As people who have been reading my posts – first as a Bump Day Blogger, and now as a monthly Parenting After Loss contributor – know, our road to becoming parents was not an easy one. Both Will (the son we lost to cervical insufficiency) and Noah (our amazing 17 month old rainbow miracle) were conceived through IVF due to both male (his brain tumor) and female (my PCOS and “advanced maternal age”) factor infertility. We were fortunate to not only be successful in both of our fresh IVF/ICSI cycles, but to have one embryo from each cycle that we were able to freeze so that we could attempt to grow our family.
Due to the complications I experienced during my pregnancy with Noah, we were told to wait at least a year to attempt another pregnancy; we needed to make sure that my uterus healed from the c-section and from my TAC being pulled into its lower wall when I went into labor the third time. Last October, we confirmed that my uterus was sufficiently healed and we decided that we would start trying for another child sometime in early 2017. In mid-March, we did a frozen embryo transfer (FET) with the embryo from our late son’s cycle (which we have affectionately been calling Embie since the day we were told it survived to be frozen). We – and my reproductive endocrinologist (RE, or fertility doctor) – were incredibly optimistic that the FET would be successful: The embryo was as good as embryos get (absolutely perfect grade), my uterine lining was excellent, and my body responded extremely well to the injections I did to prime me for pregnancy.
And the FET failed. Instead of sharing the joyous news that we are pregnant, we share the sad news that we lost the embryo.
Those who know my husband and I well know that – believing that life begins at conception (and this is not an indictment – in any way – of those who may not share this belief… it is how we feel) – we took the creation of our embryos very, very seriously. During both of our IVF cycles, we mourned the loss of every embryo that did not survive long enough to be transferred or frozen; those tiny balls of cells may have been created in a lab, but they represented our deep and abiding love for one another and our desire to create life together. Knowing that the ones that did not survive would – far more likely than not – not have done so in my womb didn’t make their losses any easier.
We’ll never know why Embie didn’t implant in my womb. Our RE was “shocked” when my beta (blood pregnancy test) came back negative – I had prior success with fresh cycles, and there was nothing about the FET that suggested we would not be similarly successful. And yet we weren’t. We fell on the “right” side of statistics with Will and Noah’s cycles… and we didn’t with Embie’s.
We have been completely open and candid about our struggles to become parents. We’ve blogged about our fertility journey, our loss, our rainbow pregnancy, and now our journey with our living child. Because we’ve been so open, we’ve never experienced being able to completely surprise people with a pregnancy announcement; we decided that, for the FET, we would document everything behind-the-scenes but not post about it as it was happening, in hopes that we would get to share a “surprise” pregnancy announcement this time. Sadly, that’s not how things worked out.
The one thing I wasn’t anticipating about the failed FET (well, other than the actual failure itself – that was a complete shock) was how deeply I would mourn Embie’s loss. We have a single photo of him/her, and when I look at that photo, I cannot help but wonder who he/she would have been. A friend put it so well when she said “You are grieving of the idea of a child and the tiny promises that are lost… I’d say you’ve got just as much reason to grieve then any of us.” Losing Embie brought back a lot of the raw, primal grief I felt when we lost Will; he or she wasn’t the tiny but perfect baby we held in our arms the day we said hello and goodbye to Will, but we still loved him/her very, very much.
Before we started Embie’s FET cycle, we decided that, should the cycle fail, we would immediately begin another FET cycle (this is called back-to-back cycling). The day we found out Embie’s cycle failed, I stopped the daily hormone injections; as soon as I got my period, I started suppressive medication to begin preparing my body for another transfer. If all goes well with my hormone and lining checks, we are scheduled to transfer Frostie – the remaining embryo from Noah’s cycle – the day after Mother’s Day. I am deeply, deeply hopeful that my June Parenting After Loss post will be a pregnancy announcement (we’ve already planned how we will share the news). Raising Noah is the most incredible experience – we’d love nothing more than to make him a big brother.