I restrained my normally enthusiastic nature and committed to waiting until the following February to actually start conceiving a baby. Just to make sure I wasn’t rushing this decision.
While I waited, I started seeing a therapist to “clear the decks,” mentally, and make sure I was in the best possible emotional state for making this decision. And I started charting my fertility cycle each day.
A few months later, I visited a fertility doctor. I was concerned about how I might feel about going to a fertility doctor, and was relieved to find that I felt nothing but joyous excitement at beginning the process.
My doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, a common hormonal imbalance that was preventing me from ovulating, and started me on medication to try to regulate my hormones. That February I tried to get pregnant at home with donor sperm. I was so sure it was going to work –and was amazed at how disappointed I was when it did not.
I tried three more times with medications. Each attempt failed. I thought I was prepared for failure, having told myself that heterosexual couples usually try for twelve months before medical intervention is called for. But it was hard not to be disappointed. And the side effects of the fertility medications were intense. Lots of mood swings. I was sad a lot.
After the fifth failed cycle, I told my doctor, “That’s it. If I’m going to have all these side effects anyway, I want to increase my odds and move to IVF.” He agreed and in October, I started injecting myself with multiple medications each day. I felt like a big science experiment, but all those needles and medicines were worth it if it meant achieving my goal.
Well, due to my PCOS, my body outdid itself. My doctor harvested not 10-20 eggs, but fifty-two eggs. The nurse told me afterwards that this was their second highest retrieval ever.
That sounded like a thing to be proud of but it had a big downside. I woke up a few days later in excruciating pain and profoundly dizzy. My abdomen was swollen and tight as a drum. I crawled to the phone and called my doctor’s office and was instructed to come in immediately.
Luckily, my friend Jessica was staying with me, because I was so dizzy I could barely walk. We made it to the doctor’s office and I bypassed the triage area and walked straight to the back, telling the nurses I had to lie down immediately.
They exchanged worried glances as they checked my blood pressure. It was abnormally low, which explained my profound dizziness. I was clammy and sweaty, groaning in pain from time to time. When they needed me to sit up, I had to lean against one of them for fear of passing out. The pain was from my baseball-size ovaries pressing down on my lower abdomen. I got so dizzy and boiling hot — instantly drenching my clothes in sweat — that I had to lie down on the floor.
The nurses brought me a rolling chair and helped me get back to my exam room. The doctor in the office that day was not my own and seemed reluctant to get involved. So the nurses asked me what I thought should happen and I smiled weakly, because it seemed so obvious, as I said, “You have to call me an ambulance. You can’t send me home like this.” Finally, my nurse practitioner background had come in handy in my fertility journey: you have to call an ambulance if your patient can’t walk. Of course.
The ambulance was duly summoned. Just moving onto their gurney hurt. Riding over potholes on an ambulance gurney was excruciating. Worst of all was being forced to wait hours in the emergency room for pain medication and a room upstairs, despite the fact that my doctor had sent orders for to get me admitted and to start pain medication immediately. When the nurse finally brought me a pain pill to swallow, I promptly vomited it back up.
Finally I was transferred to a room upstairs and given a comfortable bed and adequate pain medication through an IV. I was so grateful to be out of pain.
Two days later, I was discharged, and sent home on bed rest. Meanwhile, the lab successfully inseminated 36 of the 52 eggs, and twelve 5-day-old embryos were successfully frozen. The IVF cycle, despite my illness, had been an amazing success. I was thrilled. All the trauma and lost time had been worth it.
Ten days after that transfer, in the upstairs bathroom of my cousin’s house during a racuous family Thanksgiving celebration, I took a home pregnancy test. I was terrified. I couldn’t bear another disappointment after all I had endured with the IVF procedure.
To my joyful amazement, the test was positive.