Yesterday marked five years from the day I held a piece of paper in my hands and wondered if it was the closest I would ever come to being a mother. On that paper was a photo of embryo #17, the first photo ever taken of Ross. Five years ago he was taken out of the freezer and thawed for transfer, and we have celebrated the anniversary ever since.
In 2018, we’d found ourselves back at the clinic on another May 8th, exactly three years to the day from Ross’ transfer. In that time he had grown into a busy toddler (almost 2.5 years old!), and he sat on Kyle’s lap as the fertility doctor painstakingly measured each of my egg follicles as part of another IVF cycle. Normally we’d drop Ross off with a friend before appointments, but this time no one had been available, and after discovering the clinic to be uncharacteristically empty, all three of us went back to the ultrasound room together. It felt sentimental for Ross to be there, to be reminded that we had once been fighting the same battle for him and to have him be a part of this new cycle. That monitoring appointment would end up being my last, and I was instructed to give myself a trigger shot before bed, bringing our second treatment cycle to a close. It felt fitting to have another milestone fall on that day. Two days later, we had nine embryos in our name– one of which survived to be transferred to Becca this February.
At the time of my last post I never expected it to be so long before I shared an update with our results from that transfer. But in the (nearly) 10 weeks since then, life as we know it has flipped upside-down for everyone. For us, life has changed even beyond the current pandemic… because on March 2nd, we received the call that our beta test was positive!
We transferred our frozen embryo on February 17th. Our clinic generally waits 12 days following the procedure to test– longer than most– but because of the weekend, it was extended to a full 14 days. March seemed forever away, like it would never come, and those two weeks felt torturous. I think it might have been the worst post-transfer wait we’ve experienced yet.
In the past we’d started the process the other way around: finding a gestational carrier before creating our embryos. The journey to that point was long and arduous as well, but once we’d completed our first IVF cycle, we were able to transfer the embryos right away. Even with a failed transfer, both were transferred within the span of two months. This time around, the financial burden, the struggle to find a carrier, and the difficulty of completing this process without an agency had meant holding on to this embryo for almost two full years. After all this time, the reality that it could slip through our fingers in a matter of days made a potential negative result seem even worse somehow.
On the morning of our beta test, Becca texted early to let me know she’d had her blood drawn and sent a sweet ‘good luck’ message. Every hour we waited dragged on. Then, just after lunch, my phone started buzzing and “UNKNOWN” flashed on the screen. I’d told Ross that I was expecting a call from the doctor about our “snowflake,” so after a quick check to make sure he had everything he needed, I took the stairs two at a time and answered the call with a shaky voice.
All I needed to hear was, “Hi, it’s A” — and I knew. Over the last six years I have received countless calls from our fertility nurse. In that time she has relayed both good news and bad– she was the one who told me that Ross was coming, who gave me my final embryo counts each time, who told me when a transfer had failed or embryos had been lost. But this was one of the times she brought good news: “We’re pregnant,” she said with a smile in her voice.
It shocks me, even now, that this was our result. It’s just so lucky to have been successful on our first transfer this time around. But the thing about infertility and treatment is that it doesn’t just end with a test. The scars that form after so many years of failure and heartache become a part of you; you start believing that good things only happen to other people… because for a long time, that’s true. While we were grateful to have gotten past the first hurdle, we knew we had many more ahead. And though we felt cautiously optimistic, we kept it simple by only telling Ross that the snowflake was “okay.”
Two hours later my heart dropped into my stomach when I received a second call from the clinic. I was sure that they were reaching out to say that it had been a mistake, that the positive result belonged to someone else. Again, I ran up the stairs, barely breathing and not wanting to answer the phone or hear the pity in her voice. In reality it was just Dr. K calling to personally congratulate us– a huge relief, though the fear that it could all be snatched away again would remain, as it probably always will. I hung up the phone and slumped down to the floor, my heart still thudding in my chest long after the call had ended.
We cleared another hurdle when our second beta showed continued progress with our numbers staying on track by doubling within 48 hours. I hadn’t let myself think any further than that, so it was almost shocking that we were suddenly working with Becca on scheduling a 6-week ultrasound to check for a heartbeat. She would continue injections for several more weeks, and as a “high risk pregnancy,” we were meant to be under care of the clinic until after the 8-week ultrasound. Of course, the pandemic changed the course of all our plans, as it has for everyone, but that is for another post.
Currently we are 14 weeks along, and I never thought we’d get to have this semi-secret for so long. Just after my egg retrieval in May 2018, we spent the weekend with some friends to celebrate Kyle’s imminent graduation. I was still swollen and recovering from treatment, and while it was nice to be away, it was also hard to focus on anything beyond the hope of our growing embryos. We had been out one morning, walking down to the water, when Ross bent down to pluck a small buttercup flower and hand it to me. I had recently taught him the “trick” I’d learned during my own childhood– holding the flower up to your chin to see if the yellow reflection meant you liked butter– and he was enthusiastic about trying each one we found. With our embryos on my mind, I decided then that we would use “Buttercup” as a temporary name through pregnancy, in the same way Ross was known as “Sweet Pea” for so many months. I kept the original flower with me until it dried out and started to fade, and in the last two years, I’ve collected several others from special days or places. I hoped that they would show that I am always thinking of you.
For some of you, it’s likely you will recognize Becca by her real name soon– the next time you see her, she may even be starting to show. All we ask is that if you refer to her on here or on social media, you continue to use her pseudonym for privacy reasons!