Friday, March 21, 2008

The harvest and the odds and the dirty secret

I was lying on the acu table last night, willing my ovaries to produce at least one good egg this cycle, and I started running down the numbers. Which, I've got to say, didn't exactly help me relax.

I have had 49 eggs retrieved.
28 eggs were either immature or didn't fertilize properly.
21 eggs fertilized normally and became embryos.
Of those 21 embryos, 17 were transferred back to me. 4 were either discarded or arrested (actually I think only 1 was discarded because it stayed alive long enough to become a blast but was not good enough quality to freeze).
Of those 21 embryos, 8 were 8-celled or greater on day 3.

And presumably none of them were normal, because none of them stuck around. Or some were normal and I've got an implantation issue. All three RE's don't think it's an implantation issue, although I've had plenty of immune and thrombophilia testing done just in case.

So here I am, cycle 7, with 7 antral follicles. What gives me the audacity to think that any of these will be normal? I suppose just blind, fervent hope. Just hope that maybe with a new protocol I can produce a normal embryo. Or maybe just perseverance and luck of the draw that 1 out of 50+ finally comes up good. I mean, that's worse odds than is usually bandied about for 43 year old women as far as having chromosomal abnormalities goes. And I'm 39, so you'd think I should still be able to produce a good one somewhere.

The odds seem miserably slim, though.

But anyway, it has cemented my decision to go forward with CGH even if I only have a couple of embryos. There's a part of me that wants to know now if all those embryos really were abnormal or if it really is perhaps an implantation issue. And that of course means that I may well have already had my last embryo transfer. I may be done with that completely, because I am determined to do these last two cycles and then stop TTC'ing. I am determined not to say "oh just one more cycle" after that. More and more I stare down the end of this TTC road, trying to face up to it bravely, with squared shoulders. It is hard. It will be one of the hardest things I have ever done - walking away from this dream. I've decided that donor eggs or donor embryos or adoption are not for me at this point in my life. Maybe I'll come back in a few years, once I'm done with school and have switched careers, but there's a large part of me that doubts that that will happen. You see, we all have stopping points. Lines we will not cross. For most people, that line is somewhere around 3 IVFs with their own eggs - they move on to more of a sure thing after that. But for me, I think it is the loss of that genetic connection. My dream of motherhood has always been to have my own child. Yes, I know that is hopelessly politically uncorrect to say. An adoptive child IS your own child, because it was fated and all that jazz. But I hope you know what I am trying, clumsily, to say.

Perhaps those of you that have gone the DE or adoption route just shrug your shoulders in despair here, and think I am cutting off my nose to spite my face. That I will be missing out on all the joys of parenthood, which when you come down to it are all about raising a child and not the genetics. However, it seems to be a dirty secret in the IF community that some of us have come to realize that we want our own genetic children or nothing. Because, if I am being honest, this is where my head and heart are right now. I know a few others like me - perhaps we seek each other out on the message boards or in our clinic waiting rooms, because we do seem to be rare and it's such a wonderful connection to make. It's so emotionally satisfying to have your thoughts validated by someone else who thinks the same way. To know that you're not crazy (well, not completely batshit crazy, at least). It's almost electrifying, in fact, to sit in a cafe somewhere with someone who has also travelled across many many miles to go to a top clinic in a desperate bid to try again and to go "oh!" with that realization of a kindred spirit. OK, if I'm being honest I know three or four women who I class as being like me in this, all of whom read my blog (you know who you are), and I hope I am not putting words into anyone else's mouth or letting out anything that should not be shared. But you see how small a group? Three or four out of how many women I have come across in this journey? One (hopefully, god willing, hoping that nothing goes wrong) has had success on her 7th IVF, and one has stopped treatment (maybe temporarily, maybe not). The rest of us are still plodding along. There are others that I see out there in blog land that I make assumptions about, due to the numbers of cycles they have done, but I've never emailed them or spoken in person so I don't know for certain what they are thinking. I do take comfort in knowing that they are out there, though.

I don't know why I have drawn the line where I have, but it somehow feels right. At least, more right than any other choice. When I think about having a child using donor eggs I get a searing pain through my heart as if I've been stabbed. It is less painful to think about never having a child than using DE, which almost feels like a betrayal to my family in some bizarre way. Truly, I have thought long and hard about this. I did try to pick a donor, to really try the idea on for size. is not for me. At least not now. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind later if circumstances and my thinking change.

