Those who regularly read my monthly Parenting After Loss blogs know that Darrell and I have spent the last 12 weeks undergoing fertility treatment to try to grow our family; we transferred our second frozen embryo just two days before last month’s post went live. We hoped that this month would find us sharing the joyous news that we were expecting another rainbow. Sadly, that is not the case: Frostie (the name we gave the embryo), like Embie just seven short weeks ago, failed to implant. Two back-to-back frozen embryo transfers, both unsuccessful.
And they were the only two embryos we had.
We’re reeling from the loss of the embryos. Not only because we consider our embryos our children – and we have now lost two more children (in addition to the son we lost at birth in 2014) – but because we are facing the reality that growing our family, at least from a biological standpoint, is not going to be as easy (or perhaps even as possible) as we thought it would be. When we talked to our fertility doctor back in January of this year, he seemed so certain that at least one of our two embryos would yield another pregnancy that we really didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the question of what we would do if that didn’t happen. With two consecutive successful fresh IVF cycles under our belts, two perfect/near-perfect embryos (one was as good as it gets, the other only very, very less slightly so), and a highly-regarded fertility specialist’s reassurance that he anticipated success for us, the idea of both FETs failing seemed so implausible to us.
So what happens now?
We are very strongly considering undergoing one more fresh IVF cycle, but have decided to postpone making any concrete decisions for at least a couple of months. Despite what we’d heard about FETs being much easier on a woman’s body than fresh cycles are (you don’t have to do stims to develop multiple eggs, then have those eggs surgically retrieved, since you’ve already conceived the embryos), this was unfortunately not the case for me. My body took a beating from the back-to-back FET cycles: I had terrible reactions to the progesterone injections (which we thought was an allergy to the carrier oil, but likely wasn’t considering I reacted equally as poorly to the medication compounded in a different oil the second time around) and have large, painful welts on both sides of my upper glutes from daily injections, not to mention horrible all-over itching. I need time for my body to recover from the FETs before we begin the process of stimming, frequent monitoring (an hour and a half from home), and egg retrieval that another fresh cycle would entail. And I feel very strongly that Darrell and I both need time to grieve the loss of our embryos, the depth of which is being compounded by the reality of what their loss means (in terms of family-building) and the upcoming anniversary of the death of our oldest child. Losing the embryos has brought back so many of the emotions that I felt in the immediate aftermath of losing our son, and I think that working on my mental health as I recover from the physical stress of the FETs is incredibly important.
One thing that I wasn’t anticipating when we announced that we lost Frostie was how strongly people would react to the idea that Darrell and I may not be done trying to have another child. While we never really discussed it with anyone, I think a lot of people believed that if the FETs both failed, that would be the end of our journey to having children. One statement that we’ve already heard more than once, in various iterations, is “You should be grateful for the one you have”. And while I understand the sentiment that people are trying to convey to us, I find statements of that nature rather upsetting. Because here’s the thing: Our desire to grow our family isn’t because we are not immensely grateful for Noah. Quite the contrary, in fact: Being Noah’s parents has brought us love beyond measure, and filled us with joy beyond our wildest expectations. Wanting to have another child isn’t because we don’t appreciate the tremendous blessing of the one we already have in our arms, but because we do…
There are a lot of things that Darrell and I need to think about as we take a break – however long that break ultimately ends up being – from trying to conceive. We were highly successful with fresh IVF cycles before, but I was 37 and 38 years old at the time – I’ll be 41 next month, and the odds of success are not as high as they were before. Are we ready for the possibility that we could start all over again and not be successful? We now know how devastating failure is – are we willing to risk it for the chance of being successful again? How much farther are we willing to go in the pursuit of bringing home another baby? Will one more cycle – regardless of the outcome – be where we end our pursuit of another biological child?
We don’t know the answers to all of those questions yet, but we’re certain about a couple of things right now: We want to have another child, and the decision about how we make that happen – or not – is ours and ours alone to make. While we deeply value and appreciate everyone who has stood by us during our journey to become parents, the decision to press forward or stop is one that we have to make as a couple. And in the meantime, we will continue to love each other and the funny, feisty, amazing little boy that we are so blessed to call ours.