This is part of an ongoing series of real women sharing their stories of infertility and hope. Today Jules shares her beautifully written story of going through IVF and the happy news that resulted from all the difficulties. You must read the end of the story and bring tissues.
There’s a part of your heart you have to kill every time you try to conceive and fail. Spending year after year going to doctor after doctor, taking increasingly invasive tests, looking for reasons, answers, options, hope… as each step fails, a little more of your faith dies.
The pain is more than grief. More than anger. More than frustration, hate, hopelessness, faithlessness, and death all balled up into one gaping wound in your soul. It’s a wall of anguish that never fades. Never gets smaller. And never goes away. The only thing to do is deaden the place where it lives inside you. Because there are so many other, wonderful things in your life. So many precious people, so many other opportunities.
This isn’t the only goal. It might not even be the best. It’s just the one you can’t get past. So you bury it.
And it works most of the time. Until someone makes you hold a baby. Until anyone announces a pregnancy. Until you try again. Or until, finally, there are no more tries.
Driving to Seattle for our second IVF attempt this July, the silence in our car was filled with all the things we didn’t have to say. How afraid we were of disappointment. How incredibly sad, knowing we would be. How insane it was to be doing this to ourselves again. And how much we looked forward to the relief, the freedom, we’d find in letting this dream finally die.
Instead we talked of selling the house and moving to a condo in Bellevue. About trips to Florida, D.C. and Europe. And the varying degrees of evil involved in instructing anyone to guzzle 48oz of water with two tablets of Valium and then hold it for the next two hours.
Funny thing about Valium — I never felt it take effect. At least, not until I tried to get out of the car. One stumble from planting my teeth into the parking lot asphalt, Trav held me all the way to the 10th floor.
Our nurse took us to a blank room with a blank bed and a blank set of gowns. And I swear, I have never spent more effort on NOT falling on my ass as I did when she left me to change. I grabbed the mattress and Trav grabbed me, all while my brain tried to explain to my body that we were switching sweatpants for a sheet snuggie, for godsakes, not a NASA spacesuit.
Several minutes later, I was settled in the bed with Trav in the chair next to me. We looked quietly out the window on Seattle, seeing nothing as we waited. Minutes later, the nurse came back and poked around the curtain, “Ok, if you’re ready, let’s go over to the transfer room.”
The room was dark and small, lit only by the glow of an ultrasound monitor and a flat screen TV. There was a chair for Travis and one for our doctor. A sink and shelf and one of those special, transforming beds, facing a second door into the lab. It opened and Dr. Marshall entered, followed by a man we’d never met.
“Hi. I’m the Embryology Lab Director. I’ve been taking care of your eggs. I’ll be assisting your transfer today.” He shook our hands and smiled kindly. Reading from a chart, he asked, “Would you verify this is your name and birthdate?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“And we’re transferring two blastocysts today, is that correct?”
“Yes. Our last two.” I said, trying hard to keep my voice steady, “These are all we have left.”
“That’s alright,” he reached over and squeezed my shoulder, “Everyone here says I’m good luck.”
Turning my head towards Travis so I could blink back my tears, I took a breath and lied. “I believe you.”
I wanted to. But I didn’t. We were there in that room because we couldn’t live the rest of our lives thinking about two eggs in a freezer. We were there because we needed it to be over.
Dr. Marshall talked to us as he left to prepare, but while she spoke of tubes and timelines and percentages and positive intentions, all I could think was: I am a stupid, stupid woman.
Because there was a part of me that DID still hope.
There are millions of women out there who will never, ever get pregnant. No matter what they try. No matter how much they spend. No matter how hard they pray. They just won’t. And they’re not imaginary.
Let it go. Move on. Live your life.
Two weeks later, I watched from the glass windows of a second floor lobby as Trav jumped over a guy and crashed into the boards during a weekend hockey tournament. He played four games in two days. I read the entire ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series between matches. And we both spent hours trying to avoid any thought of the blood test we had scheduled the next day.
I hadn’t felt different. I didn’t expect to. But I dreaded the drive home, and having to answer that final phone call.
Last time, they were an hour and a half late calling with our results. I was at the library, making myself crazy between ‘working’ on my laptop and looking at the clock on my phone. Every minute that passed by, I willed it to ring. Then I told myself to stop making myself crazy. And then I started all over again.
By the time it finally rang, I couldn’t answer it. I walked to the end of an empty aisle, sat with my back to a stack of books, and cried as I listened to the voicemail that said my levels were so low they didn’t even register.
This time, we went in early on a Sunday morning. It was sunny and clear. The clinic was quiet, the techs were cheery. And we had absolutely nothing else to distract us from the outcome of the day.
“And how are you two today?” the phlebotomist asked as I sat in her chair.
“Oh, we’re good. Happy to see the sun out. Looking forward to a quiet day at home”
“So, we’re doing a pregnancy test today.”
“This your first try?”
“Well, I hope it’s good news.”
“Thanks. It won’t be. But that’s ok.”
She looked at me, unconvinced.
I shrugged. “Gotta stop sometime.”
After the blood draw, the weekend doctor walked us out and promised to call by noon. I figured that meant two o’clock.
We were home by 11:30am. When I saw my phone light up fifteen minutes later, I yelled for Travis. And by the time he came down the stairs, I was already sobbing on the couch.
“What?” He stood and waited.
“Are you sure?” I asked the voice on the other end. Clasping my hand over my mouth, tears dripped down my cheeks as I hung up and set the phone down.
“It’s negative?” Trav asked.
I looked up at him, searching his face for some anchor to reality. “No.” I said. “It’s positive.”
At which point he threw both arms in the air and held me while I repeated, “This is not real. This is not real!”
And proceeded to call everyone in our immediate family.
You can read more from Jules and admire her beautiful triplets (born in February) on her blog, Stargazer.
If you want to share your story, please send it to me to at firstname.lastname@example.org.