Both of my children were conceived via in vitro fertilization. This is not a secret and I have written about it before. What I have not written about is our Leo Lion’s conception. I have known what my beauties looked like from 3 days post conception. Amazing! This is our lion’s story.
The transfer process is less clinical than the egg retrieval process. The embryo(s) is/are unfrozen and sometimes they need to give them a bit of time to acclimate. For whatever reason, my precious embryos often did not make it after unfreezing. I said a prayer for each one. I mourned each one.Then I had to move on because there was always (thank you God) another one/baby waiting for its mama to be there. Just like our sweet Teddy, Leo Lion was the last embryo we had. Leo was different. When you are in the advanced maternal age group of at least 35, your embryos go through “assisted hatching” where the embryologist helps the shell open to release the embryo. Quickly after unthawing, Leo Lion was bursting through his shell ALL on his own. We all laughed at the eagerness of this tiny, precious embryo ready to go. He was moved into my womb and the waiting game began.
Have you waited to take a pregnancy test after disappointing months? I have. It is awful. This time, I skipped to the bathroom to take the test, 3 days early. I had a secret. I knew I was pregnant. I knew the day after the transfer. I KNEW. I FELT that tiny and blessed embryo burrowing deep into his home. He made it.
A few days later, the blood test confirmed my intuition and the home pregnancy test. I was VERY pregnant.
Skip forward to the delivery room…..Leo Lion came roaring out of the womb. He roared and roared and roared. I actually started to panic because I knew I was in for a much, much wilder ride than Teeny gave me.
He wanted to nurse immediately and with great intent. He fought going to sleep at night. He roared letting me know he wanted to be held. His pediatrician said he was “very alert.” Leo does not do anything halfway. Even when he is just observing, his little limbs are moving as though he can move himself into the middle of the action. He is vocal about what he wants and does not want. There is nothing casual about Leo Lion. He has been this way since conception.
I find it fascinating that from 6 days past creation he has exhibited very clear personality traits. We did not choose his name based on its meaning, but it is very apt. While IVF is considered a liberal choice, viewing and participating in the process of scientifically creating life has made me very conservative. I have known my child since conception, and I have seen his fierce determination since his cluster of embryonic cells forcefully left their shell. This is a gift and significantly cemented my view on when life begins. My child’s personality began at conception. I know this.
I love you madly Leo Lion. May you always live life fully and fiercely. I will roar behind you, my darling.
It is common knowledge that teenagers have no sense of mortality. What I learned last week is that not all adults do either. I know that I will age. I know that I will not live forever. I thank God for my strong and imperfect thighs when I run past someone who is struggling to simply walk. I knew these things but I had not viscerally felt them until last week.
Our in vitro fertilization journey has been very different from the first journey when we had the tiny one. The drugs are different; the time line is a different. The medication made me sicker than I could have imagined. I sobbed uncontrollably from the hormones. I saw the needles being prepared and would sit, shake, and sob all the while knowing they were not that bad. My husband would apologize as he shoved 1 of 3 needles into my belly. I was awake most nights trying to breathe shallowly so I would not vomit. It was not like that last time….
Like last time, I produced a gazillion eggs. I am a hen. I was ridiculously proud of this. They cut short my injections and scheduled my surgery. I bought an US Magazine and looked forward to being in bed because, at my core, I am lazy. They retrieved 24 eggs during surgery. 16 were mature and I happily went to bed. I remembered the last recovery being palatable, so I forced my husband to take our tiny toddler to run at the park after his long and boring morning. They left and I read. I started to not feel great, so I went to get my anti nausea pills, which were no more than 15 feet away. I fell. I could not get up. Please Lord, do not let me vomit. The only thing worse than vomiting would be pooping my pants in public. Ok, let me vomit if it means never pooping my pants in public. I crawled back to bed and called Pat. It got worse.
