A change of feeling today. All year, and particularly all summer, I have been thinking positive things, because I have had so many lovely people encouraging me, and because at last we found a wonderful woman to be our donor. I had even, as you know, caught myself involuntarily looking at pushchairs and trying out names. People have said things to me like “This time next year you might have a child, or maybe twins!” and my heart has warmed at the thought and at all the mental pictures that words like that bring.
Today, however, I spoke to one of the members of staff in our clinic’s laboratory. We had been given the option of having embryos transferred on Day Three, when they would be about four cells divided, or waiting until Day Five when they would be blastocysts, with many cells. I personally favoured that option, because it means that the embryologist can look at them all and choose the two which seem to be developing more strongly, and then freeze the others so that if the first attempt doesn’t work two others can be thawed and transferred. In this way we might be lucky and have two attempts, or possibly three.
IVF often doesn’t work on the first attempt but does after two or three, so surely, I thought, from having six eggs transferred during three cycles, one of them would implant? I was therefore approaching the first transfer with the same mood of optimism and hope that I have had all summer.
The embryologist, as he might have been, asked me whether we’d been told about the pros and cons of waiting for blastocyst transfer. I said that I knew about the pros, and we had been given a leaflet, but I couldn’t remember any cons. He then said that the strongest looking ones would be transferred first, as I had realised, but then said that not all of them will divide. Some will stop at the 4-cell stage; some divide to the 8-cell stage and some reach blastocyst stage – and then stop and die.
Therefore, by transferring two at the 4-cell or 8-cell stage they will not be able to tell which are the strongest, and can only choose two at random, which might be the two that would not divide anyway. The others would be frozen, but (as I know) not all frozen embryos will thaw sufficiently well to remain viable.
However, by waiting until they reach blastocyst stage the strongest two will be chosen, but it is possible that they
could all stop dividing and we will find that there are no viable ones to transfer or freeze, and that will be that.
So, the choice is between hope but uncertainty for two weeks until the blood test confirms no pregnancy, or wait and hope with the possibility of having none to transfer. His words were like a cold hand clutching at my heart. I relayed this to Richard, who said that we will, then, just have to regard this as our one and only chance, and not count on having any viable embryos to freeze and thaw for a second attempt. The cold hand closed tighter and my heart turned to a block of ice.
My voice was rather wobbly as I replied and said that we would like to accept the blastocyst option, should any of the embryos reach that stage. (He was very kind and, when I apologised for getting emotional, said that he knew it was only because of all the hormones I was taking – I expect that he is well used to having tearful women on the phone at this stage.)
It still might all be fine, of course! They might all be galloping along so strongly that he will be hard put to choose the strongest and the others will all climb into the freezing tube by themselves…… but I can’t get his, or Richard’s, words out of my head. And then suddenly, this evening, I remembered that at our second attempt at another clinic, when we still had one good embryo left after three had been transferred (they could do that then), we were told that embryos had to be frozen in threes, not ones or twos. So what would happen if we have four perfectly good embryos this time, and two are transferred but we can’t freeze the others because there are only two?
That lovely feeling of hope and optimism has gone and has been replaced by fear and dread and I feel stupid and ridiculous for even allowing myself to picture us with a child or children.
It was the Wings Appeal Week collection day today for the RAF Association, and we picked up Dad resplendent in his blazer with his Squadron badge on it, and other badges, and went into town. (I had been told to phone the clinic at 9.30am, so tried to ring outside the shopping centre but it was far too noisy being next to a bus lane, so went back inside and found a quiet corner of Boots – typically, in the Baby section, as it happened.)
R had emptied the contents of our penny and tuppenny piggy bank that we use for our odd coppers throughout the year for this purpose, and wrote a cheque as our contribution. Then Dad took up his usual position and I stood on the opposite side of the road so that I could keep him in sight. (He asked me if I would be OK crossing the road! Ah, bless him!) Some really lovely people stopped to donate, and of course there were lots of children in pushchairs and toddling along who were thrilled to have a little Wings sticker and a big round one with a Spitfire on it. Watching them made my thoughts even more sad.
It was a harsh way of being dragged to reality, but I suppose that it was necessary because it would have been such an awful shock to have found out on the day of embryo transfer. At least now I have some time in which to come to terms (Ha! How easily I say that!) with the fact that this might be our one and only, last ever, chance, and I might fail.
We came home and I spent the late afternoon wrestling some kind of escaped plant that has rampaged all over the front garden, and extricating lots of brambles. Although I’d been outside all day it was good to be out again, doing some hard physical labour in the fresh air, and being able to see a result. Would that be it, then? Is that what our lives are going to be after all? Finding things to do to fill our childless days? Or are our children waiting for us, just waiting for the chance to be born?
In a few short weeks I will know.