Twelve attempts at pregnancy might not seem like much, but when those attempts involve fertility treatments, 12 is much higher than it sounds.
Because I don’t just try “the old fashioned way,” getting pregnant includes injections, medications, countless monitoring appointments, vaginal suppositories, cycle tracking, planning of dates, stress, money, mood swings, and a roller coaster of emotions. Each time — each of those 12 attempts — is multilayered for me, for all women undergoing fertility treatments, and it’s made more complex when the result continues to be the same: still not a mother.
I’ve undergone three “fresh” IVF cycles, four home insemination attempts, six FETs (frozen embryo cycles), and have suffered from a 2nd trimester miscarriage at 17 weeks, a miscarriage at 10 weeks after a strong heartbeat had already been detected, a biochemical pregnancy at five weeks, and the awful experience of witnessing my wife miscarry at eight weeks after a heartbeat failed to develop. It’s incredible and overwhelming to think about, especially since there isn’t an end in sight for us, but I do believe it will happen. In the meantime, this is my look back over the past nearly four years:
IVF Cycle #1, May 2012
I was convinced that all I needed was some sperm and I’d get pregnant the first try. After the first month of monitoring, we opted for IVF because the chances were better and my insurance at the time covered it 100 percent. In my mind, it was the quickest way to motherhood. I decided to do what’s known as a “low dose” cycle, because I was also naive enough to think I didn’t need more than one egg. The cycle yielded two, and the egg retrieval was awful. We knew there was a benign cyst on my ovary that the doctor said he would drain when we performed the retrieval, if it was easy enough to do, which it turned out to be. But I was incredibly sore for days after the procedure. I was fine by the time of the embryo transfer five days later, but I never got pregnant that cycle.
FET Cycle #1, July 2012
Since I had two embryos from my first cycle, we had one left to do our first frozen embryo transfer. This cycle proved to be much easier than the previous one. There was far less medication to take and no need for an egg retrieval procedure. But, it still didn’t end in pregnancy.
IVF Cycle #2, September 2012
After the discomfort of the first fresh cycle, I opted to do a full-dose cycle this time around. I didn’t know it at the time, but the only reason my first fresh cycle was so uncomfortable was because of the cyst. This fresh cycle was a walk in the park. I was feeling totally fine within hours of the egg retrieval, which successfully yielded multiple embryos. We decided to transfer two, and I got pregnant with twins. I had a mild case of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), but otherwise it was the best 17 weeks of my life.
2nd-Trimester Miscarriage, December 2012
My pregnancy was a dream. Absolutely no issues, all tests and ultrasounds continued to come back perfect. Four days before Christmas, I had an early gender scan at one of those boutique ultrasound spas. I wanted to surprise my wife and family on Christmas with a gender reveal. I discovered that we’d be having a girl and a boy. I was elated. Eight hours later, my water broke. Early the next day, I lost our son and daughter. We named them Daphne and Theodore. My milk came in Christmas morning, and I had no babies to feed. It was the beginning of an incredibly dark time in my life.
In between this loss and my next attempt at pregnancy, I underwent more testing. My babies were tested, too, and there were no abnormalities found — not with me and not with them. The start of a long line of no answers.
FET Cycle #2, February 2013
Everyone reassured me that it’s easy to get pregnant after a miscarriage, that your body “recognizes” what to do or something absurd like that. Naturally, I was hopeful for this cycle — but because we still didn’t know what caused my previous loss and we were told that “sometimes these things just happen” with twin pregnancies, I was terrified of getting pregnant with twins again. We decided to transfer one embryo. It didn’t take.
FET Cycle #3, April 2013
Still reeling from my loss just months ago, and now disappointed that I didn’t immediately get pregnant again, my dark corner got darker. I tried to stay positive, but it was so hard. I went into this cycle trying to believe good things were coming, but this cycle also failed.
FET Cycle #4, September 2013
After deciding to take a break from the fertility treatments for the summer, we transferred our last two embryos from the twin “batch.” At this time, we were also planning a move to another state, so the pressure was on for this to work. It didn’t.
I moved to Massachusetts in November of 2013. I started a new job, which meant I’d have to wait for health coverage to kick in, and came up with the brilliant idea to try some at-home inseminations with a known donor. For some reason, I thought that maybe my body just didn’t do well with the medications, even though I had very few side effects. Looking back, it was such a desperate move. And I admit, I felt desperate. We were approaching the year mark of the loss of our twins, everyone around me was popping out babies, and my patience was nil.
Home Inseminations #1-4, February – May 2014
This time period was some of the most interesting along our journey. I tracked my ovulation at home, and was practically an expert because of all the monitoring I had done at the fertility center. We ordered disposable speculums from Amazon, charted my cervical mucus, noted days of ovulation, and planned our home inseminations around all of it. We were lucky to have a lovely known donor who made a monthly “deposit” and was happy to help. In the end, though, it didn’t work.
My Wife’s Miscarriage, December 2014
I was pretty much spent at this time, and so my wife and I decided it was her turn up to bat. She got pregnant in September of 2014, her very first try. We were thrilled. But she lost the pregnancy at eight weeks when a heartbeat failed to develop. I wasn’t sure what was worse: having experienced losses from my own body, or witnessing the person I love the most experience it firsthand. Afterward, I decided to try again.
IVF Cycle #3, April 2015
My insurance at my new job kicked in, and I was off for another round of IVF. This was at a whole new fertility center, which took some getting used to after our last center because our previous doctors and nurses were really amazing, on all levels. But we found a new doctor that we really liked, and had a successful cycle that yielded multiple eggs. We opted to transfer just one, and I got pregnant. Finally, this was it! New home, new job, new doctors. Maybe that saying about “everything in its own time” was true.
Miscarriage at 10 Weeks, June 2015
We saw a strong heartbeat at six weeks and broke the news shortly after. I began to develop an awful, awful case of OHSS. I gained almost 20 pounds in fluid and was on modified bed rest for nearly two weeks. I lost the baby at 10 weeks, when our ultrasound appointment showed the heartbeat was gone.
FET Cycle #5, July 2015
I was pissed. I had only recently been able to wrap my head around the fact that my 2nd-trimester miscarriage was a totally random fluke, and now I had the added stress of having to worry about first trimester losses, too. We chose to transfer two embryos this cycle, a decision we didn’t make lightly. But, there was that desperation in me again. The cycle failed.
FET Cycle #6, September 2015
Back in the saddle for another frozen cycle, or what they sometimes call a “thaw cycle”. I feel like a real pro at this point. I’ve learned the lingo of the monitoring appointments; I know my uterine lining needs to measure at an eight to proceed; the transvaginal ultrasounds that once felt intrusive are totally no big deal; I speak openly and honestly about my infertility and losses. This is my life. Every ounce of it. I got pregnant this cycle. But it ended at five weeks.
Miscarriage at 5 Weeks, October 2015
They call it a biochemical pregnancy. And while it was the “easiest” loss to get over — at least for me, and in comparison to my other losses — I think it’s the cruelest. Why even bother getting a positive pregnancy test? Why not just let it be yet another failed cycle? To be ignited with that incredible hope and joy that comes with a long-tried-for positive pregnancy test to only have all that goodness ripped from you a few days later, is just cruel.
It’s hard to get this all down on the page. It’s hard to take a look back at what has been nearly four years of heartbreak, knowing that we have no idea when our joyous time will finally come. We have three embryos left from my third fresh IVF cycle, so there’s some hope there. I do believe it will happen, even with all of this ugly history, and that faith is all I’ve got.