THE BLOG
04/21/2014 12:19 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

IVF Loss

A good friend of mine is losing another IVF cycle. My lady parts are no longer in that game. I've done five cycles, have three healthy children and so by all definitions, I am a total "winner," a Mega Millions jackpot winner times infinity. But since I've been through it, I use the phrase "losing an IVF cycle" carefully.

There are different levels of IVF cycle losses. Sometimes they just don't work from the get-go. Initial pregnancy test results are negative. Disappointment, anger, sadness, more anger and jealousy fill your mind space. You look at your credit card bill and calculate that $10,000 just went down the toilet with your uterine lining. But there's no customer service number you can call for a refund. This isn't Nordstrom's. You can't get your money back or a positive pregnancy test back. It's a total wash.

Then there's the mindf*ck-level loss. That's when you get an initial positive pregnancy test. ELATION. Hallelujah and amen, sisters! You marvel at how amazing your lady parts are and how modern medicine is so cool. You don't even care how much the progesterone shots hurt every evening because you DID IT. The universe rotates on its axis, the planets are aligned. You're pregnant. Every 2-3 days you have to get your blood drawn to make sure your beta HCG level rises exponentially. This tells you that the embryo so carefully grown in the petri dish and injected into your cervix is adhering to your uterus and dividing appropriately. You get this level about three or four times. If it's rising (usually doubling at least), all is right in your uterus. If it only rises by a bit or plateaus, you are in full-blown panic until the next level a few days later. You will enter "HCG level not rising but I'm still pregnant right?" into your Google search and only read the victorious stories. You will ask anyone who has done IVF before if this is OK and could still lead to a baby. You will make them say yes with your estrogen-laced, hungry eyes. They usually will. Then you go back for blood draw #3 and you ask the sweet, lovely tech who's digging for a vein if she's seen levels go down a bit but things still end up OK. She lies to you and says, "Sure, honey, I've seen that." You love her and tell her so with tears streaming down your face.

Then the horrible, awful nurse calls you at noon and says, "I'm so sorry, it didn't work this time, let's schedule you a visit with the doctor to review things." And you just say "OK" and hang up. For some reason, there are no tears. Just anger. White hot anger. And if anyone near you is pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant or even just talking about children, you're not responsible for your actions. You review what you could've done different to make it work. You should've taken another day off after the implantation and laid in bed. You shouldn't have been around someone with the flu. You should've given yourself more progesterone. You should've been more zen. You should've stuck with the acupuncture. You are defeated. And then you rise up and do it again. Because women are made of f*cking steel.

Then there's the late loss. That, my friends, is the raw, ugly loss. You get discharged from the IVF factory at 10-12 weeks and then you are a regular pregnant woman. Normal OB visits. Normal pregnancy complaints. You're sporting maternity shirts and feeling awfully proud of yourself. You DID IT. And then at a regular, normal appointment, you find out that the little embryo/fetus/baby (depending on the time of loss) no longer is. Just stopped working. Like a clock that was 10:15 at 10:15 and never got to 10:16. Just stopped. Without warning. Without sounding any alarm. Just quit. It is astounding. It takes you days to really absorb the fact that it's still 10:15. Going in for the D&C helps bring that home. It's over. You will still need your maternity clothes though, because there's nothing better than not being pregnant but still having to wear maternity pants (full disclosure: I still wear maternity pants when I'm feeling particularly awful about myself. Highly recommend them for Thanksgiving). The chapter closes. The story ends. Badly. There really isn't anything else to say. But here are some suggestions of what not to say: "There's always next time"; "You're still young, you can try again and again"; "Better now than later on"; "There's a reason for everything." They're just untrue. So, as my dear friend Tracy taught me, "Don't just say something, stand there." It's the best you can do. Just stand there and be sad with her. Quietly. Agree with her how unfair it is. Listen to her be angry. Listen to her be negative and fatalistic. Withstand the urge to make things better. There will be time for that later.

You are defeated. And then you rise up and do it again. Because women are made of f*cking steel.

Fertile vibes, sisters.

Always,

Pamela

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