But why does it feel like a dirty secret to make this choice to stop completely? Why do those of us that don't want to do DE or adoption feel marginalized and somehow less like real women or true mothers than those who would do it? It's not like we don't move heaven and earth to try to become pregnant. We are the ones doing the super-multiple numbers of IVFs. Interestingly, everyone that I have spoken to that takes this track seems to have some difficulty with adoption - maybe their DH is deemed too old, or in my case my single status and immigration status make it difficult, or maybe it's something else. So the choice comes down to DE or donor embryos or another cycle with our own eggs, and with doctors who say that it's worth trying again if we have the strength and are aware of our pathetically miserable chances of success, we forge on. I mean, until it becomes completely impossible and if you've got the means to keep going, why not? Other women move heaven and earth by grieving the loss of the genetic connection, squaring their shoulders and accepting DE or going through that home study and the endless reams of adoption paperwork. And they are, rightly, celebrated for coming to terms with the whole "parenting=child rearing not genetics" equation. Why then, when we are all busily also going to enormous lengths to fulfill our dreams, are we not celebrated for saying "enough is enough" when the time comes? I guess it's because nobody wants to admit that IF doesn't always have a happy ending. There's a big part of us all I think that wants to say that there can be a happy ending if we try hard enough, even if that means moving on to other methods of conception or parenting. But for me, I don't know if DE or adoption would truly make me happy. Wouldn't I always have a pang of grief that this was not my genetic child? Does that make me selfish? Or, is it less selfish of me to realize that I probably can't get past this and not inflict my less-than-overjoyed heart on a child who could be loved completely with a different parent who is less hung up on genetics than me? Isn't it better to say that I can attain a level of contentment with a child-free life, even if not truly happy, than to bring a child into the world without 100% joy?


Alacrity said...

Hi Sarah -

I think you already know my views on all of this.

I don't think that you are at all selfish for wanting your own genetic child or no child at all. Nor do I think that you are biting off your nose to spite your face. Nor do I think that people who stop after the point of IVF with their own eggs are less passionate about motherhood.

I think what it comes down to is one's personal vision of motherhood. What it means to you to be a mother. And that is different for everyone. As is the line each of us draws.

I have "tried on" the idea of DE many times, and just cannot feel right about it. I cannot justify creating a living child from another woman's egg just so that I can experience motherhood, because that child would be the one to live with the consequences of my decision. Maybe it is because of the work I do, but I think I have a pretty good idea of the issues that would arise.

But that DOES NOT mean that I think that women who decide to do DE are being selfish or are doing something wrong. Who am I to judge their path to parenthood? Honestly, I think DE absolutely has a lot of advantages over adoption or childlessness for many couples/singles. Its just that it doesn't feel right to me, no matter how much I wish it did.

I am not sure, but I assume that women who have become mothers through DE or adoption have those pangs of grief you describe, but they are eclipsed by the normal joys and trials of parenthood.

So my answer to your last question is "maybe, but only you can truly answer that question for yourself."


Alacrity said...

Oh, and I love that IVF Math!

Statistics are both extremely important and utterly irrelevant at the same time.


Kim said...

I'm totally with you, Sarah: I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting & preferring your offspring to be genetically related to you. And yes, it does seem to be a dirty little secret, a source of shame if you will, to be TTC and unwilling to adopt or go the donor gamete route.

Of course, I find it terribly hypocritical of people who bitch about non-adopters, and like to point out that adoption/DG surely wasn't THEIR first choice; no, those are things they considered when they'd completely exhausted any chances or hope of genetic offspring. When they were at the end of that line, with no where else to go.

If gen. kids are also their first, preferred choice, what makes it so wrong that for some people, it's the ONLY choice?!? :sigh: You can tell this bugs me too, right? I've gotten the adoption speech myself. As if adopting a child is easy, what I would want to do, or an answer to the pain of infertility.

Hugs, and good luck.

Almamay said...

Thank you for such a heartfelt, honest and brave post.

All of our journey's are so personal that the same path cannot possibly be followed by all of us. Aren't we supposed to cherish our differences?

You are doing everything humanly possible to make this work. Keep strong.

Amy said...

I can kind of understand where you are coming from. I am on BCP in prep for my 5th fresh IVF. My embryo's suck so bad that I've NEVER had any to freeze. I too believe it is an embryo issue and not implantation but who knows? I too have had the donor egg talk but I'm not ready to give up on my body. I'm not ready for adoption. Donor egg and or donor embryo is not an option for DH and I. We'd rather do adoption but neither of us are ready for that.

I certainly hope you and I get our miracles soon! You are definitely not alone.

I do he numbers as well. My numbers:

26 eggs retrieved
12 mature out of the 26
15 embryo’s out of 26 eggs
7 transferred
None to freeze

Numbers can certainly be depressing. For me I have had:
1 8 cell embryo on day 3
3 5 cell embryo's on day 3
3 3 cell embryo's on day 2

Amy said...

PS out of my 15 embryo's the one's that were not transfered arrested in the lab. by day 3

Rachel said...

