It’s finally February, our transfer month, but the last several weeks have been anything but smooth.
In January I started experiencing severe abdominal pain, which is normal for me— except this time some of the circumstances were a little off. At times the pain was somewhat manageable, but overall, day after day was a struggle to function, working to hold everything together and trying to disrupt our family as little as possible. At night I laid in bed, curled up in a ball, trying to focus on anything other than the fact that it felt like something was tearing through my stomach. For most people it would make sense to be seen right away, but the cost of healthcare is too high for me to be seen every time my pain isn’t quite right, especially when so often it comes back to the usual culprits and no real treatment options. Instead I tried to wait it out and hoped the pain would go back to normal.
Finally, on day 10 with no relief in sight, it felt like I needed to make sure nothing else was happening. One of the most likely concerns was a twisting ovary, something I’d dealt with about 10 years ago and had been warned could happen again. If it needed to be removed by surgery, it seemed probable that I’d have a full hysterectomy rather than splitting it up into two procedures… but I didn’t feel ready. It would be a lot of added pressure for our upcoming transfer, and it would shutter the option for any future IVF cycles if needed.
Adding to the stress, a voicemail from the fertility clinic came in that afternoon. I listened to the message from our nurse in shock: they claimed my payment had never been received and were threatening to cancel our upcoming embryo transfer. And while I’d felt taken advantage of by the arbitrary fees they charged for having a gestational carrier, we’d paid it in full nearly a week prior. Of course, I wasn’t able to get ahold of our nurse or the front desk to figure out what was going on. Sheer panic shot through me at the thought of the possible repercussions for us, for our carrier and her family. I was terrified by what they would tell Becca, who had already started injections to prep her uterine lining, and texted her immediately, not wanting her to be confused or upset if they instructed her to stop medications on the basis of our lack of payment. Kyle was able to confirm that the charge went through on our credit card, but I realized then that the clinic had not sent me a single receipt or confirmation of payment as proof. I didn’t feel capable of dealing with it in the midst of the pain; all I felt capable of doing was crying.
I finally received a call back from the woman at the front desk a couple hours later, asking again for my payment details despite all my frantic messages that I had already paid. She was eventually able to locate my previous payment but offered no explanation for why I’d just been unnecessarily put through the emotional wringer. A quick email from my fertility nurse came through a while later to confirm we were back on, simply saying, “Never mind thanks,” (the lack of any punctuation making it worse somehow). I hung up the phone with the clinic a few minutes before walking in to see the doctor.
That evening I sat in the hospital waiting room with my mom and Ross, questioning whether two embryos would be enough if this latest issue led to unplanned surgery and feeling like I’d lost all control over my body, a feeling that is all too familiar. Ross, who was still traumatized by the flu shot he’d gotten for school a month prior, was most concerned that I might be receiving a shot of my own. He seemed skeptical when I reassured him that shots do not scare me, and I wondered what he’d think of the dozens and dozens of shots that Elle and I endured just to bring him into the world.
The testing concluded no need for immediate surgery— it just drove home the fact that undergoing three IVF cycles in under four years has likely increased the growth and spread of my endometriosis far beyond what it had been before. Aside from taking everything out, which will eventually be my reality, there isn’t much I can do. The pain continued for a while longer and then very slowly began to decrease by the day. Ultimately, I lost more than two weeks of my life to it this time.
With everything else going on, the transfer has ended up feeling like one more out-of-control situation in an already out-of-control time. We did receive news that it will not happen on the day we originally planned; it will be delayed. While that happens sometimes, it was disappointing and difficult to bear. This new date doesn’t quite feel like ours yet, maybe because we’ve held onto the first one for so long. Work schedules had already been maneuvered around, and things like travel and childcare had already been sorted. There are seven of us between the two families who are directly affected in this crazy arrangement, and that makes everything so much more complicated.
To further complicate things, as we reached February, I suddenly realized we need to start talking to Ross about what is happening. In 2018 as I was injecting myself with an obscene amount of hormones, I mostly talked about it in a retrospective way– as in, this is what we did to have you. He was two years old then and didn’t put together what this treatment was meant to lead to, nor did I want him to think about it. In 2019 at age three, I talked to him about the process in terms I thought he might understand– as in, there are eggs growing inside my belly and the doctor is going to look at them today. On the way to one appointment, I remember him asking me when my eggs were “hatching,” and it made me laugh to picture the image he had of tiny eggs (and baby chicks?) cracking open inside my belly, but that’s what made sense to him at the time.
Now– at four years old and while we prepare for an actual transfer– it feels different. If we were going through this privately, I might not say anything to him at all. I don’t want him to experience the grief that comes with a negative transfer and the ending of a dream. But we have opted to share everything, and that means that he could possibly overhear something in the coming weeks. I would hope no one would say the words brother, sister, or baby to him– we almost never use these words, even to ourselves, because they are not a guarantee– but I don’t know.
For the most part, we talk about the frozen embryos as our snowflakes, something he is familiar with because we have told him that, before he was a baby, Elsa froze him into a snowflake until we were ready for him. We even have a picture that Kyle made for me in 2015 of Elsa with him as an embryo that he loves to look at, and she has become one of his heroes.
Ross knows that Elsa has helped us again by keeping our snowflakes on ice until we are ready for them… but now, like Elsa, we head into the unknown.