Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Two Week (I Can't) Wait


Embryo transfer complete, the dreaded two-week wait was underway.

Cue “symptom spotting” (aka looking for any sign you might be pregnant). I noticed that my belly had become very Santa Claus-esque. I literally already looked pregnant, which was absurd yet undeniable. (So much for the skinny legend I’d become.) I Googled “weight gain or bloat?” and was relieved I was not the only person to wonder. Everything I read seemed to indicate it was bloat, but I didn’t “feel” bloated. Was it possible to show even before a positive pregnancy test? Were my stomach muscles so loose from the last pregnancy that they were just like, “We give up”?

For a few days following the transfer, I also felt little tugging sensations in my uterine area, just like I did during the first trimester of pregnancy with my daughter. I also experienced frequent urination, constipation, sleeplessness, and a level of exhaustion that left me near catatonic, though these seemed less like tell-tale pregnancy symptoms and more like mere coincidence – or signs that something else was wrong. I’d been incessantly cold, too, which is not a symptom of pregnancy, and began to wonder if my thyroid had gotten out of whack again.

Mood-wise, I felt surprisingly calm. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to take a home pregnancy test (mostly out of fear of a false negative). I mentally held space for both the possibility that I was pregnant and that if I was not, I would get another transfer scheduled ASAP. I even started researching whether I should transfer two embryos next time.

“Why are you researching this stuff?” my older teen wanted to know. “You’re manifesting the transfer not working!”

“Because it makes me feel better to have a backup plan,” I said.

One week post-transfer, my patience ran out. I decided to take a home pregnancy test. The night before the test, I had two pregnancy dreams: the first involved a pregnancy test gadget so complicated, I couldn’t figure out where the results window was. In the second dream, I was at a gas station under the guise of buying candy for a movie, but I was really scoping out the pregnancy tests and trying to figure out how I could sneak off and take one. And I did – but once again I was having trouble finding the results window. Finally, my dream self flipped the test over and there they were – two blue lines!

I woke up at 4 a.m. and headed straight to the bathroom to see if my dream would literally come true. As I prepared all my testing items – pee stick, plastic cup – my hands were trembling so hard I could hardly get the test package open. I didn’t realize how excited I was about the outcome until I was actually moments away from knowing it.

Using only a nightlight for guidance, I peed in the cup, dipped the stick in the pee, and placed the test on the counter. A minute later, I glanced down. Just one line. Negative.

“I knew it!” I thought.

It was dark in the bathroom, though, and I was not wearing my glasses, so I thought maybe I should turn the light on to confirm the test was negative. I did, and…there was a second line! Thin and faint, but there! 


I took the test back to the bedroom and put it on the nightstand, where I continued to check it every few minutes in between prayers of gratitude.

The second line stayed. My heart swelled. I felt so amazed and scared and grateful and nervous all at once.

Later in the morning, I ran downstairs to find my husband pouring his coffee.

“I have a squinter!” I said and produced the test. He was not wearing his glasses, so he couldn’t see at all what I was trying to show him.

When he realized what I had in my hand, he couldn’t believe it. He didn’t seem happy, per se, more shocked.

“I had a birth dream about you last night,” he said.

“How did the baby look?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It was just a baby.”

Huh.

Just like my previous IVF pregnancy, what initially felt like a finish line – a positive pregnancy test – was really just the first hurdle. I ordered a pair of store-brand pregnancy tests from Target (never again!) and took one the next morning, expecting the second line to be darker, stronger, as the HCG in my body (and urine) should have been increasing exponentially daily. But the second line was still faint, anemic even. The following day, I did another home test – and the line still wasn’t darker. The results from those home tests were so discouraging, I threw them away. They were psyching me out.

Thankfully, beta hCG day arrived. It was a gray and cold March morning as I drove to the clinic for my blood draw. Random snowy patches dotted the tan grass and the trees were sad and leafless along the route. “This is how the weather will be when the baby is born,” I thought, calculating a late fall due date.

My blood draw was so fast, I didn’t even have to pay for parking. I spent the entire morning refreshing and refreshing my online patient chart. Finally, around lunchtime, the result was in: my hCG was 170! (A normal hCG level for four weeks pregnant is between 10 and 708.)

While I was reassured by the number, it wasn’t as high as my first hCG had been with my daughter, and it was lagging behind that of several newly pregnant members of the West Coast IVF Facebook group. And yet, according to one study, an early HCG level higher than 100 has a 90 percent chance of resulting in a live birth. The odds were on my side. Now that number just needed to double in the next 48 hours.

Like all things pregnancy, I once again felt like I was holding my breath and waiting to feel reassured.

On the morning of the second blood draw, I was greeted by a nurse I didn’t recognize. She was wearing pink scrubs instead of blue, and her name tag said “medical assistant” rather than “lab,” which made me wonder if she was really qualified to draw blood. As it turned out, nope, she wasn’t. Though she complimented my veins, she couldn’t penetrate them. She tried twice in my right arm, jabbing me painfully and then trying to maneuver the needle into a better position.

“Has anyone ever told you your veins roll?” she asked.

“No,” I said. (“This is not my problem, it's yours,” I thought.)

Thankfully, after bandaging me up, she called one of her colleagues over – who got the blood drawn on her first try.

After the lab visit, I headed over to the specialty pharmacy to pick up more progesterone and needles. The latter were out of stock because of the Covid vaccine, so I had to wait 10 minutes for the pharmacist to finagle a substitution. While I was waiting, a nurse from Dr. Baby-Maker’s office called. My bloodwork had confirmed that my thyroid was on the fritz again, so I was to restart medication for that, too. (Proper thyroid function helps sustain pregnancy.) So many drugs just to do what most women's bodies do (and mine has done in the past) naturally. Grr.

I continued my refresh-refresh-refresh routine on my online chart until the hCG results came back that afternoon: 424! More than doubled! My West Coast IVF treatment coordinator called to congratulate me and went over the upcoming important dates: seven weeks (first ultrasound), 12 weeks (the end of progesterone and estrogen medications), and my due date.

I put the photos of the embryo and the transfer on my bedroom wall along with the embaby’s profile to make her feel more real. Mild physical symptoms aside, it was hard to believe I was pregnant. Now I just had to wait and hope and pray that the pregnancy would stick.

And stick it did. But while this pregnancy was the easiest, physically, that I’ve ever had, emotionally, it was a motherfucker

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