What to do after you know infertility treatments is totally personal. I think it's good to admit to yourself that if there is no genetic connection that you'd rather be childless. I think it's the right decision for many people. You are not the only person to think that way. A worse decision would to be a parent to a child you could not feel connected to.

People know what their limits are, as you said. You know you couldn't parent a child that isn't genetically related to you. I know that I couldn't live without being a parent some how, some way. Just because we made different decisions doesn't mean either one of us is wrong.

bleu said...
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bleu said...

I am not like you in this one instance, but I also have a biological child and DE or adoption were considered no way in my realm until after I had a bio child. After I had Bliss it was suddenly so much easier to think about them as possibilities.

I know I want another child regardless of how. I am still doing my own eggs but there will be a stopping point and it has been discussed with doc and in my head at length.

I totally respect your choice here though, and get that you could feel that way. It makes sense even if it is different than myself.

I also totally will respect if it changes at any point.

Mostly I hope none of this will be an issue for you and that this new protocol will be the ticket.

I have never felt you had implantation issues since you get chemical pregnancies. In my head that wouldn't happen if implantation was an issue. I felt I had that problem, or more specifically embryo hatching problems which is why we do AH now.

I do feel heartbroken for you when I dare to think about the possibility of you not experiencing motherhood though. I think you would make such a wonderful mother and I know how deeply it has changed and enriched my life so for you I want that, but never to the point of wanting you to do what doesn't feel ok for you.

I have known women who stopped when it didn't happen naturally. People are different. I think the problems/issues with the judgey crap comes from this bullshit stance some take that "if you wanted it bad enough you would do anything" line of thinking. It is utter bullshit. You do what feels right, you make the choices you are ok with.

I just wish you much love and happiness and that this cycle will work out.

The Town Criers said...

I think that those who follow their heart and balance it against their head rarely have regrets. And if you can walk through life with few regrets, I think you're doing an amazing job. And I'm hoping this one is it, Sarah, and sending so many good thoughts for this cycle.

ms.bri said...

I know I didn't have to go to the lengths you have been to, but I felt the same way. I wasn't going to adopt or use DE. It isn't that I don't think it's a good choice. I have a half sister who is bio related to me and a half brother who is adopted and they are equally my siblings. I fully know we are a family just like all others. It's just not what I wanted. I just wasn't going to do it. I can understand where you are coming from. I hope you don't have to square your shoulders. I hope these IVF's fulfill your dream.

maybe42 said...

I am totally with you. I have just had my 4th IVF and got a negative (I am devastated). I've been getting the donor egg speech from family and RE, and adoption from other family and friends. I just don't say anything to them, because I have this shameful desire to have a genetic child.

I was wondering if I did conceive with donor egg and donor sperm (I am old and single), how I would feel and how I would explain to the child. I like tinkering with genealogy, and I could not think how my child would be interested in my family line. My child would want information about bio parents. This would be info that I couldn't provide. I wonder how I would feel knowing that I had a biological mother and father floating around in the world.

suzzcq70 said...

As someone coming from a different view, I gave up after 2 fresh IVF's b/c I never had embryos to transfer. 46 eggs retrieved, 10 embryos created, all died on day 2. So we aopted, and then did donor embryo to get our two boys.

My point: everyone is different. We all have different circumstances and different values. To be brutally honest, if I were single, I wouldn;t have moved forward either. But I wanted my husband and me to have kids.

It sickens me to think that anyone in the IF community would persecute you. There's no need for cliques, right?

Still wishing you luck with this cycle!

orodemniades said...

Yes. I couldn't do donor sperm nor egg (although I reserved the right to change my mind), either. Of course, ultimately they weren't choices I had to face irl, but mentally, oh yes, I was there. We would have adopted.

And yet, I don't know if I could have gotten over the mourning, either. That's a big burden for a child to carry, even though one would never dream of passing that weight on consciously. I think you are incredibly courageous for being so selfless. But then, that's why you'll make a wonderful mother.

Love, Oro

Aimee & Hannah said...
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Aimee & Hannah said...

Your'e definitely not selfish for feeling the way you do! I really understand where you're coming from, many women want to pass down their family genes.

Overall, being a mom is really a wonderful gift, regardless if it's your own biological child or not. :o)

Hoping #7 is your lucky #!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I have read your blog but never posted. I have prayed for you, cried for you, but most of all waited for that wonderful news posting that you were safely pregnant.

Today, I felt compelled to tell you my story. Your feelings are quite valid and there should be no shame in it. I lived in Coral Springs, Fl when I began my journey to motherhood. I love children and have always wanted to adopt in addition to having my own babies. As a single woman, I adopted a beautiful newborn baby boy. It was an experience that was perfect for me. As I went through the final months of pregnancy with the birth mother, and was there to cut the cord in the delivery room. Life was beautiful and full. When I married, my conceiving dramas began. 5 miscarriages, 5 IVF cycles, & 6 yrs later, we are still with our 1 child. (but a little brother on the way via adoption, due in May!!)