I never know when it is appropriate to call the doctor so I waited. I could no longer stand up without dizziness and nausea, and pain started spreading all over my torso. I could not sit down, lay on my back, or on my right side. I knew it did not make any sense, but wondered if it was a heart attack. Ok, perhaps now it is ok to call the doctor. My doctor said I needed to come back to his office. I had to kneel in the back of the car because I could not sit and I said things that were not nice at all whenever my husband hit a bump in the road. Really.Not.Nice. The doctor sent me across the street to the hospital where we waited for 7 HOURS to be admitted. This entire time was spent on my left side. They were unable to do a cat scan because I could not lie on my back, even after 3 rounds of intravenous pain meds. I waited 6 more hours to be told that I had fluid and most likely blood in my abdomen from an ovary follicle that failed to clot during my egg retrieval surgery, and now I needed more surgery to fix it. They thought the surgery would take 15 minutes. It took 2 hours. My sweet, precious husband was in a full panic mode waiting to find out anything. He said he was so desperate he asked a maintenance worker if he could find out what was going on in surgery. They removed 2 liters of blood from my abdomen. I could finally rest on my back and sit. It was glorious until a few hours later I was too weak to move at all. I am not sure which situation scared me more. I needed to decide if I would accept a blood transfusion. The people in my life who know me deeply know I am terrified of this. I have irrational fears of diseases and am also a control freak. I had to let go and trust because otherwise I would not be leaving the hospital anytime soon. The beautiful view out my hospital room window of the foothills, bright blue skies, and wide lanes where I could walk and run convinced me just as much as my father’s voice over the phone to embrace the transfusion. I left the next day.
My husband asked me if I thought God was punishing us for being greedy and wanting another child. That probably saddened me the most of anything we had gone through during this procedure. I do not think we were being punished. I, too, lost faith briefly, but looking back, I think a small gift was being in that room with the beautiful view. That was a small nudge to remind me what waited for me outside those walls. Life. Running. Hiking. My family. More time to depend on my body while I am young. And just maybe in a year or so, another baby. Maybe. Hopefully.
My brothers and I fought, a lot, as small siblings. My mom had a friend who was a psychologist and she told her to simply remove herself as an option the next time we were fighting. She followed the professional suggestion and locked herself in her room while the 3 of us argued over something. Apparently we knocked on her door asking for a referee and she told us to work it out ourselves. As the story goes, we stopped arguing, she heard a chair being dragged across the room, a phone being picked up and dialed and then a self righteous voice speaking. This is what she heard. “Hello Operator? My name is Katie Goeschel. My dad works at the hospital and I need you to call him. My mom locked herself in her room and won’t come out.” Enter sprinting mother and CLICK.
The tiny one needs a sibling. He needs a confidant who doesn’t have to go to his own house at night or follow a different set of rules. He needs a last option when no one else is available to play. He needs someone to teach him how to deal with confrontation and to side with him when parents are being unreasonable in his child mind. He needs a best friend and a best enemy (at times.) I may have fought with my brothers, but I cannot imagine a better life without them in it. I may or may not have been convinced one of them was a serial killer while he was going through puberty, but I am entertained and proud of the man he became.
We cannot make our own child without the help of science. We committed emotionally a while back to try in vitro fertilization again, and finally pulled the financial trigger last week. I thought I would share with anyone pondering this way of baby making, and anyone else who is curious, what the process entails as we go along. To anyone who has been told to “just relax” or “go on vacation and it will happen,” this is for you. There is nothing visually sexy or spontaneous about this. Oddly, I find it very sexy to watch my husband prepare my subcutaneous injections, but perhaps this is just me.
We ordered over $4000 worth of medications from one of the few labs who are able to provide. Everything shown in the picture is the medication that covers only 1 cycle of treatment.
