As I went to bed shortly before midnight on May 30, 2004, I felt painful Braxton Hicks contractions. I didn’t think too much of the contractions, since I had experienced them countless times. They did however wreak havoc on my bladder, so I lugged myself out of bed to use the bathroom. As I stood up, my water broke. I frantically shook my husband, called the doctor and arrived at the ER within an hour. My due date was still 19 days away. And what had begun as a rocky pregnancy segued into a bumpy labor.
Let’s go back to the beginning. As I said previously once I discovered that my insurance would pay for a donor egg cycle (at the time about $30,000), I took that path. By this time, the red haired donor I had used for Little H was no longer an option. I perused countless donor profiles and decided to look for one that more resembled my traits. I came up with my choices, and I was put on the donor lists (each donor essentially has a waiting list, and you wait to see who becomes available first).
It wasn’t too long before I received the call that one of my choices was available. I was eager to begin my hormone regimen, and then the nurse dropped the bombshell that my donor was pregnant and no longer an option! The clinic told me they had another donor in mind (not one of the ones on my list, but one I had considered) that was ready to begin immediately. So, I read her profile again and decided to proceed.
The whole process of taking hormones, prepping my body and waiting for the donor to be ready for retrieval went relatively smoothly. Before I knew it, they were calling me to let me know they had retrieved ten eggs. My husband and I headed to Fairfax for him to give a sample. I waited impatiently to find out how many embryos we had. It turned out we had ten! They chose the best three to transfer and froze the rest. The same day, my husband and I headed back to Fairfax. I arrived with my bladder full of that dreaded water, and I endured yet another transfer. I took my bed rest seriously and took it pretty easy for several days.
I barely remember the blood draw or the phone call telling me it was positive. I do remember that my numbers were super high, and they warned me of the possibility of multiples. I was ecstatic. I was scheduled to come back for an ultrasound in two weeks. And that’s when the trouble started.
About two days before my scheduled ultrasound, I was playing with Master Yi-Yi when I felt some wetness. I headed to the bathroom, and discovered a pretty copious amount of blood. I was terrified. I called the clinic, and they reassured me that this wasn’t totally uncommon in IVF pregnancies and to stay on bed rest until my appointment. I was both excited and petrified for the ultrasound.
With much trepidation, I made my way up to Fairfax, this time with my mother. I almost couldn’t bear to look as they inserted the transducer, but therewas a tiny sac. They also found another sac filled with blood, and told me that’s where the bleeding had come from. It was never confirmed, but my guess was that it was from one of the other embryos that started to develop. Unfortunately, the uncertainty didn’t stop there. The doctor said they could not identify the yolk sac and asked that I return for another ultrasound in ten days. And this roller coaster of ups and downs continued throughout the pregnancy.
Once again, I was filled with dread on the way back to Fairfax. But this time, there was nothing but good news. The yolk sac and fetal poles showed up on the ultrasound, and I was able to see a tiny heartbeat. Everything looked great, and they passed me on to my ob/gyn. Things were going well, I hadn’t had any more bleeding, and I started to relax. Until I hit about 12 weeks and, at my routine checkup, I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that if not treated could lead to a miscarriage. So, I was put on powerful antibiotics which led to a yeast infection and even more medicine. I’m not sure that I was ever really able to relax again after that.
At 20 weeks, I was super excited to find out the sex of my baby. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for another girl. For some reason, I had it in my head that most IVF babies are girls. My mom and Little H accompanied me to the ultrasound appointment, and it wasn’t too long before they pointed out a tiny penis. Little H immediately burst into tears. To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first, too, but then I was able to focus on the joys of little boys.
Around my 25th week, I had another bleeding scare. I panicked as all these horrific thoughts went through my head…was it too early if he needed to be delivered…was there a problem with the placenta…would I actually be bringing a baby home…it’s not like I can just try again. Thankfully, the ER doctors concluded that the blood was in my urine and had nothing to do with the baby. I was sent home and directed to see a urologist. He put me on another powerful antibiotic in case there was an infection. Needless to say, I spent the rest of my pregnancy on pins and needles and couldn’t wait to get it over with.
Which brings us back to the beginning… Because my water broke before I really had any contractions, it took a while for labor to begin in earnest. At 13 hours, this one wound up being the longest labor of all three kids. As soon as the first contractions hit, I asked for an epidural. I remember thinking; I’m really not ready to be doing this all over again. Even the epidural didn’t seem to work as well this time around.
Finally, it was time to push. The doctor and nurses encouraged me to get him out quickly because the contractions were causing dips in his heartrate. And this time I was thinking; I am so tired, and I just want this done. Monkey Boy made his arrival into the world after about three or four pushes on May 31, 2004. Unfortunately, my joy was short lived as he had some fluid in his lungs. They let me hold him briefly, but then whisked him off to the NICU.
In the meantime, the epidural finally kicked in with full force. I couldn’t get up for at least an hour because my legs wouldn’t work! By then, I was extremely frustrated. I couldn’t move, nor could I see my baby. We had a couple other minor setbacks, such as taking several tries to pass his hearing test and an anomaly they found at the base of his spine. He had a slight indentation, so they ordered an ultrasound. Trying to get that completed held us up for almost an entire day, but everything turned out fine, and we were finally sent home Wednesday evening.
From the beginning, I always thought about the other seven embryos. I debated donating them to another couple, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that. Donating them to science was never an option for me personally, nor was keeping them frozen for years.
When Monkey Boy was nine months old, I made the decision to use the embryos myself. There were several factors that influenced me. I wanted to use them before I truly got another “baby urge” and might be disappointed; Monkey Boy was such a good baby, I figured I could handle another; and I wasn’t getting any younger. I also still wanted another girl, though I did have some fears about the possibility of multiples.
The doctor at the clinic tried to talk me into only thawing four and keeping the rest frozen for another cycle. I managed to talk him into thawing all seven and letting them grow to the blastocyst stage (a stage many clinics let their embryos grow to begin with.) Ultimately, it didn’t really matter. Only three embryos survived the thaw, and I wound up having the transfer immediately.
As you might suspect, that cycle didn’t work. I have to say I was a little disappointed, but not heartbroken like I had been with the other failed cycles. Plus, I didn’t know then how much of a challenge Monkey Boy would become, and what’s more I had no idea that within 3 1/2 years, my husband would move out, we would be divorced, and I would be left to cope as a single mom of three young children.