I feel no hyporcracy in saying this, I would love to have been pregant.I would love to know what a genetic connection feels like. But Life is beautiful. I made the right choice and ejoy motherhood -- the good the bad and the ugly.

Whatever choice you make,it has to be right for you. There is nothing dirty about how you feel. What would be the wrong thing to do is just go out there and "get a child", just so you can have one, and not be able to love them or connect with them as if you had birthed them. As you know, not everyone who gives birth makes a good mother nor does it mean that if you can't give birth you can't make a great parent.

I do hope that you will achieve success this round. You have tried so hard. If you have the resources, please don't give up hope. But remember, whether you birth your baby or adopt, there are no safe guards that you won't have regrets.


Lioness said...

I came via Oro, this is my first time to your blog, and I am so sorry. I am not infertile (that i know of) and my one experience with rproductive loss so far has been thinking I was getting my period and it actually turning out to be the miscarriage from hell. But I have been reading IF blogs for years, I started when most of the IF alphas were still childless for the most part so many moons ago. And I have always been shocked by some of the double standards held not by all, of course not, but by enough that it made my stomach churn. Some of the most shocking one sto me are (and this might not make me loved, I realise that): infertile women have the right to complain and bitch about everyone and everything and expect special treatment because of their pain, the same way they deny "normal" pregnant women such treatment, but if they get pregnant they are not allowed to ever voice fears or doubts or God forbid complain about their pregnancy. They must live in guilt and silence because of all their sisters who have not achieved even that and even if their pregnancy turns out to be devastatingly hard they should be dancing with the fairies at all times; IF women that experience loss have a right to complain but only above a certain degree of loss because someone else will always have suffered far more, and go on, you've only had 3 miscarriages and I've had 6, how dare you expect sympathy when I clearly have suffered more; IF women are allowed to try and get pregnant for as long as they choose to but the moment they decide to adopt it must all be roses, adoption is ALWAYS perfect and in some cases the child is even a tabula rasa and was actually hatched, how convenient. In these scenarios you must also never suggest that adoption was a second choice, even though it obviously was and still is for most people, since most people actually conceive their own children, because the moment it becomes their choice it's their only choice, suddenly noble, and "second" leaves a bad taste in one's ears; IF women are incensed by strangers telling them to "just adopt", everyone's reproductive business is their own business after all and they long, as is their right as well, for a child with daddy's smile and maybe grandma's curls, and will rightfully mourn the loss of a genetic continuity if they themselves are forced to go another route, but will see it as a betrayal when another IF woman says no, the genetic connection is important to me, it's either that or nothing. I have stopped reading many blogs because while I realise that a blog is a place where one should be able to vent freely and ruminate and maybe, with luck, cope with loss, all sorts of losses, it makes me uncomfortable to see gratuitous bitchiness. Many years ago there was a blogger that actually wrote that pregnant IF'ers should not expect sympathy really because there are only so many emotional resources to go round and the ones who were still chidless needed them all, and it sickened me, it still does.

I am so sorry for what you have been going through and equally sorry that you feel so isolated. I can see why you'd be reluctant to speak about it, you risk being slayed but bloody hell, you are absolutely doing what you feel is best for you, how dare anyone else project their own insecurities and needs onto your life and make you feel even more rotten than life already is. You should be able to have a child that is genetically yours, yes, absolutely, and if everything else is wrong for you then it is your choice not to pursue it, and facing it is hard enough as it is. It simply makes my blood boil to see the sisterhood turn against their own when their own are perceived as threatening, for some reason. You all already go through so much, why must it be so hard to accept that everyone knows what they can live with. I think there are more of you than you dream of, but PC hiding it may be the only option for women who are already so raw, who wouldn't be able to easily stand an attack from within the ranks, where it should be safe, it would be too much. It is such a shame, so incomprehensible at the core... You are very courageous, I think, and I am heartbroken for you that life doesn't always reward the brave as it should. I wish you luck with all my heart, I do.

Alex said...

Oh for heaven's sake. Here from Oro's blog; I just wrote you this long post telling you you aren't selfish and trying to describe some of my experiences and then my computer somehow deleted all I'd written.

And I'm not going to rewrite it, but kudos to you for expressing your thoughts, which are totally legit, and, at the risk of dispensing assvice...your stats sound much like mine (4 IVFs, 12 embryos that couldn't, 1 that did on cycle 4); I think that one that could was made possible by finally getting a (mild, hard to detect) thyroid problem diagnosed and treated. You're probably totally on top of all this stuff but if you want more information from me about what I did and why I think it made the difference, email me, bogart99 at yahoo dot com.

Good luck with your cycle.

Jackie said...

Sending you love.