There, I said it. That phrase repels me, “My embryo transfer failed.” Every word in that sentence burns with anger, sadness, resentment, and grief. That’s not what was supposed to happen. It was supposed to work, just like it did last time. I am supposed to be feeling nauseous and bloated and, well, pregnant. But I am not.
I am not pregnant. I am grieving.
A grief so painful that I walk around feeling like a raw, exposed nerve. Just writing this, my eyes well with tears, and the pain is so visceral, it is like I am back on the phone with my doctor’s medical assistant, hearing her say the words, “I’m so sorry, the blood test was negative.” I am right back to the floor, where I instinctively fell upon hearing those words. It still feels so real. As if it was happening now.
But it’s not happening now. It has been over a month. In that time, I have experienced many moments of joy and happiness. I have watched my oldest son score goals in soccer. I have watched my youngest son master independent acts like putting his shoes and socks on with steadfast determination while muttering, “I do it.” And all of the beautiful mess in between.
Yet, I still grieve.
For many years, I have had this dream of three children. It came to me when my oldest son was almost a year old. We were blessed with that beautiful boy after two years of infertility. He was our less-than-one-percent chance of getting pregnant spontaneously.
So, there I was, this momma who began dreaming of a life with three little boys. Of note, I would love to have a daughter, but I felt very strongly it would be three boys.
After a year of trying for our second child, we turned to fertility treatments, first IUI (Intrauterine insemination), and then IVF (Invitro fertilization). After four long months of medications, shots, doctor’s appointments, blood draws, and more ultrasounds than I could count, we ended up with two genetically normal male embryos.
Our first transfer, as I mentioned before, was successful. Aside from a pretty nasty kidney infection I got at the beginning of the second trimester, everything went very well with my pregnancy. My husband and I decided we would wait until our youngest was two, then we would do the transfer of our last embryo.
The years ticked along, all with the assurances that our five-member family was always on the horizon.
We began the transfer process, but about a month before I started medications, my husband’s work took us to a new state. So, we waited. Then we started planning the transfer again about six months later, and Bam! COVID.
In the words of Brooklyn 99’s Jake Peralta, “Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.”
Once the fertility clinics opened back up, we returned to our home state and worked out the payment arrangements for the transfer.
We. Were. Ready.
I started my medication protocol for the frozen embryo transfer (FET). After three weeks of injections and medication, I was ready!
The morning of the transfer was perfect. The hubs and I spent some time eating at our favorite breakfast spot—I even got the same meal as I did the morning of our last transfer, Migas and French toast. I wore my “Wake, Pray, It’s transfer day” shirt I had ordered from Etsy. I was excited and confident. The transfer went perfectly. My Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) even told me, during the transfer, “You’ve got all the makings for success.”
Then, nine days later, I’m on the phone with the medical assistant, I hear the words, and I am shattered.
I did everything right, dang it!
I took all the pills.
I gave myself all the shots.
I ate well.
I didn’t smoke.
I didn’t drink alcohol.
But the transfer failed—our last embryo.
But what about my dream? What about three little boys?
For those that might question my gratitude toward the beautiful blessings I have, let me assure you, I am beyond grateful. I’ve had two surgeries, countless tests, appointments, and have spent north of $35,000 in pursuit of those babies. Not a moment goes by that I don’t recognize the gifts that, at present, are snuggled safely in their beds.
Yet, I still feel this longing. This unfulfilled promise. This brokenness.
Author and pastor David Platt articulates this experience so well, “There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.” I am left to do the work of grieving. None of us want to do the work, but we know it is the price for loving something so much it’s excruciating to lose.
Grief is one of the many emotions we experience as humans. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but it is also beautiful. Emotions are neither good nor bad, and they are not all or nothing. The joyful emotions are not completely good. The painful ones are not completely bad. They are just emotions. As I mourn, when my chest heaves with heavy sobs, when my head pounds, my eyes burn, and when I ache in every inch of my body, it is still beautiful. I know that to feel this deep a grief means I have loved something so deeply, and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.