Tomorrow I will be 6 weeks pregnant. It still feels quite unreal and although we are still in that zone of being absolutely overjoyed, there are also other feelings starting to take up more and more space. Namely worries and fears. Because it’s still so early days and because there is always that risk of a miscarriage. I’m trying to trust life, trust that our little ‘sprout’ is doing great, trust that everything will be ok. But sometimes it’s difficult.
Again I feel the effects of that addiction to seeing and knowing I wrote about in a previous post (Addicted to knowing). I so need a fix! I need to SEE with my own eyes that I’m pregnant – despite the fact that I can clearly feel it. I need to KNOW that everything is ok. I need to SEE a heartbeat. I am in other words craving an ultrasound scan and I’m not going to get one until the 6th of January.
I know all pregnant women are anxious in the early stages of pregnancy. It’s normal. But I think it’s more of a challenge when you have been living with infertility for years and finally get pregnant after fertility treatment. Firstly, there is that feeling that you can hardly believe it has actually happened at all. It feels like a miracle and that in turn makes it enormously precious and special. All of a sudden you have so much to lose and you know it might not be simple or easy to just get pregnant again if something goes wrong. It feels like a ‘once in a life time’-thing. To top it all off, there is the issue of the way fertility treatment has fundamentally changed your perception and sense of your own body. It has become the object of reproductive interventions by professionals and you have become used to relying on this intervention rather than the natural functioning of your body.
Now my body is all on it’s own again. I have even been told to stop taking the progesterone by tomorrow when I’m 6 weeks along. I fear stopping, because it seems so early. Especially compared with how it’s done elsewhere as my google research is telling me. At the same time I’m also deprived of access to any external knowing and seeing what is going on, i.e. I have no way of feeding my treatment induced addiction until the 6th of January.
It’s hard to all of sudden trust your body and trust that nature can take it from here. And to accept that there really is no need for me to know or see what is going on. I have no control anyway, neither do the professionals. They can do as little as I can to ensure that things work out. I have to let it go, trust and hope for the best. I need an antidote in the form of some good old fashion ‘taking things as they come’. As my dad said it when I was talking with my parents on skype about all the blood tests, ultrasounds and screenings which are now common in any pregnancy: “Well in our day we assumed things were ok when the belly starting growing…”. There were no BETA numbers, no scans, no tests. Maybe I will be ok then, waiting a mere two weeks for that first ultrasound :-).
Firstly, thank you so much for the sweet and comforting comments last week! It’s been a strange week since the first blood test, where the result came back a bit inconclusive. At least according to the IVF clinic who regarded the amount of pregnancy hormone (hCG) in my blood too low to be a positive. Now a week later, there are no longer any doubts!! The proof is in the numbers.
Deep down, I didn’t really have a lot of doubt. I have been feeling pregnant for sure this week. But you never know if you can trust what you feel, so we were waiting nervously for the call and my heart was pounding as I picked up the phone. The nurse sounded quite cheerful and I held my breath. And then I heard those magic words: “I’m happy to tell you, that you are definitely pregnant, congratulations!” My hCG level had shot up from 42 mIU/ml last week to 1454 mIU/ml today (day 21 past retrieval). A perfect increase! It has basically doubled every 32-33 hours on average.
Finally we got to dance around and cry with joy! And we got to call family and friends who were waiting almost as anxiously as us and tell them the best Christmas news we have ever had. It is absolutely amazing and we are still trying to take it in. After almost 6 years of trying, I am pregnant. I can hardly believe it.
So this was the big day. My official test day where I was instructed to come in for a blood test. 14 days after egg retrieval or, in other words, 11 days after the 3rd day transfer. The day we would finally get to know.
I did as instructed this morning and then we waited for the call. I had been going over the two possible answers again and again in my head. Hopeful of one and fearful of the other. What I did not expect was a third possibility. The nurse did not say the words I have dreamt of for so long: “Congratulations, you are pregnant”. Neither did she utter the words I feared: “I’m sorry, you are not pregnant”. Instead it was some kind of explanation about a low hCG level and that they would like me to come back for another blood test in a week.
I can hardly remember what she said precisely, because my mind just stopped. It took a while for me to realize that what she was actually saying was that we have a ‘weak’ positive on our hands. The hCG level was 42 mIU/ml and to be a clear positive they would like to see 150 mIU/ml. I also remember that she instructed me to keep taking my progesterone and said that it could be that it is just a bit slow. But it could also be that something is wrong.
