My children were all wanted. So much so, that I underwent four rounds of in vitro fertilization to have them. Two of those rounds were complete failures. The second round, I developed ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. This causes the ovaries to swell and become painful. I couldn’t walk without severe pain. My abdomen was huge.
Despite all the eggs I made, none of the embryos survived that round. We didn’t get to transfer any. I was crushed, devastated, and all of the other synonyms you can think of.
I also, apparently, was somehow exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. But I didn’t find that out until later.
After the two failed cycles, we switched to a different fertility clinic. I had to start over with all of the tests, which included a full panel for any blood borne infections. I never imagined any of them would come back positive. To use a quote from my favorite Stephen King character, “God always punishes us for what we can’t imagine.”
A few weeks later, I received a letter from the Department of Health stating that I tested positive for antibodies to the virus that causes Hepatitis C, and that this didn’t mean I necessarily had the virus or an active infection.
I was shocked and terrified. I was also angry that I got this news, not from my fertility clinic, but from a letter in the mail. I called the clinic immediately, and I was hysterical.
It took them hours to call me back. It was a Friday and I was an anxious mess thinking they wouldn’t get around to talking to me until Monday. I called a few times and begged for someone to talk to me.
Eventually, the doctor called me back. She explained that the clinic was aware of my lab results, and was not aware the Department of Health would be sending me a letter. The doctor said my labs indicated that I had been exposed to Hep C, and therefore had antibodies to the virus. The labs also indicated I did not have an active Hep C infection. The doc said I needed to see a hepatologist and that my fertility treatments were on hold until I was cleared by hepatology. They said they don’t allow embryo transfers to women with active Hep C due to risk of exposing the fetus.
I remember that hepatology appointment so vividly. It took at least two months to get an appointment. I had an early morning appointment, the first one of the day. I waited for two hours before I was seen. They brought me back into the exam room and no one came. I eventually left to go looking for someone, and was told the doctor wasn’t even in the building and they had no idea how long the wait would be.
I almost left. I came so close to leaving. Just fucking giving up. I cried alone in that exam room, so fucking frustrated at how awful it all was. All I wanted was a baby, and here I was, with two failed cycles, and now a fucking Hep C exposure? What the fuck was this life I was living?
I texted my husband to let him know I was going to leave. He convinced me to stay and wait, and he was right. So I waited.
Eventually, the doc showed up. I can’t remember if he apologized for being so late. But, I told him why I was there. He looked over my labs. He said, “you were exposed. No one will ever be able to tell you how or when, but you were somehow exposed to Hep C. However, you also don’t have hep C. The labs are clear about this. I’ll let fertility know.”
He softened as he was documenting. He said, “my sister had to go through IVF. They have a son now. I know how hard it is. I wish you luck.”
He was kind. He also said that he could have cleared this up with a phone call with fertility, and seemed annoyed they put me through the process of having an in person appointment. I was annoyed, too.
We got the green light for IVF. IVF is an emotionally taxing experience even in the best of cases. We transferred two embryos and that round ended up resulting in the birth of my oldest son. We also had 7 embryos make it to the blastocyst stage for embryo transfers. They were frozen for future use.
About a year after my son was born, we did a frozen embryo transfer. The doctor recommended we transfer two embryos due to my history of making shitty embryos.
I never imagined what happened next. And God always punishes us for what we can’t imagine.
That pregnancy resulted in quadruplets. Yes, both embryos split into two pairs of identical twins. One of them passed very quickly. The other three continued to progress.
I was terrified. All I could think about was premature babies, long NICU stays, brain bleeds (ironically, not my own), cerebral palsy, retinopathy of prematurity, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Plus the logistics. We’d need a bigger house and a larger car. I’d have to worry and stress about moving while still working full time, growing triplets, and having a one year old.
What the fuck was this life?
Look, I wanted kids. I did what the doctor recommended. They said to transfer two embryos and we did. But, no one in their right mind wants higher order multiples. It’s not good for the mom, and it’s really fucking bad for the babies. And our story is no different.
I almost immediately developed gestational diabetes and required insulin and frequent sugar checks. I had gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy, as well.
My baby B was found to have a plethora of problems. I was told at my 18 week ultrasound to expect him to pass within the next two weeks. I was also told his death might lead to preterm labor and I could easily lose all three babies.
I walked around like a zombie wondering if I would know when he died. If I’d feel different. If he was already dead by the time I got home.
Two weeks went by, I had another ultrasound and he was still alive.
We were stuck in the hell of limbo. Not knowing if he’d make it or not. Not knowing if I should tell people I was having triplets or twins. We didn’t get to celebrate anything because it always felt so dire.
With each successive ultrasound, he was still alive. He kept growing, but slower than the other two. He didn’t have a lot of amniotic fluid around him. There was a good chance his lungs would be under developed.
Around week 21, I got up in the middle of the night to pee. One of the babies waters broke. I sighed, thinking, “this is it. This is the end.”
I went back to bed and waited for labor to start. I cried. But, I never developed any contractions. I eventually fell asleep.
In the morning, I called my OB, who got me in right away. She said she didn’t see any leaking fluid and the fluid levels on the ultrasound were the same as the previous ultrasound. She convinced me I just peed myself. But, I knew that was bullshit.
I went home, and I kept leaking fluid. Not constantly, but frequent gushes of fluid. Despite telling all of the doctors, I never had a contraction and no one could ever see the fluid leaking, either on exam, or on ultrasound.
Eventually, around week 26, as we moved into our new house, that fluid turned bloody. This was a change and I packed my bags and just headed in to labor and delivery. Finally, they were able to confirm that Baby B’s water had indeed broken. I was admitted to the hospital until delivery.
This is where the story of my fertility journey and my stroke journey intersect, I think. The stress of those babies jammed into my ribs, pushing all my organs up, gave me crazy tachycardia. I could not breathe. I had a cardiologist consult in the hospital because I was so dyspneic and tachycardic. They found my heart was fine. But for almost six weeks, I laid there, stressed to the max, heart pumping, sucking air like a fish out of water, body taxed. And I believe that’s when and why my brain aneurysm formed.
The babies came around week 32. Maybe someday I’ll do a blog post about the NICU.
I still have five embryos frozen.
We live in a red state. Not the reddest of states, but it’s red all the same. With Roe being overturned by the SCOTUS, I have made the decision to have our remaining frozen embryos destroyed. I didn’t want to make this decision and I don’t make it lightly. But, it’s clear they are paving the way for IVF to be restricted. They have stopped fertility cycles at my IVF center because no one quite understands yet what will happen. I think it’s highly probable they will require frozen embryos to be implanted regardless of what the couple wants. We feel forced to make this decision.
I almost died, could have died, more than once in our fertility journey. I feel so sad thinking my daughter that I never got to have might be among those embryos.
But, I’m grateful to be alive and to see my four sons grow up. I hope they are grateful to have me around.