I was at my nephew’s graduation. Watching all the 8th graders walk into the hall and listening to that familiar “Pomp and Circumstance Graduation Walking March”, I started to tear up a little. I was surprised by my emotions. For sure I am proud of my nephew, who received a few awards including one that was given to one boy and one girl who were elected by their 8th grade classmates for being the nicest and most helpful throughout the year. But I suspect that my emotions were much more complicated than the pride I had for my 14-year-old nephew. Next to me was this couple, who looked full of joy and pride for their son. One of the segments of the evening was for the graduates to walk to their parents and hand them flowers and a thank you card. Being next to that couple, I could see the large-sized hand-made thank you card that read more like a letter. Their son practically wrote them a love letter. The mom was wiping her tears while taking in all the little words that filled the whole card. Watching her, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of loss. Do I ever get to experience this joy of seeing my own child become a successful young man? The earliest that could happen would be when I am in my mid-50s. That feels really far away from now. I mourn the loss of what could’ve been, where life could’ve taken me on a different path. What if I met Bob earlier? Married earlier? Had no problems conceiving? Then being at my child’s 8th grade graduation would not feel so far-fetched at this moment. A sense of loss, unfairness, envy, jealousy, fear, etc. These are feelings that I would usually have when I see a pregnant lady or a mom with young babies. I never would have expected myself to experience them at a middle school graduation. I was very surprised. I did actually shed a few tears there. It goes to tell you that triggers are everywhere and sometimes happen at unexpected times and in unexpected places.
A few months ago, I was invited to participate in a project which requires me to create curriculum to teach Chinese parents ways to boost young children’s communication at home. I have been developing the content of the workshop since then. A couple of weeks ago, I gave a twenty-minute presentation to about 25 Chinese parents and other caregivers. I am not much of a public speaker. If I can, I prefer not to speak in front of a large group of people. My throat would get dried and my hands would be shaky. A few years ago, I probably would have said “no” to this opportunity out of the fear that I would make a fool of myself. It is just not my thing. This time it feels different. I have been doing the same things in my career for the last ten years. It was about time I challenged myself to do something that I had never done before. I have to say I actually did quite well on presentation day. I projected my voice and spoke confidently of something about which I am passionate. The feedback from parents was good as well. The project co-director is an interesting lady. A powerful person who has many connections. You can tell that she gets things done and gets them done her way. She has a very strong personality and not easy to work with. She was the one who casually asked me if I had children and jokingly told me not to get pregnant until after the workshops are done. We chatted on the phone to debrief about the presentation as well as to discuss the direction of the project. She disclosed a new recent development of the project, which is to develop a monthly prenatal class for first-time pregnant patients at the clinic to teach them early communication skills with babies and childcare option. I am the guest speaker that she has in mind. This is a brand new idea to me as initially I was asked to present to only actual parents, not expectant parents. My emotional side was screaming, “Oh No… that means that I will have to see many women with big bumps on a monthly basis and there is nowhere to escape from them” and “Oh No! More public speaking…” My rational side supports the idea of working with these expectant mothers before their babies are born so they are armed with the knowledge to get a head start. God has a sense of humor. You are not always comfortable with seeing big baby bumps? Here is an opportunity to get used to them by seeing lots of them on a regularly basis. I could choose to hide and escape. Or I could choose to take up the challenge head on and see how God would lead me. I am happy to report that I said Yes to the co-director, but I think I will need a lot of God-given courage and strength before the kickoff presentation. I admire Meghan and Jane who work with pregnant women on a daily basis. I hope I can channel their professionalism and passion for these ladies.
After our disappointing scan on Wednesday, Bob and I were cuddling in bed at night chatting about the day. I made it through the day without crying about the lack of follicle growth. I closed my eyes when Bob said:
“Imagine in the future when we go to Hong Kong and your dad takes away our baby to show off to relatives and refuses to return the baby to us.”
I immediately had a vivid image in my head: my dad holding our baby who has a head full of black wavy hair, proudly showing baby off to friends with a big smile on his face.
My heart all of a sudden hurt a little. It ached for this image that felt so far from reality. I kept my eyes closed. Suddenly tears started coming down. Bob’s forehead was tenderly resting on mine. When he noticed that I was crying, he thought he had said something wrong. I reassured him that he didn’t say anything wrong. It was just the right time to shed some tears at that tender moment. Of the hope that this could become a reality when we push forward. Of the fear that it would never become a reality.
Bob just held me in his arms and both of us were silent. As I was feeling his warmth, I felt fortunate that he’s always here for me bearing the weight of the unknown with me and braving through these storms in our fertility journey.
Despite a disappointing cycle, I am still a very lucky woman to have a man who stands by me during the most difficult times.
Yesterday’s scan on cycle day twelve showed very little follicle growth. I might have been over-suppressed by the estrogen I took before the cycle started. Three cycles of Clo.mid might have messed up my hormones. I didn’t cry and didn’t feel overly disappointed. I kind of expected this outcome. Jane is right. These are her wise words: “There are still so many positives; in just 2 cycles, you got 5 embies that were further and rated better than before.” It IS such a positive thing. Imagine not having those embryos. I don’t know the outcome of this cycle. But I know that I’ll get through it just like any other disappointing moments in this journey. We’ll get through it.
