Pregnant Today, Gone Tomorrow
Have you ever cried like a wild animal?
Scratched your face so hard it bled?
Chopped off your hair in a state of rage?
Well, I did on March 6th. That was the day I found out the my positive pregnancy test was invalid. Just two days earlier my mom and I had been discussing stroller types and baby names. I was pregnant! My 1 viable embryo from 11 frozen eggs had beat the 50/50 coin toss odds and implanted successfully. Freezing my eggs, depleting my savings, accepting single motherhood, moving out of the city I loved to be closer to my family, having fibroid and hip surgery – all of that had been worth it.
I was over the moon…for 48 hours.
Earlier that day I had gone in for my second pregnancy test to ensure my beta hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels were rising adequately. Blood testing had become routine for me. Sit in chair. Pull up sleeve. Look away. Slap bandage on. Go home. Of course, my numbers would rise. My 1 fighter embryo had overcome the odds and I was finally going to be a mother.
You Did Everything Right
My clinic called a few hours later to tell me that my hCG levels had not doubled like they were supposed to, but had in fact dropped from 90 to 78. A decline meant I had had a biochemical pregnancy. My embryo had implanted successfully thus producing a ‘chemical’, hCG, and then stopped growing.
And, just like that my dreams of ever having a biological child, like the embryo inside me, were dead.
Dr. Grifo from NYU Fertility, though not my own Doctor, has been my rock over the past few years wrote me: “So sorry. You did everything right. You could not have changed this.”
Intellectually I knew this was true. I froze in the “first wave” of egg freezers taking my chances on a procedure that was still labeled experimental. Emotionally, however, I was not ready to accept the situation. Why did that one embryo test PGS normal? Why did it implant successfully? Why did I get a positive pregnancy result? Why did I even freeze my eggs?
Regrets, I’ve had a few
You never know how you are going to react to something until your in it – down deep in the pile of crap that you have to climb yourself out of. When my ex-husband told me he was having a second child my struggle to continue forward was kicked back a few rungs. You left him. You could have had all of that, but you gave it up. You chose divorce. You chose maybe never meeting someone who loved you as much as he did. Only YOU are to blame for being single and childless at 44 years old.
You, You, You did this to yourself.
Freeze, Retrieve, Relax?
We are bombarded with egg freezing messaging like: “Smart Women Freeze,” “Take Charge of Your Fertility,” “Freeze your eggs, Freeze your careers.” It sounds so simple. Find a clinic, shell out a lot of cash, stimulate the hell out of your ovaries, freeze a bunch of eggs and get on with you life. Relax. We got you covered. No worries.
Freezing your eggs is easy. You’re in this sort of Disneyland world of fertility where everything’s possible. There’s no next step to it. You’re done, you compartmentalize it, you move on with your life. Things get hard when you are actually moving onto Step 2 and completing the process.
Now you are in the wild west of IVF – a world of no absolutes.
You never knew that this cruel place existed, because you froze your eggs in a minimalist clinic with a waiting room full of optimistic, empowered women proactively taking control of their fertility. You did not sit next to the woman who has gone through 2 rounds of IUI and 5 rounds of IVF. Maybe if she had frozen her eggs she might not be sitting there today. Maybe. Maybe not. Egg freezing is not a guarantee.
Am I Anti-Egg Freezing?
The week after my failed FET (frozen embryo transfer) I wrote this to a friend: “I don’t feel that I can maintain Eggsurance in good faith. I am disgusted by the egg freezing process and the hopes I pinned on it.”
The girl who starts the first egg freezing website and becomes egg freezing’s poster child fails with her frozen eggs. It was a cruel irony. I felt like a fraud. How could I champion something that didn’t even work me for? These thoughts stuck with me for a while. I was ready to close of shop and abandon the site and telling the rest of my story.
I realized that bottling up my egg freezing experience would not help. As more and more women come back to use their frozen eggs, not everyone, like myself, will be successful. We will hear more stories like mine that will, hopefully, help women set realistic expectations.
I am by no means anti-egg freezing, but today’s commoditization of egg freezing concerns me deeply as clinics are failing to transparently present egg freezing risks, data and success rates (or lack there of).
If you take anything away from my story, please become your own advocate. These are your eggs, your future child so: ask the questions, do your homework, find a Doctor you like, make sure the lab is top notch and remember that freezing your eggs is a possibility of a future child – not a guarantee.
What I would have done differently?
Measured my AMH and FSH levels annually after age 32
I never knew that these tests existed. Hell, at the time, I didn’t even know what an ovarian reserve was! If I had tracked my results, I would have know that my fertility window was quickly waning instead of naively believing that I still had time.
Froze my eggs earlier
I recently went back to my records from 2011 to review my AMH, FSH, and antral follicle count. The results threw me for a loop – I had no clue how bad they really were. Had I been proactively tracking my fertility potential, I would not have waited so long to freeze my eggs.
Frozen two (or three) rounds
I only froze one round of eggs. My clinic never advised another round. In retrospect, my Doctor never even had a regroup with me to discuss my retrieval results. At the time 11 eggs seemed adequate, however I had no clue about attrition rates from thawing, to fertilizing, to creating 5-day blastocysts. My eggs nosed dived from 11, to 9, to 6, to 1 over the course of a week. Looking back, a second round would have been a no brainer (and cheaper in the long run).
Frozen embryos Too
Had I moved forward with another round and made some embryos, I would have had a more realistic understanding of my chances of pregnancy. A batch of frozen eggs really doesn’t tell you anything as there is no way to evaluate egg quality. Embryos, on the other hand, can be graded to indicate their likelihood of success. Given my defrost outcome, freezing embryos would have provided me proof that my eggs were if very poor quality.
Tried to get pregnant sooner
I waited three years from the time I decided to become a single mom to the time I actually started the defrost process. My rational was that I needed to get my career settled in a new city before I could even contemplate pregnancy. I ended up leaving that job after 16 months so my getting settled goal was pointless. You are never “settled” in a career anymore. I wish I had pushed forward earlier and let my career take a step back.
Stopped waiting for Mr. Right
I kept hoping that I’d meet him and ICIS his sperm into my frozen eggs then ride off into the sunset. Love is messy and never ever comes according to your timeline. Instead of waiting for someone to fit all the pieces of my life together, I wish I had had enough courage to embrace single motherhood earlier.