Eyes Wide Open
When I froze my eggs I knew that there were no guarantees. I went in with my eyes wide open fully aware of the risks, as well as the lack of data, for a procedure that was at the time still “experimental.” I agreed to the odds, anyway. In retrospect, over the five years that my eggs were on ice I began to think that the rules didn’t apply to me. After all, I had been proactive. My clinic and lab were cutting-edge. Eleven eggs was a solid number. My eggs would yield at least two healthy embryos. Right?
My frozen egg count went from 11 to 1, a 90.9% nose dive, over the course of six days.
Here’s how it played out:
I’d just arrived in Hong Kong to spend the holidays with my parents, at the house I grew up in, when I received the following email from my clinic:
Hi Brigitte: We held your embryos overnight until day 7 but, unfortunately, the remaining embryos have stopped growing.
The one day 6 5BB embryo was frozen yesterday and the biopsied piece will be sent for CCS testing today. You can expect the results after the New Year. Your nurse will call once she receives the CCS results.
I waited a few minutes to tell my family. I was angry, sad and confused and convinced that this one embryo would not be viable. Why would it be? The guy never materialized. My career had veered off course. Before I could use my eggs two fibroids needed to be surgically removed. Then aggressive arthritis necessitated a total hip replacement last November. It seemed like every time I made a step forward I was blasted three steps backwards. And, I was not sure I could get up again.
My 5 Stages of Grief
- Denial and isolation: After receiving the email from my clinic, I spent the next 48 hours in my room alone. I did not want to talk to anyone or do anything. I wallowed in my sadness while Bing Crosby sang White Christmas in the living room. Was this really happening?
- Anger: When I did emerge I was angry. I was mad at myself for not freezing two cycles. I was mad at my Doctor for not suggesting it. I was mad I ever got divorced. I was mad I clocked so many hours at jobs I hated. I was mad I waited so long to use my frozen eggs. Mad, mad, mad.
- Bargaining: I started to play an if/then scenario with God. If this one embryo was normal, I would never ask for anything again. If this one embryo worked, I would be the most devoted and loving mother. This child would make a difference in the world.
- Depression: My old friend then reared its ugly head. Why stay positive? The one remaining embryo will never have 23 pairs of chromosomes. It’s a 50/50 chance and luck had not been my friend for a few years now.
- Acceptance : Then I hit the last stage, acceptance. I tracked down a Reproductive Endocrinologist I know (someone with much more empathy than my own Doctor), who called me from the slopes of Telluride. He said: “Look, Brigitte, you did the best you could at the time. And, if the embryo is normal, your chances took a very big leap from presumed zero to about 65%. It is not 100% but better then an average donor egg cycle.”
Embryo is Normal!
The next day I got the news that my one remaining embryo is NORMAL.
Here is what my nurse wrote:
Brigitte: I do not typically send CCS results by email. However, I know that you are in Hong Kong and not able to be reached by phone (I tried)… With that said, your frozen embryo came by CCS NORMAL!!! I know the steps leading up to this were devastating for you, and wanted you to have this good news as soon as possible. I hope you are having a blessed time with your family and happy holidays!
At that moment, I realized that to move forward on this journey I needed to stay positive – no matter what.
Not All Fertility Stories Are Tied Up With Pretty Bows
When I relaunched Eggsurance last May I had finally decided to use my eggs and was committed to telling the final stage of my story. I felt it was important to chronicle my thaw-to-transfer process as the majority of women’s stories to date focus solely on freezing.
Now, eight months later, I realize that I was unprepared physically, mentally and spiritually for phase two of my fertility journey. I naively assumed that the path to pregnancy would be more straightforward (and faster) than it has turned out to be. The best content is typically produced from challenging experiences, however, over the last few months, I have been too raw, anxious and confused to blog. However, after I read the following email from my wonderful friend and fellow egg freezer Carolyn (as well as mother of TWO sets of twins), I got into action:
Stories that are all tied up with a bow are not as interesting as those that take unexpected, even ironic, turns. You may feel like a fool – you are absolutely not. Get that thought out of your mind and replace it with this: You are on a journey and sharing your experience that many women will identify with and relate to. You’ve been open several times, in interviews and in print, that this is not a guarantee. Egg freezing is one of those fuzzy topics without much data. Everyone is guessing.
Let’s assume the worst for this scenario. You freeze your eggs, try to use them and it doesn’t work. There is still hope and always another path. You are reporting your truth, with vulnerability and grace, and it will be a beautiful story. (Think Mei Mei Fox’s “scrambled eggs.”)
Even more important than beautiful, your story will be informative. Women will benefit from your account and may consider freezing earlier, freezing more than once or coming up with a contingency plan, even if only theoretical. Thinking back to my own experience and angst, the way that I got through it (as most infertility patients do in treatment) was by having a solid Plan B, as well as a Plan C in the works. This enabled me to move forward even after a “failure.”
My FET: February 23
Where am I now? I started Lupron shots seven days ago gearing up for my February 23 frozen embryo transfer (FET). Tomorrow kicks off the estrogen replacement protocol. A Fedex box with Vivelle, Endometrin, Progesterone in Oil and needles of every gauge is stashed under my bed.
I taped this picture of my mom and me to my bathroom mirror and study it while I brush my teeth. Hopefully I will be holding my genetic child that way in a few months. If not, I will then map out Plan B and maybe in C.
PS: Some of the terms (CCS, 6BB embryo, Day 6 blastocyst) may be new to you. I am currently working on updating the “Using Your Eggs” section of Eggsurance as I go through each stage of this cycle.