As soon as my ovaries shrank back to their normal size (after a failed IVF cycle, sabotaged by ovarian hyperstimulation); my hormone levels normalized; and I had my period, I was immediately ready to start another cycle of IVF. I was going to make this work. I was not going to be discouraged. I was going to get pregnant.
I was fertile…incredibly fertile…confirmed by a tiny drop of medication overstimulating my ovaries. I didn’t need a break. I needed a baby. And, so, we started over again. This time I was required to have more frequent ultrasounds and more frequent blood draws (oh, so convenient for my work schedule). The medication doses were titrated to push the ovaries to make follicles but not to hyperstimulate. We were on the right track. But…
Once, again, I hyperstimulated. It was not as intense this time. I was able to continue the cycle, but unfortunately because we were using such small doses of medication I ended up with a lot of very small follicles that didn’t have eggs at the right stage of maturity. I only had a few follicles that looked promising. Would these few follicles be enough? I held onto hope.
During this cycle, a somewhat random and awkward series of events transpired. As I made my way into the clinic one morning, I noticed a familiar face. Not just a vaguely familiar face, but the face of my next door neighbor. She sat alone, looking down at either her phone or a book, or anything just to avoid eye contact. I knew that she had seen me. How could she not, with only a glass wall to separate us on entry, and one other person sitting in the waiting room?
For several months now I had observed that everyone always looked up when someone entered the waiting room. Maybe they look out of curiosity. Maybe it was an instinctive reaction to the sound of the door opening. Maybe they thought the nurse was about to call their name, or maybe it was a glance longing for connection-the connection of seeing someone else struggling with the same grief that infertility brings. In this silent community of women, all were pained by similar emotions yet distanced from one another by shame or a desire for privacy. But, behind each heart filled with pain was also a yearning for understanding and support.
As I sat down, I tried to make eye contact. Instead of feeling like my privacy was being invaded, I was excited to find comradery. I wanted to know my neighbor’s story. I wanted to tell her mine. I eased myself into the seat, sore from my distended pelvis. I wondered if she was in the middle of a cycle. As my mind was racing through possible scenarios, she briefly glanced my direction. I tried to catch her eye and smile. This time she did see me, but instead of saying hello and exchanging pleasantries, she simply gave me a hasty, half-hearted smile and quickly looked back down. Each morning after was the same.
I didn’t judge her. How could I? Just months before I had been shrinking behind the vending machine hoping that no one that I knew would see me. How could I expect her to behave differently. She hadn’t invited me into this private part of her life. She didn’t want me to know her struggle. She deserved the right to her privacy, to her reaction, to her annoyance at my presence. I understood. She was dealing with her infertility struggle in the way that worked for her. Who was I to pressure her to talk or to share?
Over the next several months we saw each other frequently. Our exchanges were limited to a quick glance and a brief smile. By now our husbands were accompanying us to our appointments whenever they could. My neighbor’s husband would smile and greet me comfortably, as though we were both in our front yards watering flowers. Our husbands worked out in the same gym and would run into each other on occasion. Somehow they were easily and openly able to talk about our simultaneous infertility journeys and failed IVF cycles.
As coincidence would have it, we both ended up having our egg retrivals on the same Saturday morning. So, just the four of us sitting in the fish bowl waiting room at 6 am, eager, worried, and more than a little tired. Would we both come out of this round pregnant? Would only one of us have success? How many eggs would each of us get today? How many embryos? So many questions…so many what if’s. I wasn’t sure what to say. Besides, my mind was more than a little hazy from the sedating medication I had taken before arriving to the hospital. This clinic expected you to be tough. A benzo by mouth and some IV narcotics were all they gave for egg retrievals. Looking back, I’m a little jealous of my friends who had full anesthesia at other clinics! I’m pretty sure I’d be okay with never knowing what an egg retrieval feels like!
From The Mom in Me, MD