Sunday, May 11, 2008

Third Time's The Charm: A Mother's Day Tale

It’s Mother’s Day and for the first time in a very long time, this is a joyous day. This is a letter I wrote for Madeline and Avery, which I will put in their scrapbook and book:

We had a new protocol, a new attitude a new clinic, one of the best in New York. The fact that we had to pay out-of-pocket for this IVF and I quit my job to give this final IVF the best shot further buttressed our feeling that this time it might work. Everyone knows that the more money you spend and the more inconvenient it is and the more sacrifices you make, the higher the probability of the IVF working.

The day of the transfer I was alone. Mommy was on a business trip in Arizona and on her way home. We had hoped she would be there in time for the appointment but there were no guarantees. She had been there for everything else, from the blood tests to the sonograms to the retrieval, when the eggs I created with the help of 15 pounds of drugs were plucked from my body. The fact that because of work she couldn’t be there for the transfer was killing both of us.

Before an embryo transfer, the doctor wants you to drink a exorbitant amount of water. This fills your bladder, which in turn presses on your uterus, which helps the doctor guide the embryos to their (hopefully) new home. So an hour before my appointment I started the steady drinking of water. The clinic was about a mile away, so I took the scenic route and walked through Central Park, sipping water along the way. I stopped at the corner of the Park, and there, under a huge beautiful tree next to the pond, I scaled a giant rock and called Mommy. She was at the airport. I started crying when we spoke because I wanted her there so badly. We talked again about how many embryos to transfer. Conventional wisdom is two; anything more than that just increases the chance of having a multiple birth. So two it was, and under no circumstance should I let the doctor put in more. I brought up valid, possible scenarios and Mommy reiterated: Two. Period.

I didn’t intend to go against this plan, but sometimes, things happen.

I got to the clinic and was ushered into a changing room, where I was instructed to take everything off except my bra and lock up my valuables and put on the gown, opened to the back. Inside my bra I stuck a mini picture of Mommy of a tiny religious medal giving to us by your Aunt Jenni for luck. I also had Aunt Mina’s mom’s ring. Our good luck charms.

Then I went into a the room and waited for the doctor. My file—a huge, phone-book thick sized mass of papers—was in the holder on the door and I wanted to open it up and look at it, but I felt strange doing that, even though it was mine. So I waited, with a full bladder, in that blue gown, in those little slippers, my hair in a net. When the doctor came in, I was sad to see it wasn’t our regular doctor, the one who confidently said “Let’s go get you pregnant” and filled us with all kinds of hope. I was hoping that he would be on duty that day.

You don’t find out abut the embryos until the day of the transfer. The doctor could have come in and said that I had no viable embryos. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least. He asked me how I was doing and was being cordial but I interrupted him and cut to the chase: How were the embryos? He paused, he flipped through the papers and then, horror of horrors, he made a face that indicated that they weren’t the overachievers that I had prayed for. “Well,” he said, carefully, in a measured tone, “they are good. Not great, but good.” The expression on his face made it seem like he was being generous with these comments. He said that considering my history and my miscarriages and the quality of the embryos, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put in three. Two of the embryos were good, and the third was so-so. So three it is. The doctor said it. Despite my promise to Mommy about no more than two, I agreed. Put in three and please don’ let this be a failure.

So I went into the operating room feeling low. I was upset. I thought it wasn’t going to work. This is doomed, I thought, not for the first time this cycle and certainly not the last.

When I was on the table, bladder uncomfortably full, and the doctors and nurses started preparing me. They did a sonogram and the doctor said my bladder wasn’t as full as he wanted it. I was devastated because I thought I drank so much water. More gloom and doom.

I watched the entire transfer on a giant screen suspended above me. The doctor threaded a long, thin catheter into my uterus and with one quick plunge, released the three embryos into the darkness of my womb. I felt a little sting, a little pinching feeling. I was rolled to the recovery area, given graham crackers and told to wait for a half hour before I left. But I as allowed to use the bathroom this time instead of a bed pan.

The next day, instead of laying on the couch with my feet up wishing for implantation, Mommy and I took a walk to Central Park. This was completely against protocol. I was glad to get out of the house and happy to have an outlet for all that nervous did-it-work energy. We wandered through the Brambles, and it was peaceful and beautiful and surprisingly calming and I wonder if it was there, in that hidden oasis under that thicket of tress that you both burrowed into the lining of my uterus and decided to stick around.

You are supposed to have a blood test ten days after an IVF to see if you are pregnant. But few women, impatient and nervous and determined, ever can wait for that date. You mind plays tricks on you during that long ten-day wait. Every nuance, every little twinge and pull and zap is analyzed. Is this a sign of success? Or a sign of failure? Waiting for a needle prick and blood results is excruciating.

