you want to tease me about multiples tease with hope and encouragement not fear. Tease me about needing a minivan, or how strong I’ll be after carrying all those babies. Tease me about how our lives will explode in a chorus of laughter and tears and running feet, having a built in basketball team, or needing all the babysitters for date night. Don’t tease me about giving up on a dream because the dream is hard, this road is hard enough.