My luteal phase was a totally of sixteen days. Honestly it was a bit of a torture. In a cycle where you know that the chance of a pregnancy is zero, a 16-day luteal phase is inhumanely long. On the 15th day after retrieval, I felt that my muscles were very tense. It didn’t matter how I tried to relax, I was tense. My basal body temperature was below cover line which indicated the imminent arrival of AF. However, there was no sign of blood. The early morning of the 16th day after retrieval, I woke up extra early and started having fears. I started to think: what if my period doesn’t come? What if my period takes forever to come? What if because of its late arrival that there isn’t enough time to do a retrieval and transfer in December before the clinic closes on December 21st? As I lay there, my mind was going crazy, making wild guesses of what might happen if my period delayed coming. Then I thought of what I have been learning at my bible study. This year we have been studying the life of Moses and how God miraculously led the Israelites out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea for them. The Israelites quickly forgot God’s power and deliverance and grumbled and complained about the lack of water and the lack of food. Am I not like the Israelites? God has been faithful and been showing us His power and might by giving us the last two cycles that were like miracles to me. We JUST finished with a cycle that ended up with two good embryos on day two. How could I forget so quickly that God always provides, always has a plan, and is sovereign? With that thought, I prayed for my trust in Him. I got up and went to bootcamp. Still no signs of blood. I was talking to Bob in the car about how I should put my trust in the Lord and learn NOT to be like the Israelites. Once I stepped into the house after the work out, I felt something warm and knew that AF had indeed arrived. What a shame for not trusting the Lord for being in control of every single detail of my life.
Where did the panic come from? Well, after I reported cycle day one to my clinic, a letter from the billing department was emailed to me. It included the fee schedule for this cycle, which was quoted over $1000 higher than what we had been paying. When I got it, I was immediately panicking. I was very upset that there was a rate hike. I quickly sent Bob a message to let him know and he started panicking and getting upset. I mean… we can afford the extra $1000. But everything is tight. We have been trying so hard to save up money for donor egg cycles so every single dollar counts. We have already paid out a lot of money to make this baby. Any extra amount would just stir a huge emotional reaction from us. I emailed the billing coordinator and asked for an explanation. Then I read the letter and the itemized fee schedule in more details. It actually stated that it was for a fresh mini-IVF cycle with ICSI, embryo thaw, and transfer. But we are NOT doing a transfer this month. I realized that there was miscommunication between my nurse and the billing coordinator. Bob was very relieved that we didn’t have to pay that extra $1000. Indeed when I went in for my baseline appointment today, I paid the original amount that was the same as the previous two cycles. I was happy that I caught the error.
However, we were happy too soon. Tonight I got another email from the patient coordinator saying that the fees that I have been paying for the last two cycles and this cycle have been misquoted by the billing coordinator. She erroneously quoted an amount that was $563 less than what we were supposed to pay. In other words, we owe the clinic $563 for each cycle, which comes to a total of $1689. The patient coordinator said that the amount she gave me in August was the right one. The subsequent amount that I was asked to pay was wrong. How would I know? Every time I went in, I just paid whatever amount that I was asked for. I would have no idea that it wasn’t the right amount. It’s just wrong that we’re paying for the mistake that they made. No wonder so many online reviews trash the billing department at this clinic. Imagine those people who can only save up just enough money for these cycles and all of a sudden are asked to pay up extra because of the mistakes of the clinic. But out panic shows that we still don’t put our 100% trust in the Lord that He will provide and that ultimately everything will be fine. Like I said, money matter stirs up a lot of raw emotions.
Anyhow, to end on a happy note, my scan went very well. This was the first time that Bob couldn’t come to a scan with me ever since we switched clinic. I am very grateful that he has been able to come, so I was okay with him staying at work. I like it that it was the nurse practitioner that has been doing all of my monitoring scans. Very relieved to see NO cysts anywhere on my ovaries. The antral follicle count has been the same for this cycle as the last two cycles: one on the right and three on the left. I saw Dr. No Nonsense in the hallway. I told him about the scan and he gave me a high five. Never high-fived an RE before. I started 100mg of Cl.omid tonight. The 7th IVF cycle begins. Let’s see if the follicles will do their magic.
I was going to write a long post. I lost steam after starting it. So… I am just going to say that, tomorrow is the first beta day. I had been doing quite well until this morning. I wiped and saw the slightest hint of pink on the toilet paper. That pink sent me to a place of great fear. Maybe deep down I don’t believe that it’s going to work. We had very good distractions throughout the weekend. We had Valentine’s Day dinner and Bob’s birthday celebration. I thought that I was doing great with keeping my emotions in check. Then I lost it this morning. I cried because I felt doomed. Nice to have hubby by my side. He gently stroked my face and head and let me cry. I was tempted to test with second morning urine… but then I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bear to see one pink line. So I didn’t do it. I doubt that I will test before going in for the blood draw tomorrow. The appointment is at 7:45am. I’m sure I’ll be highly distracted all morning tomorrow until I get the result. I am preparing myself for a negative result. I know some may say that I should keep being positive. It’s tough when you’ve experienced so much pain after so long. What makes this cycle any different? Then I read Caroline’s post. I’m once again reminded that fear does not come from the Lord. Thanks Caroline. So here I am on the eve of first beta… Hoping for the best. Bracing ourselves for the news that we don’t want to hear.