The easier way out is taking a home pregnancy test. And while many will say that they are not accurate or they cannot detect pregnancy too early, I have found that they are terribly accurate. My first IVF rendered a positive test at 10 days past ovulation. My second IVF rendered a positive around the same time, though much, much fainter. So on this third IVF, even though I promised Mommy I wouldn’t take a test, one morning, while she was at work and I was unable to concentrate, I slipped into the bathroom, peed on a stick and waited.

Actually, I peed into a plastic cup and dipped the stick in, because my aim was never that good. I sneaked a peek about 5 seconds after the stick’s extended dip and saw what I thought was a faint line starting to develop. My stomach dropped and my heart flipped and I was filled with instant optimism. But the mind can play tricks on you.

I brought the stick into the living room, where I was ironing and watching Martha Stewart, and I carefully placed the stick on the top of the television. I ironed for a few moments, trying to wait three minutes or so, but I couldn’t take it. I went back over to the stick and saw, for certain, two thin, pink, beautiful lines. Little did I know how fitting that would be.

I was surprisingly calm. I remember feeling so relieved—we jumped the first hurdle of a positive test—but I also remember feeling the burden of so many other hurdles to come.

Mommy had to know. I thought she might be a little upset because we agreed that I wouldn’t put myself through the torture of testing. I have been know to take ten tests a day. And she too knows all too well that a positive test doesn’t mean a positive outcome all the time. But she needed to know. So I called her at work and said I was going out for a walk (another lie) and that I would meet her at her office, the one closer to home. She was going there in the afternoon anyway, so it was perfect. Our plan was to meet on the street and then get lunch or coffee.

I can remember what I was wearing, the mint green cable sweater. The white shirt. Jeans. I walked over to Mommy’s office, stomach filled with butterflies and the positive test clutched in my hand. She was a little late. This was not like her. So I called her work phone, I called her cell phone and she was not answering. I paced back and forth in front of our appointed rendezvous and waited, not very patiently.

And then I saw her. And she was not alone. She was with Catherine, her manager, and I had never meet her before. They walked over to me and as they got closer I surreptitiously pushed the pregnancy test—which was clutched in my hand— up my sleeve and shook her hand. We made some small talk and then she excused herself and disappeared into the giant building and Mommy and I were alone. I pulled the test out of my sleeve and handed it to her. She was excited but cautious. And so hysterically business-like because we were on the street in front of her building and surrounded perhaps by her employees and colleagues. We hugged and looked at the test some more and I vaguely recall making more promises I didn’t keep, like not taking any more tests and not searching on the computer for horror stories. Ha. Alas, no lunch or coffee for us because Mommy had a meeting she had to go to.

We had been at this point before, so we were both very wary. We knew we had so many more hurdles to jump. But, dare I say, it felt a little different this time, just slightly. Maybe that is hindsight (since we know this story had a happy ending) and maybe I am rewriting history, but I just felt like this is going to work. I had almost no symptoms to reassure me and no signs that you two were properly dividing your cells and growing inside me. But each appointment for blood work and sonograms yielded more good news. It was working. I was pregnant, with two growing, thriving, amazing, beautiful babies. And you two stuck around for thirty-seven weeks and five days, at which point you made your highly anticipated grand entrance into the world and our lives.


meanmama said...

Happy Mother's Day! You deserve it a million times over!

JB said...

Hope you guys had a good Mother's day! Thanks for sharing this!

JB said...

Hope you guys had a good Mother's day! Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story. You have 2 beautiful girls!

eggdance said...

This is such a great letter. Thank you so much for sharing it and happy Mother's Day!

anna said...

Thanks for sharing this story. What a good idea to write it down while it's still fresh in your memory- perhaps, I'll do the same! I hope you had a great Mother's Day.

CCB said...

Thank you! Happy Mother's Day to both of you!

judy said...

I think it is so amazing and delicious how much Madeline looks like you and Avery like Nicole.
You make such a beautiful family!!

BA said...

Beautifully written - you're daughters will enjoy this story when they are older. They will know how much they were/are wanted and loved.

My Mother had 2 miscarriages between my brother and I (both at 6 months) and it makes me feel like it's me who is supposed to be here, and unfortunately not them since I wouldn't be here if one of them would have lived. I don't know if that's a good thing to tell you or not since I've never been in your situation, but maybe your girls will feel like all the wait and problems were so that THEY could be here and that THEY are supposed to be a part of your family. You both seem like such wonderful Mothers - they are definately lucky to have you both.