When I wrote my October PALS post, we were in the thick of a fresh IVF cycle – I’d just undergone an egg retrieval procedure and we had four perfect embryos. We were looking forward to transferring one of them a few days later, and hopeful that my next PALS post would be a pregnancy announcement. Unfortunately, this is not a pregnancy announcement. In fact, it’s quite the opposite…
My husband and I woke up on October 24th full of hope and joyful anticipation, in a hotel near the clinic at which we have our embryo transfers done (it’s a 2+ hour drive from our home, and my transfer time was quite early in the morning). We were looking forward to a short drive to the clinic, then returning home with an embryo safely on board. As we were getting ready to leave, we got a call that would change our lives forever: Our embryos, which had been “perfect” the night before, had arrested (stopped growing) overnight and were already undergoing cellular degeneration. There would be no transfer, because there were no embryos left to transfer.
After relaying the devastating news to my husband, I listened in stunned mostly-silence as my RE (fertility doctor) talked about how this is nature’s way of saying something is wrong with an embryo, that we could try again and do a different protocol the next time, that this (“poor-quality embryos”) sometimes happens in women my age. He gave me a little lecture on how big of a developmental leap blasting out is (which I already knew, having studied embryology in graduate school and taught biology and human anatomy and physiology for 9 years), and kept saying next time, next time, next time. And finally, I said to him “There isn’t going to be a next time. This was it for us.” And I meant it. We meant it. There is not going to be a “next time” for us.
Quite some time ago, my husband and I agreed that when either of us thought it was time for us to stop fertility treatment, we would indicate it and the other would respect that decision. I had always worried a little that I would be ready to stop and he wouldn’t, or he would be and I wouldn’t. As it turned out, each of our “It’s time to stop” moments happened at the same time – sitting in a hotel room, thinking we were an hour or so from transferring an embryo and finding out they had all died, we looked at each other and said, “It’s time to stop”.
Nearly two months later, we are completely comfortable with our decision to stop actively trying for another biological child. We have lost 6 embryos this year, my body is tired from three failed cycles (two FET and the October fresh cycle) within a 9 month timespan, and there is no reason to believe that the outcome of any additional cycles would be any different – I am 41 years old, we got far fewer eggs than in previous cycles, and there are now obvious issues with the quality of the embryos we create. We could keep trying, but the emotional and physical toll is just too great, and the time I would spend going to medical appointments is time I can now spend with the beautiful, amazing rainbow we were blessed with just over two years ago.
So where do we go from here? The honest answer is that we don’t know yet; we both strongly want another child, and we both strongly want Noah to not be a “not-only only” (he appears to be an only child when he in fact has an older brother, our late son Will). There’s always the possibility, albeit a pretty remote one, that we will spontaneously conceive, and we’re not going to do anything to prevent that from happening. We’re also both scientists, though, and understand that given my age and the issues that led us to undergo advanced reproductive treatment in the first place, we shouldn’t get our hopes of having another biological child up too high. The reality is that we will probably never have another biological child, and that’s something we’re both still struggling with. Knowing that it’s time to stop trying and wrapping your head around what that means are two very different things…
We are grateful that the “what about a surrogate/trying this-that-or-the-other thing to increase the odds of a successful IVF cycle/adopting?” questions (answers: you have to have embryos to do that, we will not be trying IVF again, of course we are considering adoption) have tapered off considerably, probably because we’ve made it crystal-clear that we don’t want to hear them right now. When we’re ready to start working on growing our family again, we’ll do that. But we’ve spent the majority of our marriage either trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, dealing with the death of a child, having a very difficult pregnancy with our rainbow, etc. – for now, we’re ready to spend our time focusing on the beautiful little family we have rather than expanding it.