Absnasm is mostly elsewhere.
I had a blood test yesterday morning at the hospital and they called to let us know at lunchtime. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, as I had started bleeding the day before, but expectation doesn’t cut through the pain one little bit. The last 48 hours have been some of the most distressing of my life, and today feels even worse. I think it’s sinking in that one of our three chances is gone, gone, gone.
I have cancelled appointments. My electrolysist has been through the same and understood completely, the lady at the bank was equally as kind – her best mate also had a failed cycle, plus I was crying, it would take a heart of stone to refuse a crying woman. Kindly friends are offering tea and solace but I don’t feel like I can see anyone, and certainly not those with babies. I can’t even bring myself to reply to texts and emails yet. I started crying in the supermarket last night when I saw a stack of application forms for Mum of the Year, and when I escaped to the car I was parked in front of a sign for parent and child parking. Everywhere I go the world is saturated with the glory of parenthood. So I just want to be at home, alone or with HA, where I can avoid reminders of what I’m missing.
The one nudge I can’t avoid is the occasional squeezing cramps of my pathetic bleeding uterus. I feel like it’s mocking me.
I hadn’t written much about the IVF, but so far it had been reasonably plain sailing. The hormones and injections that turn some women into banshees didn’t really bother me – it was exciting to be on our way, taking control – right up until the final shot which matured the ovarian follicles. The morning after that one, 24 hours before egg collection, I woke up feeling like I was carrying two massive tender tennis balls in my abdomen. When I drove over a speed bump in the road I felt them bounce up and down inside my body – ka-dunk – and I was terrified I’d rupture a follicle and lose a precious egg.
The egg collection was distressing and painful, and left me crying in agony and unable to move much for about a week. Not surprising really – they stuck needles through the top of my vagina and drained my superstimulated follicles. They retrieved eight eggs, and they all fertilised quite happily overnight, but sadly our embryos weren’t good quality. Only three were usable and none were good enough to freeze and use later – this cycle was to be a one-shot, one-transfer deal.
The embryo transfer two days later was one of the most emotional moments of my life. HA and I saw our two chosen embryos projected on a screen – they were dark blobs sitting side by side until the embryologist sharpened the camera’s image to show their Venn diagram structure. I loved them immediately. HA sat by my side, holding my hand, and saw them enter me on the ultrasound – two little specks whizzing up the tube through my cervix then dispersing like stardust into my uterus. Amazing. What a privilege to see your potential babies just two days after conception. I cried my eyes out.
The next ten days were nothing short of magical. I was more pregnant than I had ever knowingly been. I felt so positive, happy and upbeat. Within days my breasts swelled (yes, even more, I didn’t think it was possible) and became sorer than they’ve ever been before. I began having cramps – which I interpreted as implantation, plus probably some healing pains from the intrusive egg collection. I was 100% sure that I was pregnant with at least one baby, maybe two. I took it easy – no Zumba, no lifting. I talked and sang to my embryos, scoured ingredients lists for forbidden ingredients and stocked up on cocoa butter. I went off food almost entirely. HA sat with his hand on my belly and we talked nothing but babies. I felt pregnant and swollen, and I laughed and cried with relief and joy.
Then four days ago, the cramps disappeared and the breast pain lessened. At first I figured they must have settled in, but as test date approached and I felt no further rumblings down below, anxiety set in. Two days ago I was on the phone to my mum and I suddenly had a very bad feeling. When I went to check, I discovered with a wail of anguish that I had started bleeding. Old brownish blood, the type you get at the start of a period. I called the hospital, and they said it could be my period, or it could be caused by the hormones which I was still taking to support the pregnancy. Then again, so could the pregnancy symptoms. Either way, nothing could be done and I had to sit tight for the test the next day. So I did – I sat and waited and Googled and obsessed and Googled and obsessed. The blood flow speeded up and changed colour to red, then slowed to a standstill overnight, then started up again. I couldn’t tell what it meant. I went to Tesco and stood looking at the pregnancy tests, but the hormones in my bloodstream from the IVF meds would obfuscate the results anyway so trying one was pointless – there was nothing I could do but wait for the hammer to fall.
Time seems to stand still in moments like this. I thought this fortnight – what’s known as the two week wait – had been the longest of my life, but the day between starting to bleed and taking the test felt like a week in itself, and in the five hours between our 8am blood test and the 1pm phone call to let us know our negative result every second was like an hour. I sat right next to the phone the whole time, and when the sympathetic nurse rang with the forgone conclusion I buried myself in HA and cried and cried on him. Five minutes afterwards, my parents arrived and I cried and cried on my mum. An hour after we got the news, poor HA had to go to the second of the three job interviews he’s had this week – as if this all wasn’t stressful enough for him already, he’s been knee-deep in job hunting and networking. My dad drove him to his interview and I sat with my mum and tried to calm down. I showed her how to use Skype and willed her not to talk about my nephew. I was OK for the rest of the day – numb and exhausted but OK. HA came home an emotional skeleton – I have rarely seen him look so drained. For dinner I ate crackers with the soft, moulded and blue cheeses I’d been denying myself while I was what they call PUPO – pregnant until proven otherwise – and drank a glass of my favourite white wine. I didn’t actually want any of it but I had it anyway because I could, a fitting bookend on a shitty day.
I feel much worse today. I’m not sure why. Perhaps yesterday I was a little bit in shock even though I was expecting it. Today I feel fragile and brittle, numb and tearful. My parents came around to check on me this morning. My dad started trying to fix the Dyson – fixing stuff is how he shows love – and he had a bit of a go at me because the brushbar was all tangled, and I just broke down. Now I’m alone, and that’s the best way for me to be right now. HA is dealing with it by not thinking about it and interacting with people, and he’s seeing some friends tonight for pizza, but I just want to be on my own and choose whether I think about it or not. I don’t want to have to think about or talk about anything else if I don’t want to. I’m crushed and heartbroken, and angry with my body – my stupid, ugly, pointless body that won’t do the one thing it’s designed to do, not even when we take away the chance and slot science into its place, not even with seven weeks of injections and hormones and surgical procedures and hope and love and utmost, utmost care and patience. I want to punish it by neglect and though I’m not hungry I want to stuff it full. I hate my period pains – I can feel them right now, and every time I go to empty my Mooncup I think about my embryos and wonder if I’ve just flushed them away. I hate my body for not even having the grace to make embryos that are decent enough to freeze – this cycle, this one of our three cycles, is over, there are no more embryos to put back into my womb, and with it 33% of our chances are gone. I have to go through the whole thing again. I really really really didn’t want to have to. I don’t care about the shots and the hormones, I just never wanted to do another egg collection and I never wanted to feel this stressed ever again. Now we’re left with no choice.
I have to call the hospital and make an appointment for a follow-up meeting. I’m not sure, because grief obscured what the nurse said on the phone, but I think they look at what went wrong. I’m not ready to handle that yet, even if it means they can look for ways to do it differently next time. I’ll probably call them back next week. They’ll probably make us have a month or two off anyway before next cycle. Right now we both need some time to grieve, catch our breath, get at least one of us back in work and life back on an even keel.
Please be understanding if I don’t comment on anyone’s comments, for a while if at all. I don’t mean to be rude and I do appreciate anything anyone says, but I’m so up and down at the moment I don’t know if and when I’ll be up to it. I might just want to choose to think about other stuff, or I might want to talk about it endlessly, like I have here. I hope this makes sense. Bear with me.