Yes, it is that expensive, and yes it is mind blowing and kind of painful to stomach when most people just buy a good bottle of wine before making a baby, but it is worth it and I am grateful that there is an option that provides the lifelong joy of a child. They have to overnight the medications because some must be refrigerated. We met with our reproductive endocrinologist for an ultrasound to make sure I was physically sound to start the process this morning. Our doctor was very excited about my ovaries and I was absurdly peacocking around today because of it. It took about 30 minutes to review the medications and reteach us how to administer all of the medicine that will stimulate my ovaries into making LOTS of eggs. We have to inject the medication at the same time each day, and we chose 9:00 pm as our shot time because my husband thought he could be home by that time to administer the shots.
I choose not to give myself the shots for 2 reasons: I feel very connected to my husband when he gives me the shots, and they burn and make me queasy, so it is best if he does them. As the medication kicks in and the days continue, I will bloat as the eggs push against my abdomen, run out of non-used injection spots and bruise because of it and possibly become somewhat emotionally irrational as I have excess hormones running wild in my body. The emotional part did not happen last time, but I will no doubt blame any moodiness on it. I think this is fair. We have 1 day down and about 11 more to go before I undergo surgery to retrieve the eggs in hope of creating beautiful little embryos. Maybe it will work and our tiny T will have his own brother or sister, but maybe it will not.
Our doctor feels good about our chance of success and gave us a 50/50 chance. This is high in the world of ivf. It is not in our hands and we have accepted that whatever happens in this next year is ok. Our small boy is enough, but 1 more would make our cup overflow with joy.
I read an article last week, and many accompanying comments, about the moral wrongness of in vitro fertilization. There are topics so personal that you will not be able to change a person’s mind, and this is probably one of them. I cried while personalizing the comments, envisioning the tiny one while thinking about each word, but then realized that it bears no weight in my small world. I thought about it again today while watching my child, who was conceived in a scientific yet completely loving union, squeal with delight when he first saw the moon appear in the late afternoon. The love that overflowed from my heart for him took away any anger I felt reading those words. Seeing his innocence and pure joy in so many moments of his day made me feel silly for even spending a minute in anger over words written by a faceless stranger. I am not patient. I am not always open-minded. I judge. The only difference this time was my view point and its gentler stance, in that moment, in that situation. I am not different than “those people.” But right now, my child is different, is kind, is gentle. Let me see from the view of that sweet child.
There are needs and then there are wants. I count my blessings, when I run, that all of my needs are provided, along with many of my wants. I am still greedy. Here are my wants:
- A new couch. Mine is repulsive.
- An outdoor rug for my courtyard.
- To live in a stronger school district for the tiny one.
- Hair extensions.
- In all honesty, I desperately want a Chloe handbag.
- To win the lottery even though I don’t buy lottery tickets.
We just met with our fertility specialist who told us that we have roughly a 0% chance of having a child naturally. Suddenly, my wants change, and unfortunately they are wants.
- A second child.
- Another happy and HEALTHY tiny one.
- More belly laughter from someone under 1-year-old.
- More diapers to change.
- More croup to keep me awake at night.
We have decided that there is another round of ivf left in us. There is another round of injections, potential surgeries, emotional hurt, financial (God awful) stress, and weight gain (forgive my vanity) in us to try. If you have not been through this, let me give you hope. It can work. I remember sitting in my doctor’s exam room, crying that I could take no more after having to cancel our second round of ivf in exchange for a second surgery. It takes you to the depths of despair, but I had an incredible partner to catch me in those moments. Surprising no one more than myself, every day I thank God for how hard it was to have this tiny bundle of joy. I am more patient because of our struggle to conceive him. I value each repulsive diaper because I wanted him so badly. I see beauty in a sleepless night at 4 a.m. because I so desperately wanted to rock my own child. Truthfully, the money we spent seems like a bargain because of what it gave me emotionally in return. I can only say this after the fact. Had it not worked, I would have been resentful of forgoing numerous glamorous vacations and Chloe handbags. The glorious side of today and not yesterday is the worst case scenario: if the tiny one is the only child we are graced with, he is enough. Enough joy, enough laughter, and enough love to share. He was our need.