We’re doing this.
It’s so strange to say that. After so much time spent waiting, hoping, planning, and hitting roadblock after roadblock to get this far again, it’s hard to believe that I’m actually writing those words: we’re doing this. Again.
When we found out in the fall that our doctor had retired, I felt closer to quitting than ever before. It all just felt like too much, too many dead ends. For a long time we wrestled with the difficult decision facing us: if we already needed a new doctor, should we wait until Kyle finished his degree to find a new clinic wherever we ended up? Or should we attempt to complete an IVF cycle before the move? After many conversations, we chose to forge ahead and stay with our clinic, even if it meant traveling for future embryo transfers.
It took a while to get things together in preparation, but about a month ago we finally reached our appointment with the new doctor at the clinic, not really knowing what to expect. Although sometimes hard to understand, we’d come to love our old doctor and his quiet demeanor. I will never forget sitting next to Elle ahead of Ross’ transfer and the way he came to shake her hand and thank her for what she was doing. It made me feel like he shared a stake in the process with us, like we were somehow less alone. From the moment we’d met him I knew he was the right one, and I was afraid I wouldn’t feel the same way with this doctor.
In contrast to what we were used to, Dr. K was fairly brusque and straightforward, pointing out the failures and shortcomings of my body without even attempting to soften the blows. He was of the opinion that every month was wasted time for me, confirming what I had already known to be true as we struggled for the last two years to pull together the resources we needed for another try. None of it was entirely unexpected, but thankfully he didn’t feel as though we had missed our window entirely yet, and before we had even arrived to the clinic that day, he’d formulated a plan to help combat my egg quality and blastocyst issues. He had also already spoken to his colleagues about our specific situation, wanting to get as much input on the potential protocol as possible. For this I was immensely grateful, and slowly a treatment plan started to come together.
We met with our assigned nurse and financial counselor following the initial consultation, both of whom had worked with us the first time around. They were excited to see us again and asked for pictures and updates on Ross. It was an odd sort of homecoming, and talking with them about how far we had come put me at ease. We left the clinic hand-in-hand, ready to face this new challenge together, and I felt hope– real hope– swell inside of me unbidden.
Since then we’ve spent our days working towards an IVF cycle. Yesterday I had Day 3 blood work to check my FSH and AMH levels, and the results will help determine my response to the medication. A baseline ultrasound showed an abundance of egg follicles as is standard for me, but the quality of those eggs will remain unknown until after my retrieval, and that is the biggest issue we face. It’s been almost exactly three years since my last procedure and things really only get worse with time, so we need to do this now. Due to the surrogacy aspect there are a number of extra steps in this process for us, and our ability to complete them is what will decide whether I begin my injections next month or as early as the next few weeks. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better.
In so many ways it feels like deja vu. Before our consultation, I pulled out my old binder and sorted through the paperwork from our journey with Ross to compare. Very little has changed in the worlds of IVF and surrogacy in the last four years. There is comfort in that kind of familiarity and knowing what to expect this time around… but there is also dread. What we had to go through to bring our child into the world took a piece of me that I will never get back and left behind damage and permanent scars that still haven’t fully healed. It was hard enough to do it once. And I am simultaneously heartbroken and angry that we have no choice but to go through it again to have another child. Haven’t we already paid our dues? Shouldn’t we get a turn to experience it the easy way now?
But, it’s different this time too. Perhaps the biggest change is that we now need a babysitter while we’re at appointments. Scheduling is much more difficult because of this, especially since we are driving an hour each way to the clinic. Even still, there is so much privilege in doing this for a second child. I don’t forget that when we are sitting in the waiting room with other anxious couples who are in the midst of the struggle for their first. No matter how much I am hurting when we come home, there is child who falls into my arms when we walk through the door and he reminds me of what we’re working towards.
Another big difference is that we’re doing things backwards: last time we started treatment with Elle already prepared to go with us, but this time we are going it alone. We will only be able to freeze embryos for the foreseeable future. In truth, we don’t yet know how the surrogacy part will come together– or when. We haven’t figured out whether we will go through an agency or attempt an “indy” arrangement. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we will go about finding a gestational carrier. I’ve written a post on what we’re looking for (which I’ve been too afraid to share), apprehensively joined a few Facebook groups for intended parents and surrogates to meet, and scrolled through the profiles of women hoping to find people like us who need help. All of it makes me feel terrifyingly vulnerable and like I am in way over my head. For as painful as IVF can be, it’s the easy part of this equation. I’d rather give myself a million injections than be tasked with finding someone to trust with everything we have.
At our most optimistic, we are starting this process for a second child hoping that by late 2019 or early 2020, we will be lucky enough to become a family of four. In the meantime we are doing everything in our power to make that a possibility.
And so here we are, again, putting everything on the line– because it is far more painful to think of giving up.