I was talking to two women who each recently experienced a loss. One of them just had her first failed IUI and the other her first failed round of IVF.
As I was trying to come up with the words to comfort them, all I could think of was “this fucking sucks.” Because, there is no way around it. It is the absolute fucking pits. And, there’s no manual for how to “bounce back” from a failed attempt to conceive.
You have to allow yourself to grieve, because you are experiencing a loss. You’re experiencing a great feeling of failure. You blame yourself. You’re angry. You’re sad. And you deserve the time to sit in those feelings.
But, with your failed attempt to conceive, comes the pressure of time. Okay, you got your period or your negative pregnancy test. Time to stop the progesterone and get right back on it. You can’t afford to waste another month that could potentially be THE cycle that finally gets you knocked up.
So, you have to quickly shift your thinking from grief, to making a plan for the next step. And then you don’t want to feel negative going into this next cycle, because ya know, the power of positive thinking. So you shove those feelings of loss down and keep moving forward.
I’ve written before about how the process of trying to conceive is a rollercoaster, but I think it needs to be talked about again. Whether you’re ttc (trying to conceive) on your own, maybe with ovulation tests and timed intercourse, or you’re already past the point of failed IUI’s and onto IVF; it’s a giant mind fuck.
No matter where you are in this process, each month looks something like this. You anxiously await the arrival of your period, like you’re standing in line for a ride you’re absolutely terrified to get on again. And, unfortunately, there is no “Fast Pass” to cut ahead and get that shit going. You just have to wait your turn.
Once Aunt Flow rears her ugly head, it’s time to sit down and strap in on this fertility rollercoaster. If you’re starting an IUI or IVF cycle, this means you’re calling your doctor’s office and setting up your first ultrasound of this particular ride. If you’re trying at home, you’re marking down the days on your calendar, taking your basal body temperature, and waiting to start peeing on the stick in hopes of getting a smiley face.
I’m unfortunately (and fortunately) very familiar with all of these scenarios. I’ll share my round of failed IVF with you, because that’s the most recent stomach drop I’ve experienced.
After four failed IUI’s, countless timed intercourse cycles, tons and tons of shots and hormones, we finally made the decision to start IVF. THIS would work. It HAD to. What I failed to realize was that it actually might not work.
My egg retrieval was a huge success. They retrieved 22 eggs. That’s almost two dozen potential babies. To say we were ecstatic is an understatement. You can imagine my disbelief when the hospital called the next morning to inform us that only THREE had fertilized.
We hoped for a Day 5 blastocyst transfer, but because there were only three, we were scheduled for a Day 3 embryo transfer. We tried to hold onto faith and stay positive, but by the morning of our transfer, we only had two embryos left. We decided to transfer both of them in fear that one wouldn’t survive freezing and would be a “wasted” embryo.
Once the two embryos were transferred, that’s when the dreaded “Two Week Wait” began. If you’ve ever made an effort to conceive, you are very familiar with this wait. It’s the time between hopeful conception, when you analyze every single thing your body does. Is that cramping? Am I nauseas? Do my boobs hurt? Do I have a headache? Do I look pregnant? Do I feel pregnant? 99% of your time is spent googling pregnancy symptoms, just searching for some sort of reassurance that it worked.
My rollercoaster ride came to a screeching halt when I woke up with my period on Day 24 of my cycle. Despite the ridiculous amount of progesterone coursing through my system, fucking Aunt Flow somehow broke through to let me know this ride was over.
Despite all of the failed attempts prior to this, this was the first time I actually started to realize I may never be a mother. The devastation of a failed IVF cycle was the worst thing I had experienced. This was supposed to work. It “always” worked.
Through that failed IVF cycle, my doctor learned so much on a cellular level. He changed my protocol, and reassured us that we’d get this to work, one way or another.
It was extremely difficult to pull myself up and get back in line to board that fucking rollercoaster again. I had ridden it so many times, what would make this time any different? It would be the same ups and downs; the same highs and lows. I felt foolish for thinking I’d ever successfully make it to the end.
My doctor was right. Three months later, I was pregnant, with nine frozen embryos as back up.
I say this all the time, but I wouldn’t change one single thing about my journey to become a mother.
Why? Because none of those failed attempts would have been my daughter, Mickey. SHE was at the end of the ride waiting for me.
So, for anyone who’s going through the loss of a failed cycle, please remember that it is 100% okay to grieve. And it’s 100% okay to take as much time as you need. You are experiencing a loss. And you deserve that time.
And once you’re ready, you are strong enough to strap into that rollercoaster again. Because, when you’re determined to become a parent, you will stand in line for the same ride, over and over until you make it to the end.