As a teacher, I often hear kids tell each other, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” They say this as they’re passing out treats to one another on holidays or birthdays. It seems as though someone taught them this mantra when they were younger to prevent feelings of sadness or anger over getting a gift that was less than or different than they wanted. Maybe it’s good to learn early on that there are often “No Refunds,” “No Exchanges,” and “No Do-Overs” in life. Sometimes there’s no opportunity to make amends or to try again.
I’m learning this lesson again as an adult.
And I still find myself throwing a fit. Except a fit at this stage of life looks more like an adult woman curled up on the floor in the fetal position sobbing for hours on end or staring blankly into space while peoples’ questions go unanswered. I know crying doesn’t change anything. I understand that staring at walls does no one any good. But it’s all I can do at this point.
You see, sixteen years ago, my husband and I wanted to become parents. We worked really hard at it. We were labeled as “infertile.” We pursued adoption for a bit, but being turned down by drug-addicted moms sent me spiraling into depression. We turned to a fertility specialist who tried IUI and then IVF with us. Our family and friends helped us raise money to pay for the expensive process. So nine and a half years ago, our first IVF cycle was successful and we brought home baby twins– a boy and a girl. Some people thought we must be done now. They said, “You got the perfect family!”
We had four embryos remaining in storage.
While our family was beautiful, and we were so excited to be parents, we knew we wanted more and we would try again.
Six years ago, we returned to the specialist and did another round of IVF with two of our frozen embryos. We lost one but were so happy to bring home our baby boy. Again, people suggested that we were finished now.
We had two embryos remaining in storage.
Our family was perfect already, but we held on to our favorite baby clothes, and the crib, and all the things our next babies would need.
A year ago, I made an appointment with the specialist to do another round of IVF with our last frozen embryos. We made the arrangements to have them transferred home from the out-of-state storage facility. We were nervous but really excited. It was exciting to know that the process we started ten years ago would be coming full circle.
It was exciting to think of finally holding our babies in our arms.
I started hormone treatments three months before the procedure. I had a hysteroscopy and had cysts removed from my uterus. I wore patches all over my stomach and had bruises and itchy welts all over my backside from injections.
We went through our last IVF transfer. The doctor finished the procedure, clapped his hands, and said, “You’re pregnant!” I told the doctor, “Thank you for bringing our babies home!”
I felt my body change. I was excited to be carrying my babies. I couldn’t wait for the positive test so I could tell everyone.
The first test was positive. But, the nurse didn’t sound happy when she told me. She mumbled some numbers after she said congratulations. I asked if there was a problem. She said the number was a little lower than they expected, so we would need to do another test in a few days and see. She hung up. I stood in silence.
Positive, but not positive.
I spent a weekend praying for my babies, praying for doubling numbers every day. My body started feeling different, cramping now instead of the former heavy happiness.
After the next blood test, the office took a long time to call. I could feel the dread growing in me. When the nurse spoke, she started with “I’m sorry.” My numbers had dropped and my short-lived pregnancy was drawing to a close. I lost them both. I feel like I was pregnant with them for almost ten years . . . looking forward to their eventual “coming-home.” And now they’re gone. I’ll never know if they would have had their daddy’s brown eyes or my light hair.
Instead, every time I go to the bathroom, I expect to see signs of their passing. It’s terrifying to pull down my pants. When I called to ask when I could expect it, the nurse told me I would probably start my “cycle” for about a week after stopping treatments. Cycle? Cycle of what??? My cycle of infertility? This is not a cycle. It is a miscarriage. This is the end of ten years of dreaming, hoping, and planning. I understand that it was early in the process, but it is NOT a regular cycle. I exchanged hopeful thoughts of my clothes growing tight for terrified thoughts of needing pads and tampons to soak up my last chance of growing a life inside of me.
This is the end of a momentous and hopeful dream, and there is no do-over.
Every time I look into my closet, my eyes glance up to the shelf still piled high with hormone treatments that were supposed to carry me through my first trimester. I see the picture I tried to shove out of sight of the two little embryos just before they entered my body never to be seen again. I probably need a friend to come over with a big box and help me purge the thoughts and reminders from my view.
So, for those asking casual questions when passing in the hallways at work, “No! I am not ok!”
But I am out of bed. I’m attempting to face life. And while the flowers at first were a sob-inducing sign of what I lost, now they are a reminder that you love me . . . even when I’m cloudy instead of bright.
There are no refunds or exchanges. There’s no going back and no do-overs. So, here is me, moving my broken self forward, one angry tear at a time.
Originally published October 2019.