After a bit of google searching, we have concluded that this result probably indicates that I am a little bit pregnant, so to speak. It would seem that hCG levels vary a lot from woman to woman in early pregnancy and that 42 mIU/ml on day 14 after retrieval could potentially be fine. So we are allowing ourselves to become happy – slowly. But we are also weary. Do we dare to embrace it?
This is yet another surprise twist to our seemingly endness journey which we could certainly have done without. But at the same time I’m thankful. I would take a weak positive over a negative any day!!
It’s the two week wait. Every tiny little physical sensation is noticed and pondered upon and typed into google. You read about what should be happening each day after transfer. You try to imagine and visualize it all. Maybe you pee on sticks way too early. Anything to get just the smallest hint of what is going on inside your body and how the little embryo(s) are doing. You are counting the days till the blood test when you will finally KNOW.
It’s like a desperate need to see, to know, to get some evidence. All of us who go through fertility treatment experience it. It’s as if we have become addicted to a level of knowing about our internal reproductive happenings which goes far beyond a woman’s normal experience of her body. A level of knowing which is completely externalized and dependent on visualizing technologies operated by professionals.
All the ultra sounds and blood tests have changed my bodily perceptions for good. It has become normal to SEE things which are normally invisible. Or at least a representation of it. There on the screen I have seen my follicles and followed them at their different stages of development. I have seen each one get punctured with a needle as they were retrieved. I have seen a picture of our 8-cell embryo and I have seen the air bobbles inside me when it was transferred.
Fertility treatment makes the invisible visible and the unknowable knowable. It’s addictive. As you enter the two week wait this visualized experience of knowing is brutally taken away from you. Instead you are left completely in the dark.
Where in the first part of the cycle you got to see and know much more than you would have normally been able to, in this part of the cycle you are robbed of all sources of sensing what is happening inside your own body. Symptoms and signs mean nothing because they are probably just caused by all the progesterone you are taking. Trying to get a fix by typing ‘early pregnancy symptoms’ into google will give you no answers that can be trusted. If you are spotting it can be both a good sign and a bad sign.
But what about intuition? Does a woman’s intuition still work during IVF? After six failed IUIs and lots of reading about other people’s IVF experiences, I have learned not to trust anything I feel or sense during the two week wait. And I never test. I just don’t trust anything, including test sticks. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions based on anything. Instead I try to embrace ignorance.
But it seems that the learning has only reached the rational part of my brain… The withdrawal symptoms are not easy to control. Other parts of me are still busy sensing. The other day I told my husband I felt pregnant. He looked at me in shock – ‘do you have anything to base it on?’ No I don’t. Nothing. Nada. There is no evidence. I can’t explain it and I don’t trust it. But it’s there.
Is it an intuitive feeling? Or is it rather that the visual image of our little beautiful embryo is stuck in my head. I KNOW it’s inside me because I SAW it being placed there. Maybe it’s just not possible to believe anything else then that it is still there, growing away happily, until proven otherwise.
On Friday the 9th of December I will get a fix again. Thanks to a blood test I will finally get to know.
“We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be – to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.” Eckhart Tolle.
RoseSelavy came into our lives in late 2006 when she was a tiny wild kitten we rescued from the bottom of the paper recycling container in the communal yard of our apartment building in Copenhagen. By coincidence my husband was looking out the window just as she fell. We got her out of there and took her in, together with her brother. She was ill, scared out of her mind and undernourished. Administering eyedrops twice a day to a wild kitten is no easy task, but miraculously she allowed us to hold her just to do that. As if she knew it needed to be done. She let us take care of her. Now the tables are turned it seems.
Lately she has been ‘bullying’ me relentlessly to stop doing things and just rest. She has never been a very vocal cat, but it seems she has found her voice and she is using it to let me know in no uncertain terms that she is not happy unless I’m laying or sitting in bed. The sofa will do as well, but she clearly prefers the bed. If I’m not resting she is not resting. She fuses around my legs, meowing, scratching the furniture and she won’t give it up until I settle down on the bed. Then she joins me immediately. At first I thought she just wanted cuddles, but she usually places herself too far away for me to reach her. She just lays there, looking at me with half open eyes, purring. The purring goes on for about half an hour until she falls asleep (after which she starts snoring…).
The last few days I have realized that her new ritual is teaching me to rest, to be still and be in the now. It is meditative to listen to her purring and watch her in her pure being and peacefulness. All thoughts disappear for a bit, along with the two week wait and its battle between hope and fear. Thank you my little white furry zen master!